Mark Martin said yesterday that he was wrong to question his ability a year ago, adding that the problem was not his driving, but with the cars he drove.
“I thought I was getting too old to do this stuff,” said Martin, who finished fifth Sunday. “But now, I have found out that my car wasn't as sharp as it needed to be. It wasn't me.”
Martin sidestepped when asked if Roush Racing had failed to provide him with a championship-caliber car in 2006, saying, “I'm not going to go there. But my car is a Chevy, and it is better than my car was last year. You know what I'm saying. I have figured out in these first three races that my ability has not diminished as much as I thought.”
The Nextel Cup point leader continued to leave himself a bit of wiggle room when asked about plans to sit-out the race at Bristol Motor Speedway in two weeks. On ESPN’s NASCAR Now, Martin once again said that he is not interested in running a full schedule this season. He would not rule out a full schedule, however, saying only that he “has no plans to.”
Asked Sunday is a win at Atlanta Motor Speedway this Sunday could change his plans, Martin said, “I suppose (it) might.”
France On Expansion: NASCAR Chairman Brian France said he expects to have a new track built in Seattle, Denver or New York City within the next few years. France said yesterday, “I don't expect all three to get a facility built, but I do expect something positive to happen,” adding that Denver appears to have momentum at present.
France also said that while he would like to see second Nextel Cup dates at Kansas, Homestead-Miami and Las Vegas Motor Speedways, those dates may depend on Speedway Motorsports Inc. transfering a race from one of its other tracks; something SMI Chairman Bruton Smith has repeatedly said he is unwilling to do.
Bristol Repaving: Bristol Motor Speedway will be repaved following the March 25th Food City 500, returning the track to asphalt for the first time since the spring of 1992. As part of the project, the Bristol racing surface will be widened by four feet, with the turns converted to graduated banking from their current 36-degree makeup.
Recent modifications at Las Vegas and Lowes Motor Speedways have been met with mixed reviews, at best, prompting track BMS President Jeff Byrd to say he is, “scared to death,” of tearing up the Bristol concrete. However, he said he trusts his engineers to design a workable, competitive layout, and welcomes the input of former driver Rusty Wallace, who was instrumental in the design and construction of the new Iowa Speedway.
I do not share Byrd’s misgivings about tearing up Bristol’s concrete. Clearly, something needs to be done about the current surface, which is deteriorating at an alarming rate. There are concerns that asphalt laid over that crumbling concrete will not stand up to the pummeling of 43 speeding Nextel Cup racecars, making a simple re-skinning impossible. It may be sacrilegious for me to say so, but in my opinion, Bristol Motor Speedway is wildly overrated as a racing venue. The racing is single-file and plagued with caution flags, with virtually all the passing done to the inside. The bump-and-run has become a cottage industry at Thunder Valley, and the track’s current string of 50 consecutive Nextel Cup sellouts proves once and for all that NASCAR fans love nothing more than a good, multi-car crash.
Variable-degree banking cannot be accomplished with concrete, only with asphalt. So tear-up the cement, lay down the variable-degree asphalt banking, and prepare for the best racing we’ve seen at Bristol since 1992. If it takes a year or two to recapture Bristol’s once formidable outside groove, who will notice the difference?
In my view, BMS has everything to gain and nothing to lose.
Waltrip Sits While Hyder Works: Michael Waltrip spent his day yesterday as an announcer for DirecTV, after failing to qualify for his second consecutive NASCAR Nextel Cup Series race. Teammate David Reutimann also failed to qualify in Las Vegas, while Dale Jarrett used his third consecutive Past Champion’s Provisional to make the race, finishing four laps down in 33rd.
Waltrip said his most recent DNQ will almost certainly result in a shakeup at Michael Waltrip Racing. “We have to do a better job,” he said. “We are going to have to move some people around, and do some different things to try to make ourselves better.”
Waltrip admitted that NAPA is frustrated by his start to the season, saying, “We've had a lot for them to accept. Daytona was huge, and then the next two, we missed. Everybody is concerned. They didn't know it was going to be this rough.”
While hinting at an impending personnel shakeup, Waltip confirmed that suspended crewchief David Hyder has returned to work at MWR, while the team continues to investigate what happened in Daytona.
"David says he's innocent, and doesn't know what happened or how it got there,” Waltrip said. “We can't prove he did anything, so we couldn't fire him if we wanted to. Him helping at the shop, helping us get our stuff together, is something that we need. We need everybody we can get that's smart, and he's a real smart man."