Martin set to race final Nextel season

Published: Wednesday, January 19, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 19, 2005 at 12:00 a.m.
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Driver Mark Martin, left, talks with crew chief Pat Tryson during NASCAR Nextel Cup preseason testing testing at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2005.

The Associated Press
DAYTONA BEACH - Mark Martin has built a reputation as a pessimist and that certainly has not changed as he prepares for his final Nextel Cup season.
''We're half a day into this thing, but it's pretty much business as usual,'' Martin said Tuesday during a break in preseason Nextel Cup testing at Daytona International Speedway. ''I've been coming down here a lot of years and nine times out of 10 we're real disappointed with what we've got, and this is not much different.
''We'd be much happier if we were a half-second a lap faster, but that's just the nature of the racetrack.''
Martin's No. 6 Roush Racing team brought two new Ford Tauruses to test on the 2-mile oval in preparation for the season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 20.
''They are what they are,'' he said. ''We'll do everything we can to improve them, but the improvements that we make are the same improvements that our competition makes. So, when we gain, they gain and we generally don't close the gap a whole lot.''
The four-time series runner-up would love to end his Cup career with a championship. He came close in 2004, finishing fourth after going into the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a shot at the title.
Martin, who turned 46 on Jan. 9, announced late last season that 2005 will be his last in the Nextel Cup series.
, he won't go as far as to say he will never again race after the coming season.
''I still again will say that I don't see Nextel Cup competition in my future,'' Martin noted. ''I didn't say it never would happen for a lot of reasons. Someone could get injured (at) Roush Racing.
''I'm not going to say never, but I don't expect to do a limited Nextel schedule because I don't feel like I would be able to have a competitive organization for that situation. I'll say again that I'm not going to quit driving race cars. I don't have anything to announce right now, but I think everybody knows that I follow the Craftsman Truck Series with great interest. There's no new news there.''
Meanwhile, The drivers finishing in the odd-numbered positions in the 2004 points tested at Daytona for three days last week, with the even-numbered finishers taking the track Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week.
The Chevrolets of teammates Joe Nemechek and Scott Riggs were fastest among Tuesday's testers at 184.661 mph and 184.646, respectively. They were followed by series runner-up Jimmie Johnson's Chevy at 184.260, the Dodges of Jeff Green and top 2004 rookie Kasey Kahne at 184.249 and 183.718 and Martin's Ford at 183.547.
Dale Jarrett's fast lap of 186.455 last week in a Ford remains the fastest this preseason, followed by Jeff Gordon's Chevrolet at 185.736.
Nemechek's speed is 10th overall.
Bob Smith from Buchholz had a kid sign for Daytona Beach Community College. Freddy Lewis. We can run the story thursday.

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