Sylvania 300 Post-Race Transcript An Interview With: MARK MARTIN - Winner ALAN GUSTAFSON - Crew chief THE MODERATOR: We're now joined in the infield media center by today's winner of the Sylvania 300, driver of the No. 5 CARQUEST ...
Sylvania 300 Post-Race Transcript
An Interview With:
MARK MARTIN - Winner
ALAN GUSTAFSON - Crew chief
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined in the infield media center by today's winner of the Sylvania 300, driver of the No. 5 CARQUEST Kellogg's Chevrolet, Mark Martin. This is Mark's 40th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win and his first at New Hampshire. Mark, tell us about your run today.
MARK MARTIN: Alan has really pulled off something big to figure out how to win a race with me here at Loudon. That's a big deal. I don't get around this place that well. The guys, we came up here with a great attitude with the pressure off of us that we've been carrying around pretty much since the fourth race of the season.
They had a great plan for the car, and they got the car in race trim, strong lap times, strong enough that I thought, gosh, if we could stumble around and get in the front here, I think I might be able to stay. And he figured out how to do that, too. So it was an incredible accomplishment, I think.
It's also pretty cool, when we left Michigan, I don't know how many races was the total race. This is 40. Anyway, Arlene looked over at me, but she happened to be at that one, and she said, "Only three more," or something like that. Something like that, "to 40." And I was like -- you'd have to know her. She's not much of a race fan. It was really odd. For her to know that number and I not know it, and for her to say so many to go to 40 was pretty strange. So it was a cool time, and it is a cool number to hit because of that little time that we shared, that moment we shared.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by today's winning crew chief, Alan Gustafson. Alan, your thoughts from on top of the box today.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Everything kind of fell into place for us today. Like Mark said, we worked really hard on Saturday, the guys at the shop. The engineering staff did a great job helping getting us prepared for the race. We weren't the greatest here last year, so we worked really hard. We knew this was a race we needed to focus on to run well, to kick the Chase off, and kind of defend here.
We didn't want to give up too many points because we knew Denny would run well, and Kurt is really, really good here, and it turned out Juan was awesome, and Jimmie is always awesome everywhere.
The race started, and we had a pretty good car, and it's tough. It's tough back there in traffic, and Mark was doing a good job, and we could get to the 6th, to 8th, 9th place range and we could hang out around there.
And then we got an opportunity to kind of flip the track position on them, and we did, and took advantage of that. Mark made that plan work by passing Kurt and getting gone the way he did and running some phenomenal lap times out front and getting a big enough lead over the guys who had stopped. I think the 11 in particular was the car who came to be third there behind Kurt.
So we had a big enough lead on the 11 where we could pit, and we weren't really too far down, a lap down to him. We were only a little ways back, a car or two or half a straightaway. Mark was able to get past the 11 in pretty quick order, so I knew we were in good shape there once we got back on the lead lap.
And then the restarts came, so that's really nerve-wracking. Mark was incredible on the restarts. He did an awesome job. We got him on the top, which was a good thing. He's not a huge top guy, so restarting on the top worked out awesome.
Held off some tough, tough competitors. Like I said, I think Kurt is really, really good here, and Jimmie behind us, and Juan was probably the fastest car all day long. That was all Mark. I don't think our car was better than those guys, I think our driver was. So it's really, really fortunate to win this race. It's a great momentum builder for the Chase and gives us a lot of pep in our step going to Dover.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions from the media.
Q: Mark, on behalf of all of us who have waited for decades to ask you about somebody questioning a move you made to win a race, Juan Pablo was talking about, he said that after he tucked in behind you, you went down into 1, he said Mark went down there in there and stopped. He said you've got to have somebody you trust not to hit you to do that. A, was that a calculated move on your part; and B, does this signal that those of us who would ever suggest that you don't have enough dog-eat-dog in you were wrong?
MARK MARTIN: You can read into that what you want, but my first instinct to answer that question would be, yeah, I stopped compared to how fast his car was going. I don't think I stopped-stopped, I just -- maybe it looked to him like I stopped based on how fast he had been.
This is a very frustrating racetrack. Track position is so incredibly critical and lane choices so unbelievable, as well. And he had the fastest car today.
I fought for that race, but I wouldn't do anything -- I still won't. No, I probably still won't do what some of you wish I would.
Q: He said it was the thing to do. He said to have it done to you is frustrating, but if you do it to them it feels really good.
MARK MARTIN: (Laughing) To be real honest, stopping is a strong word. I made sure that I didn't go in there and lose it once I got in front of him. But his car was probably really strong there.
My car was not fast into the corner, so it probably felt, especially to him -- we made all our time through the center and off the corner and kind of had to get into the corners easy, and once you got the lead, you need to make sure you don't drive it in there and turn it sideways, slide up to the top of the racetrack. I mean, how stupid would I look then?
Q: If you had driven the velocity he had been going --
MARK MARTIN: -- then I would have slid to the top, lost the race, and I would have had to admit to the world that I blew it. That's what happened there.
Q: In the 25 previous visits you've had here, 24 arguably, you've been here with many different crew chiefs. I don't know if you can remember those guys, but what makes Alan Gustafson stand out amongst all the guys you've worked with? And you gave him the credit for this win. What did he do specifically that really put you in victory lane?
MARK MARTIN: I pretty much said that by coming up here with a great plan at a racetrack that's not my strong suit, great plan for setup and setup changes, and he sorted through those things, and we sorted through those and got the car where it was competitively fast.
And then he made the right call today to position us in the front. You know, we weren't good enough to drive from 6th or 8th to 1st, especially against the competition that we had. But as it turned out, we were good enough to stay in the front through three restarts inside of 20 to go. And I think we had quite a bit more on our tires, too.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, we did.
MARK MARTIN: You've got to remember that, as well. I don't know how many more laps we had on our tires, but we had some more. And so that was -- it was great to be able to pull it off.
Q: Could you speak to the strength of the relationship you have now?
MARK MARTIN: I have a lot of trust in Alan. I let him do his thing, and he's brought so much support, you know, in so many areas, and unloaded so much off of my shoulders. He's the smartest -- the best combination of really smart engineering, understanding of that, and the guy that pulls the wrenches and gets his hands dirty, practical racer. He's the best combination of all of that.
I've worked with great engineers and really smart people and great guys that work on race cars and are practical and all of that, but he's the combination, the strongest combination of all of that.
Q: Mark, prior to the race obviously you talked about your struggles here at New Hampshire, and you said you simply wanted to leave here with a decent points finish, and I know that you've sort of become notorious for this, but is that playing into some of your success, sort of having this -- I can't think of the word I want to say --
MARK MARTIN: You're not calling me Gomer Pyle, are you?
Q: -- attitude. Is that playing into your success?
MARK MARTIN: I don't know. Part of my being humble is that a took a beating once and got ran out of town. I got beat to a pulp and run out of town. I wouldn't be as humble if I hadn't have gone through that experience.
And the other thing is I've had my -- I've taken some pretty hard -- swallowed some pretty big pills in my racing career, so I'm cautious about expecting things. Like I didn't expect to win this race once the cautions started falling. I didn't expect it. I knew I'd fight for it, but to expect it and then it doesn't happen will break you in half. Expect to fight for it, and then you accept the results for what they are.
It's just how I manage my emotions and everything else. It doesn't mean I don't try hard. I give my guts, man, but I'm not going to plan on something and then have it not work out.
Q: Mark, there haven't been a lot of racetracks that are not named Talladega that you've had trouble mastering. What is it about this place that's taken you so long? Was it the car was so good today that you finally got over that hump, or what's been the problem?
MARK MARTIN: We've run pretty good here. We sat on the pole up here one year and Rusty beat me and I finished second or something, and another year we thought we were looking really good, and I don't remember what happened. The 24 did two tires or something or other, whatever it was, and we lost that one. So we've been in position.
But I like rounder racetracks where you can get you a handful of steering wheel and slide that baby and manipulate it and make it do something that it doesn't want to do. You can't do that at Martinsville, and you really can't do that here, even more I think than Martinsville.
So it is what it is. It doesn't lend itself; Phoenix does. It's round. The corners are big and round.
Q: I wonder if you could just take us through what in your view transpired on the last lap, and as far as the spinning incident and when you saw the caution come out, and what did you see when you came off of Turn 4, because it looked like A.J.'s car was just kind of sitting there in the middle of the track.
MARK MARTIN: Well, my spotter stayed on me. He told me the spin and all that, but he stayed on me, still green, still green, still green, and I was backing into a little bit more of a conservative mode when he had called the caution. I hadn't quit, but I knew that I had two more corners to make. So Denny wasn't going to catch me, or whoever. I don't even know who ran second. Whoever it was that was behind me, I was checking in the mirror quite often and they weren't coming. So I was kind of making sure that I managed all those things well, and my spotter told me where he was on the racetrack, down toward the inside or whatever, and then finally he called a caution.
And so then I did slow down. And I don't know who came flying up through there, a red one or something, Jimmie or somebody. Somebody came up there and ran into the back of me, and of course I went back to accelerating. I knew the race was supposed to be over, but I've done lots of stupid stuff, and I didn't want to lose this race. I knew it was supposed to be over.
So A.J. was getting going, and I felt pretty confident and comfortable about where he was going to stay, and so I picked up the speed, which is not really the thing we're supposed to do. Of course those guys flew up there on me, and there was chatter on the radio, the race is over, and busting back and forth, and by the time we crossed the start/finish line, somebody said, well, it was before we got to the line. So there were some things going on there, a little bit of confusion.
You tend to kind of -- if you don't know for sure, you kind of race when the caution comes out on the last lap a little bit, and I had -- I was under the impression that when a caution called, the race was over. I don't think the guys gave up the race behind me quite. So it caused a little bit of chaos.
Continued in part 2