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Martin puts stock in Bourdais' future

By BRANT JAMES
Published October 30, 2005


HAMPTON, Ga. - Mark Martin brags about few things, the record fifth International Race of Champions title he won Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway is not among them, but he is quite proud of his eye for talent.

The 46-year-old Nextel Cup veteran pointed out an obscure Wisconsinite named Matt Kenseth to team-owner Jack Roush in 1999, discovering the 2003 series champion. Martin identified 15-year-old USAR Pro Cup prodigy Joey Logano, who has since been signed to Joe Gibbs Racing's developmental program.

Now Martin has a new project.

"If someone doesn't give Sebastien Bourdais a ride in NASCAR, they need their heads examined," Martin said about his fellow IROC racer. "He is the real deal."

In fairness, this one was easier to spot. The St. Petersburg resident has, after all, won consecutive Champ Car titles. But after competing against Bourdais in IROC's equally prepared stock cars, and watching him win his second race in the series this year at Texas, Martin wants to see Bourdais in a Nextel Cup stock car.

"I know what I'm talking about with Sebastien Bourdais," he said.

Bourdais, who finished fifth in the final IROC standings, said he would be interested in exploring NASCAR but has never been offered a test. He signed an extension with Newman/Haas Racing through 2006 but is open to anything thereafter, he said.

"I think I could do pretty well at this (NASCAR) thing," said Bourdais, a six-time winner in the Champ Car series this season. "I think it is a question of opportunity. If something good shows up at the door, we have to consider it. So far there has not been anything."

THANKS: Martin, who won two of four IROC races this season, clinched his title merely by starting on Saturday. The series wins leader (13), said he has been invited to participate again next year but would not commit.

"I've never turned one down yet, but not ready to make an announcement," said Martin, who finished second to Martin Truex Jr. on Saturday.

PRESSURE'S ON: NASCAR announced during the truck series drivers meeting that it will mandate the use of Goodyear-recommended tire pressure in right front tires in all three of its top series beginning this weekend.

The series strongly recommended teams follow the guidelines mid-race at Charlotte two weeks ago when at least 14 cars - including that of points-leader Tony Stewart - suffered massive tire failures. Crew chiefs use tire pressure - most below recommended levels - as a way of balancing their cars.

"The tire issue is obviously getting old," Nextel Cup driver Kevin Harvick said. "But it's something we have to deal with. Obviously, NASCAR is trying to make things as safe as possible."

Goodyear officials will record the pressure of every tire before each race and before it is mounted during a pit stop to make sure the minimum - this weekend 47 pounds per square inch - is being met.

NEW RIDE: Hendrick Motorsports' Brian Vickers will be one of several drivers testing the so-called "car of tomorrow" Monday at AMS. Roush Racing, Penske Racing South and Petty Enterprises also are scheduled to test the boxier car, tentatively scheduled for a 2007 full-time debut.