Continued from part 1 Q: If you could go back a little bit further to your pit stop and what were your expectations coming out of that, and you talked about having the tires and everything. What was going through your mind then? MARK MARTIN: ...
Continued from part 1
Q: If you could go back a little bit further to your pit stop and what were your expectations coming out of that, and you talked about having the tires and everything. What was going through your mind then?
MARK MARTIN: The last pit stop we made, you know, I had run that whole run out there in front. I fought hard to get by Kurt and get five points, and then just kept the hammer down to try to get as far ahead, because I expect worst-case scenarios, or try to set up for worst-case scenario, which would mean that we would run until we had to pit under the green, and all those guys that had pitted would stay out and then a caution would come out.
So the farthest I could get ahead, then after we had come out after our pit stop we'd be in the best-case scenario. I certainly didn't want to be two laps down, because that's really hard to recover from. So I stretched the lead as far as I could, came out of the pit stop, and I couldn't believe it. I wanted to ask, but I just tried to forget that; just focus on driving and focus on running. But I wanted to ask, I know that's the leader up there, but is it one lap down or two laps down, because I'm fixing to get one of these back.
I just focused and focused, and once we got by Denny, Kurt pitted, and once we got by Denny, then I said, are we in the lead lap. And just like Alan said, we were in the catbird seat then because then if the caution came out we were going to be leading because we could stay out and everybody else had to pit.
So at that point, once we passed the 11, I mean, our race was set up strong suit.
Q: Alan, Friday Mark was kind of downplaying a driver's role in the age of engineering, and then today Denny and Juan both came up here and said Mark made the veteran move he had to make to win the race. Can you just talk about how experience played into that and kind of the driver taking charge there in the last couple laps?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Well, everything we do, you mentioned engineering and winning races and strategy and pitting and staying out and beating guys on the restarts. None of that is possible without a really, really good race car driver. You've got to have everything 100 percent in this sport to win and to contend to win and to run well. So the driver is obviously a very, very, very key component to that.
In my opinion Mark is the best driver out there, and he proves that time and time again, no matter what situation it is. Not only does he restart well and race well, but he's obviously very smart and he knows what to do and when to go.
It makes our job easier, and if it's Saturday adjusting on the car or if it's Sunday restarting, if it's me having to make pit strategy decisions, you know that you've got a driver who can get the maximum amount of whatever those decisions we make are. And that's really, really special, and we feel real fortunate to have Mark and have guy who takes everything that we work really, really hard on and spend countless hours on, he puts that same amount of effort in when he gets behind that wheel and takes complete advantage of it, and that's all you really can ask for.
Q: Mark, two questions. First of all, what's going on with the feet; and second of all, talk about Talladega. You mentioned it out there. You said that's the lotto race.
MARK MARTIN: Nothing is with the feet.
And Talladega, I like to call it the lotto. I used to think that if the guys could figure out how to get me a fast race car, it would put me in a position to kind of be ahead of the trouble. That certainly isn't the case anymore. So from that standpoint it is kind of like a lotto. It's wild and crazy, and we're going to be there with bells on.
Q: On Friday you announced the extension with Hendrick through 2011, and I was just curious, I mean, to what extent did the fact that you knew you were going to have Alan as your crew chief factor into the equation for your decision to go forward, and how important is it for a driver in the Chase to have a championship-caliber crew chief like Alan?
MARK MARTIN: It was all of it. I mean, definitely because Alan is instrumental in the performance of that car, and the performance is basically largely what I used as a determining factor on whether or not I could still do this stuff.
Alan makes it easier on me. I mean, I don't know what else to say. I don't have to -- he takes a lot off of my shoulders and carries it on his. And so then it's more fun for me. So that's what it's all about.
Q: One for each. Alan, can you explain why you didn't pit with a little over 100 laps to go; that put you out of sequence? And when most of the other field came in, did you feel in or did you feel a little nervous? And then also for Mark, from an outsider's perspective it seemed like the racing was quite aggressive and quite challenging out there. Is that the way you saw what it was like, especially toward the end of the race?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: The reason we decided not to pit in that sequence is probably a combination of experience and a little bit of error on the pit stop before. We pitted -- I don't know the laps, you'd have to look at it. We pitted the stop before. The 48 stayed out, the 14 stayed out. The 26, I can't remember, 39, kind of going down the list there, those guys stayed out and came in and pitted and got back a little bit further than I like to see our car; we got back in the 12th, 13th place range. To me you get to a certain point, you get far enough back where it's pretty dangerous; it's really hard to overcome that position, no matter how good your car is, especially here where it's so hard to pass, and then you also put yourself in a lot higher risk area for incident.
So when we got back there and we restarted a few times and the racing was pretty rough and that caution came out, I said, man, I'm not going to come; we need to be out front, and we weren't in our fuel window. Really that opportunity to pit there was not going to do us any good. We were just going to be in the same place we were with the same tires the guys around us had.
So we had to try to flip the track position on them, and when we took that opportunity to do it, we knew everybody had to stop again. Regardless if we stopped there or not, we had to come again and so did they. So that factored into the decision, and when we got out front, like I said, we started second, the 2 had the same strategy, and Mark got around Kurt in pretty good fashion and pulled away and made all that work.
Once we pitted under green, the key to that, and Mark said it nicely, we came close enough to the 11 where he got back on the lead lap in really quick order, probably three or four laps, and when we got back by the 11, at worst-case scenario I knew we were going to have a decent finish unless we got wrecked or had some unfortunate circumstances. I knew we were going to be close to the leader or pretty near the front, and we have a good car and obviously have a good enough driver. That's how it all played out.
Q: Mark, it looked like the racing was pretty tough and aggressive out there. Is that how it was from your point of view?
MARK MARTIN: Yeah, it's really tough, because on restarts these things really slip around. I will say, I really gotta brag on the drivers today. They did an awesome job and did a better job than usual not running over each other because it's very, very hard. And when you have as much at stake as we have, you know, it pushes you to slip over the edge. You know, it's not like a lot of racetracks, this thing. When it starts to slip, you can't fix it. You know, you kind of slide into the other guy. It's not like another place where you start feeling it slip and you can back off a little bit.
Everybody did a great job of racing really hard but not running each other over a lot.
Q: Mark, you told us what you don't like about this racetrack and you told us what you prefer in a racetrack. What do you have to work on at this racetrack? What do you have to focus on to get the best out of a race car?
MARK MARTIN: Well, you know, we just have to get speed. I told them Saturday in practice, is the speed good, because I don't know how to get around here anyway. So don't worry about where it's slipping here or doing that there. Anything we work there, there will be compromises. If you make that over there better it'll make that worse or whatever. The thing we had was speed. I tried to live with the rest of it.
Q: Juan was asked when we were in New York by a Formula 1 writer to explain double file restarts, and he said in Formula 1 whenever he would be around someone the driver would get very nervous and say, oh, no, what's this crazy Colombian going to do next. When you lined up next to him with that three to go, did you know he was going to race you clean? He said he doesn't have enough experience racing for wins; that's how you were able to sort of snooker him. Did you know what to expect from him and know he could handle that?
MARK MARTIN: I have a lot of respect for Juan Montoya, and I had respect for him and he had for me before a lot of others on the racetrack, before they had that, before Juan and some of the other competitors. I still didn't know for sure that he wouldn't slip. I didn't know that for sure, because I know that he's racing for his first oval track win.
But I knew he wouldn't slip on purpose, and we're all fighting hard. So I tried to give him enough room but do my race, too. And that's still -- with the way this racetrack is, that still isn't enough, because even when you give the guy enough room, he's on this part down here, which really makes the car loose on the restart, and it all comes down to how hard he was going to push it and whether or not -- just to explain to you, I gave him the respect from day one on the racetrack, and I got respect a long time ago, not just today. That's all you can do. I thought that he would do the right thing, and if it didn't turn out to be the right thing, I think it would have been a mistake, not something that he was going to do to try to knock me out of the way or something to get the win. And he could count on the same from me.
That's just my code. I'm criticized for that code, and sometimes it's overlooked, the fact that you get what you give. That fact is overlooked sometimes.
Q: The decision not to race back to the caution was born right here several years ago. NASCAR waited a while on that last caution to throw it. In your opinion should it have been thrown earlier?
MARK MARTIN: Well, that's a good question. I couldn't see it, so I don't know. They probably -- for the fans' sake and for the show's sake should have waited until they did to throw it because they were waiting to see if he was going to get going, and if he would have got going, it could have been a green flag finish, and that's about the fans; that's not about the competitors. The competitors being safe is important, too, but we weren't in a dangerous situation like we were at Daytona in what year, 2007. That was different.
Here I think they should have waited until they did to throw the yellow because it could have cleared itself and then they wouldn't have spoiled the finish. Daytona with cars flipping, I think, and wrecking and everything else, I'm not so sure about that.
But it is what it is, and they do the best they can, and they're really strong and pro-fan. And that's good for you and me. It's good for all of us that they're pro-fan. Sometimes is doesn't work the way you want it to, from a competitor's standpoint.
Q: A couple of years ago we'd watch you on television in rocking chairs. How does it really feel to be a contender?
MARK MARTIN: Unbelievable. Unbelievable. If you've never experienced what we experience as drivers, and Dale Jarrett and I had this conversation Thursday, you probably can't understand, because you haven't experienced it. You know, DJ said, there'll never be anything else that's quite like that. He said he likes what he does now, but it's not the same.
And I have to face that, too, someday, but not today. It's pretty incredible the way the fans have rallied behind our effort and our success this year. It makes it even more special.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you so much. Congratulations on your victory.