|Stewart won the June Dover race; Martin is 75/1 to win Sunday|
Instead, Martin will don the attire he’s worn for what seems like all of his 54 years – a firesuit and a helmet – for what is considered one of the most physical races on the already demanding NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule.
Dover (Del.) International Speedway is next up on the Sprint Cup calendar. The 1-mile, concrete bullring is known as the “Monster Mile” for its ability to chew up and spit out the toughest of the tough. It’s an appropriate nickname considering the speeds carried through its high banks and short straightaways allows little to no room for error.
Martin, however, embraces the challenge Dover offers. In fact, it’s his favorite track. And throughout 54 Sprint Cup starts dating back to 1982, Martin’s mindset has been shaped by his performance.
Since finishing fifth in his Dover debut in the 1982 Mason-Dixon 500, Martin’s presence at Dover has been prodigious. His four Sprint Cup victories belie just how good Martin has been at Dover for the better part of three decades. Consider…
· Martin leads all active Sprint Cup drivers in poles at Dover with five. Ryan Newman and Jeff Gordon trail Martin with four poles apiece at Dover.
· Martin leads the Sprint Cup Series in runner-up finishes at Dover with eight. Dale Earnhardt is second with five.
· Martin leads the Sprint Cup Series in top-five finishes at Dover with 24. Dale Earnhardt is second with 19.
· Martin leads the Sprint Cup Series in top-10 finishes at Dover with 33. Richard Petty and Ricky Rudd are tied for second with 26 top-10s apiece.
On Sunday in the AAA 400, Martin will make his 55th Sprint Cup start at Dover, and he’ll do it with the same team and the same car Tony Stewart used to win at Dover when the series made its first stop there in June.
Stewart, out of his signature No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS as he continues to recover from a broken right leg sustained in a sprint car crash Aug. 5, tabbed the venerable Martin to complete the majority of the 2013 Sprint Cup season in his absence.
With 40 Sprint Cup victories amassed over 875 career starts, Martin brings plenty to the table of Stewart-Haas Racing, the team that fields the No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet for driver-owner Stewart.
One of Martin’s many skill sets is physical fitness. He is arguably the fittest driver in NASCAR, and has been for years. The training regimen he outlined in his 1994 book, “Strength Training for Performance Driving”, is a regimen he has updated in the two decades since and follows religiously.
That such a demanding track in Dover is Martin’s favorite is a testament to Martin’s constant preparedness. With a team that carried the track’s most recent Sprint Cup race winner in Stewart, Martin is ready for the rigors of Dover. And behind the wheel of the very same car Stewart drove to victory June 2 at Dover, Martin is well aware of the opportunity this Sunday brings.
MARK MARTIN, Interim Driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You’ve said that Dover is your favorite track. Why?
“It’s been good to me ever since the first time I went there. I’ve just always seemed to run well there, and when you run well at a place, you like racing there. The place has been a blast for me. I love the way you can attack the racetrack. I like the banking. I like the shape of it. I’ve just always enjoyed it.”
How physical is Dover?
“For the size of the racetrack, the speeds are really high at Dover. The grip level is really high. And because of the banking, the G-forces are pretty high on you. The nature of the racetrack allows you to drive aggressively and slip and slide some. The concrete, specifically, the seams in the concrete, cause the car to kind of snap around here and there. All of that makes Dover a more physical racetrack because you have to put so much work into each lap. In fact, you can overdrive the car at Dover and not pay a price for it.”
How much does the No. 14 team’s success at Dover back in June buoy your confidence for the team’s return trip this weekend?
“It gives us our best opportunity for a good showing. The No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops team has a good history there and I have a really good history there as well. We can only hope that things play out the way they seem like they should. Dover is a racetrack I have a really good feel for, and I’m certainly looking forward to it.”
You raced at Dover when the races were 500 miles. How hard were those last 100 laps, or did you even notice it?
“You just got used to it pretty quickly. It was a 500-miler for the longest time, and that’s just what it was. Back in the day, it was a four-and-a-half-hour race. Now it’s at 400 miles, and it’s still a pretty long race.”
As soon as they lopped 100 miles from the Dover races and made them 400 milers, you started winning. Happenstance?
“The timing was just right for us. We had always run good enough to win races there, and we ran second there a lot, but we also had a lot of tire trouble there in the early years. It was a real challenge for Goodyear to make a tire for Dover that could hold up under the conditions that we put them under. We had a lot of tire trouble in races that we might’ve won.”
Explain a lap around Dover.
“On the beginning of your lap, leaving the start/finish line, when you go into turn one, you actually go downhill. The straightaway is one elevation, and when you go into turn one you go down, so the car lifts up. Then when it lands in the banking and loads up, it loads up extra hard because it’s gone from being lifted up to being slammed down into the banking. The concrete is a little choppy. I wouldn’t call it rough, but it’s borderline rough. You bounce around a little bit with the bumps there in the first part of the corner. Then as you start the exit of turn two, you climb uphill to the back straightaway and it’s a pretty awesome exit. You’re carrying a lot of G-forces and there’s a lot of banking. Then as you exit turn two, your car kind of lifts up again because it’s been going uphill and then it levels out. The straightaways at the speeds we’re going are really short, so the next thing you know, you’re setting up your entry for turn three, which is really rough on turn-in there. But overall, turn three and turn four – they don’t feel as banked and they don’t seem quite as grippy, so you have a little more trouble slipping and sliding coming up out of turn four. And as you come out of the corner and get just about up to the wall, the car lifts up and it’ll actually lose traction right there because it’s as if it’s cresting a hill.”
- True Speed Communication for Stewart-Haas Racing