Mark Martin talks putting fans in the stands at NASCAR events; Learning how to win fuel milage races, 27 years into his career; Catching the bug again via a pace car ride
A couple weeks ago, Mark Martin spoke on the direction of NASCAR. Specifically, he addressed the fans that beat up on the product.
There’s no point that’s brought more to my attention than last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson beat the doors in a battle for the win on the final lap. It was a fantastic finish and one that will be used on the highlight reel for years. Yet, still the fans found something to complain about.
Since 2008, NASCAR has lost about half of it’s attendance. TV ratings are down as well.
What can NASCAR do to get the fans back into the stands?
“It is a great sport. And the racing is incredible,” Mark Martin declared from the media center.
“The fans that are bashing the racing, in my opinion, they’re not real fans. They’re looking for something different than auto racing.”
“Everybody that liked racing, liked the racing back when I got into NASCAR. If there were 3 cars on the lead lap, they still saw ‘a hell of a race.’ ”
“I think we should continue to be true to what we are. Where we came from. I think the racing is really good now. But, I also recognize the fact that NASCAR is not the only sport that is struggling with their fan base. All sports are.”
“There’s a reason for that. Because young people have different interests. There’s competition for their interests, 1000 times over what it was when we grew up.”
“It’s a different world today. Every kid, from who knows what age has a phone or an iPad. They can do any infinite number of things. You know, games and they can see anything, anytime, instantly.”
“There are so many thing going on today. And there is less fascination for cars themselves. We ought to recognize that is part of it and it’s not — The product is not the problem.”
“The problem is, the world’s changing. And our generations are changing. You can do your best to fight that but it’s definitely a tough battle to try to bring new people’s eyes to our sport and keep ’em there.”
“We still have so many avid fans that travel for everywhere. The follow every kind of racing there is. They support the sport. But, there is a lot of competition out there. A lot more than there was 25 years ago.”
Mark Martin caught the bug again at Michigan
Mark Martin spent 31 years in the NASCAR Cup Series division of the racing ladder. Naturally, he frequently asked, ‘Do you miss the sport?’ And every time I’ve heard that question posed to him, he’s said, ‘No.’ Then they ask, ‘Do you miss driving fast?’
“I say, ‘No, I use the cruise control everywhere I go to keep me out of trouble.’ ”
However, he had a different feeling when he returned to the racing surface at Michigan International Speedway. It’s a track that presented him with 5 victory lane trophies. Since 1982, Mart ran 52 races at the 2-mile oval.
When NASCAR went to Michigan, Mark Martin hoped in the pace car. He caught the bug for the first time since climbing from the race car.
“I got into the pace car and rode out onto the race track. This might be my second favorite race track, ever on NASCAR’s schedule. And everything on the race track looks pretty much the same as it did in ’13 when I ran my last race here.”
“Wow! Did I get the bug.”
“I don’t come around that much. And I see those cars sitting out on the line. They are to me… Right now, they are the sexiest race cars I’ve ever seen in my life.”
“I rolled onto the race track and it was like, ‘Man!’ Yeah, I remember what it was like to live and think — Every thought I had was toward driving race cars. And driving fast. And how to be faster.”
“That switch in me kinda switched off when I quit driving. I don’t think like that anymore. But, it reminded me of how it was and it was pretty damn exciting.”
Fuel milage races
“In ’93, I think we came from 2 laps down to win this race. It feels good when you can run like that.”
“I always sucked at fuel millage so horribly.”
27 years into Mark Martin’s NASCAR Cup Series career, crew chief Alan Gustafson finally took the time to teach Mark Martin how to save fuel. That paid off at Michigan International Speedway.
“We had the fastest car in 2009. I couldn’t use it. Cause we weren’t gonna make it to the finish.”
Greg Biffle and Jimmie Johnson drove on by Mark Martin. They drove off into the distance.
“It’s hard to give one up like that. I gave it up. I let ’em go on and watched ’em run out on the last lap.”
“Surprise wins are always the best.”