Martin insists he will not add races to his part-time schedule
LONG POND, Pa. - No matter how many times he's asked, Mark Martin keeps telling everyone the same answer. He will not add races to his part-time schedule even if he has a chance to make the Chase for the championship.
"Nah, I'm good," Martin said. "I'm set."
Martin, driving the 01 Chevrolet for Ginn Racing, hasn't wavered from his decision to skip races even though he enters today's Pocono 500 11th in the points standings. The top 12 drivers are in the final 10 races for the title.
Martin was in first place four races into the season when he skipped his first race at Bristol. He was out again at Martinsville, and three races later missed Talladega.
With his first Nextel Cup title within reach, the temptation could be strong for Martin to add some more races. The veteran driver only said he could change his schedule if he wanted.
Only problem is, Martin doesn't even want to run for the championship.
"If I was leading, like I was when I missed my first race, I still wouldn't," Martin said. "I don't want to."
Martin is finally enjoying some time off with his limited schedule.
"The schedule they have today is overkill, especially after you've done it for 20 years," he said. "I'm very interested in moving on with my life without having to give up on the best part of my life, still be a part of that and move on with my own life."
Greg Biffle hit a snag over a new contract with team owner Jack Roush, and has put negotiations on hold. Biffle, who is 18th in the overall points standings, qualified a disappointing 41st for today's Pocono 500.
"Yeah, I mean I want to stay," Biffle said Saturday. "I don't think it's a distraction. I just need to work on this and get it better before I decide what I want to do in the future."
Biffle hasn't won a race in nearly four years and has only three top 10s this season.
When asked about negotiations, Roush said, "I don't have anything to say about that," and kept on walking.
Remembering Bill France Jr.
Had Bill France Jr. walked through a NASCAR garage this weekend, Richard Petty wonders how many drivers would have recognized the sport's former chairman.
With France in declining health for nearly a decade, many of today's 20-something drivers never really got to know the man who pushed NASCAR beyond its small-time Southern roots and made the sport as popular as it is today.
"The majority of these guys didn't even know who Bill France was," Petty said at Pocono Raceway on Saturday. "The older heads like me that came through with Bill, there's not a lot of us around any more."
Ryan Newman holds the pole for today's Pocono 500, the first Nextel Cup race since France died on Monday. The flags at Pocono Raceway were lowered to half staff and a tribute was planned in honor of France, NASCAR's former chairman who transformed the sport into a nationwide billion-dollar conglomerate.
"He was the right man at the right time for our kind of racing," Petty said.
Petty was 11 when he first met France and remembered him always hustling to try to make his mark in the busi-ness. Parking cars. Selling tickets. Even stopping in for lunch. All of it left a lasting impression on The King.
"He did everything there was to do," Petty said. "As he was coming through, I think he saw the opportunity to go a lot further that his dad had ever seen."
Petty said he thought France still wielded considerable influence behind the scenes even though his son, Brian, replaced him as chairman in 2003.
"I think he would still sit in the big chair and made big decisions, but all the rest of the stuff he let somebody else do," said Petty.
Petty, who won 200 career races and still wears the giant belt buckle that notes he's a seven-time champ, said France was always listening, always willing to help him with a problem.
And if he could tell all those drivers today running around the garage anything about France, it would be this: None of them would be where they are without France.
"We'd probably still be running Saturday nights at the fairgrounds," Petty said. "He had a vision that took us out of the South and into the boardrooms. He got the job done."
Edwards arrives in Nashville with moments to spare
GLADEVILLE, Tenn. - Carl Edwards has three career wins at Nashville Superspeedway, including two in a row in the NASCAR Busch Series.
But qualifying for Saturday's Federated Auto Parts 300, where he posted the seventh-fastest effort, may have been his most challenging moment.
The Busch Series leader arrived at the Nashville track with seconds to spare after using a plane and two helicop-ters to travel from Pocono, where he will run in today's Nextel Cup race.
Edwards says he wouldn't have made it had it not been for team owner Jack Roush's new plane.
"The new jet is a little faster than his old one because we wouldn't have made it in that," he said. "And we'd still be flying in my plane. So it was nice of Jack to spend the money for the extra speed. If we didn't make it we were going to start in the back and made the best of it."
The qualifying run turned out to be as harrowing as the trip to get here as Edwards nearly lost control of his car going into turn one.
"This is a fast place. With the concrete there's not a lot of room for error," Edwards said. "The car was pretty loose. I slid down in there and thought, 'whoa, that's close!'
"The worst thing would have been to go to all that trouble, make it here on time and wreck the thing."
Mike Bliss is having a miserable year in Nextel Cup and failed to qualify for today's race at Pocono. He is looking for redemption in the Busch Series and started 12th at Nashville.
"This is good therapy, to come over here and be competitive," Bliss said.
Although he had plans to race at both Nashville and Pocono, Bliss is sour on the number of Nextel Cup regulars who consistently run in the Busch Series.
Dubbed "Buschwhackers," their superior equipment and technology allows them to collect the lion's share of spon-sorship dollars and prize money, he said.
"It's so different now and there's not a regular group of drivers," Bliss said. "It's not really the Busch Series. It's more like a feeder series or tryouts for different teams. You never know who is in what car. It kind of hurts the se-ries, I think. But the fans want to watch Cup guys."
Several drivers were pulling double duty over the weekend with the Nextel Cup at Pocono and the Busch Series race in Nashville.
One planeload to Nashville carried David Stremme, Greg Biffle and David Reutimann. Biffle and Reutimann have both won at Nashville Superspeedway, but after sluggish qualifying efforts all three faced an uphill battle in the Federated Auto Parts 300.
Reutimann started 30th, with Biffle 31st and Stremme 34th.
"It must have been something we ate," Stremme said.
Steve Wallace won the pole for the Federated Auto Parts 300 with a lap of 29.753 seconds (161.288 mph). It was his second pole this season, the first coming at Bristol, and his second in 33 career NASCAR Busch Series starts. His previous best start at Nashville was 22nd earlier this season. … Clint Bowyer started second, making this his sixth consecutive top-five start at Nashville.