Continued from part 1 Q: WITH THE SPECULATION ABOUT TONY STEWART AND A POSSIBLE CONTRACT BUY-OUT, IS IT FAIR TO SAY YOU OPTED TO DO THIS DEAL WITH MARK MARTIN RATHER THAN PURSUE TONY? AND DID HE HAVE ANY CONVERSATIONS WITH YOU? RICK ...
Continued from part 1
Q: WITH THE SPECULATION ABOUT TONY STEWART AND A POSSIBLE CONTRACT BUY-OUT, IS IT FAIR TO SAY YOU OPTED TO DO THIS DEAL WITH MARK MARTIN RATHER THAN PURSUE TONY? AND DID HE HAVE ANY CONVERSATIONS WITH YOU?
RICK HENDRICK: "Um, you know, Tony and I are good friends and I respect Tony Stewart a ton. And he sure perked you guys up with other day when he said something about the No. 5 car, didn't he? But that guy's got tremendous talent. But Joe Gibbs and I are good friends and I don't know what's going to happen. You're just going to have to stay tuned to see what happens over there. Our deal is Mark Martin and I can't answer other than I have tremendous respect for Tony. I'll say what Tony said about me. Anybody that's in this garage area would love to have Tony Stewart sitting in the seat of their car."
Q: FROM A MENTAL PREPARATION ASPECT, PLUS ADJUSTING TO A 38-WEEK SCHEDULE, ARE THERE ANY TRACKS THAT ARE SPECIAL CHALLENGES?
"Infineon would be the only one that comes to mind. The Glen is like a superspeedway road course and wouldn't really bother me, but I think we'll be fine with that. I think this is going to be a blast. That's the reason I couldn't sleep last night because I was thinking so much about what it's going to be like to have an opportunity to work with an organization like this. I really look forward to the challenges."
Q: ON THE PRESSURE FOR ONE TEAM OWNER TO MAKE PROMISES TO ALL FOUR DRIVERS TO HELP GET THEM EACH A CHAMPIONSHIP
RICK HENDRICK: "It's more pressure on them than it is on me. I give them the same stuff and it's up to them. I like putting two dogs together and rubbing their noses and letting them fight. I mean if you give them the same stuff, and you know each one of them has told me they can beat the other guy. And privately, I agree with them (laughter). So I think a lot of things happen on the race track that you can't control. And if you go out there with the best stuff, you know we've got three cars in the Chase (top 12) right now, and we haven't had the kind of year we've had before, but we're gaining on it and we're working hard. And I think I've said this before. Mark will compliment what we've got and he will make it better. And I talked about this with each one of these drivers at length. And it's a fit factor that you want in your organization if you want to add something or do something, you want it to be a positive and not a minus and not pull it down. You could make some decisions that won't help you; that hurt you. We all agree and each crew chief and each driver agreed that Mark Martin will make us better. And he will help us. After racing with him I believe that. I'm like a 58 year-old guy in a 65 year-old body; he's like a 49 year-old guy in a 35 year-old body. So he's a fitness fanatic and I hope I can learn a little bit from him on that end of it too.
"But we've been racing and we've been fortunate to win a lot of championship; and we've lost a lot of championships. We've gotten better as we have better people. I think having a team that's capable of winning a championship makes the other three better. It makes them step up. It makes them more competitive. And that's what I admire about Jimmie, Junior, and Jeff. They don't hesitate in getting the best talent you can get because they feel like it'll make them better and they feel like they can beat the guy, whoever it is. And that's the way real race drivers need to be. I think, I hope I've answered your question. To the naysayers, then why don't you have three teams? Why do you have four teams if you don't think they are capable of getting it done? And that's what it's all about when you have sponsors that expect you to be able to get it done."
Q: WOULD YOU HAVE COME BACK FULL TIME IF THIS SPECIFIC OPPORTUNITY HADN'T COME UP? HAD ANYONE BROKEN THE NEWS TO YOU THAT TALLADEGA IS STILL ON THE SCHEDULE?
"I remember. I remember (laughter). I'm not sure how Rick would answer this. In my mind, at least told Rick, 'No', twice to this already. And the notion, I didn't have formal proposals, but the notion was floated to me by a number of other teams and the answer was 'No,' like I don't even consider it. So to answer your question, this is the one. And I didn't initially jump on top of this, but I love my schedule. That 26 races has been beautiful for me. It's been perfect. But I did get a taste in that o. 8 car this year. I had it out there on my fingertips and even Arlene said when we looked at the thing and when it finally came down to having to make that decision to do a full schedule versus a limited schedule, if and these are her words, "If you're going to drive, that's the deal to do.' I did not see this coming and wasn't interested in talking about it really, with any other teams. I don't know for sure if you guys (the media) comprehend when this really means to me, the opportunity to work with these guys at this stage of a guy's career. To be welcomed on board by Jeff Gordon, who by the way, is Rick's best salesman. And I know how Rick made it so well in the car business. He's a good used car salesman. I have a partner that's a good used car salesman too, in Lance Landers. I got a kick of how this process went because I didn't really think that it was going to be a full schedule for a while. But this is a big deal to me. It's not something you could recreate. I told Arlene when we talked about this, I'm pretty sure that the last breath I took on my death bed would be, "I should have drove Rick's car when I had the chance' (laughter). I didn't want to do that or regret that until the last breath I took."
Q: ON THE MENTAL AND PHYSICAL CHALLENGES COME THE DOG DAYS OF NEXT SUMMER
MARK MARTIN: "I'm going to have to dig deep. Rick's going to have to figure out a way to deliver that 'fun' promise. I think when you're happy, it makes a huge difference."
RICK HENDRICK: "The fun is over after today, Mark." (laughter)
MARK MARTIN: "I think it really makes a difference. I think that it will be fine as long as I'm having fun and as long as I'm happy. But I will say as much fun as I'm having this year in the No. 8 car, I was sure ready after seven weeks in a row and three tests to watch Sears Point (now Infineon) from the couch. So then Infineon came and then Loudon came and then Chicago. So that stretch down through there is tough on everybody. But they'll be plenty of couch time later. I'll just dig deep. I'm in the best physical condition I've ever been in, in my life. I feel five years younger than I did when I stepped out in 2006 after being so tired and frustrated and everything. In the two years that I've spent on this limited schedule were important. There was no way I would have accepted this deal in 2007. No way. So that's been good. These last two years have given me a chance to catch my breath and spend quality time with my family and sort of reflect on what's important and what I want to do."
Q: RICK YOU HAD TOUCHED ON BEFORE THAT BEFORE YOU HAD HIRED DALE EARNHARDT, JR. THAT YOU HAD TALKED TO HIS FATHER ABOUT BRINGING HIM ON. CAN YOU GUYS GIVE US A LITTLE BIT OF THE BACK STORIES OF WHEN YOU HAD APPROACHED MARK IN THE PAST SO THAT WE CAN SEE A PATTERN OR A TREND?
RICK HENDRICK: "He called me when he wanted to get a raise over at Roush's. I think it was one July day and they said Mark Martin is on the phone. He said, 'I sure would like to drive your car, are you interested?', and I said 'sure' and that is the last time I heard from him."
"And then, I used to kid him when we were, I keep saying Busch racing. I looked to see if he showed up and I knew we were in trouble. And really the day he was selling his Cup equipment in 1983 and Harry Hyde and I went over there and we came close to talking about a deal, but we had already done a deal and then I lost track of him and we've always had this kind of relationship where we would talk. But I think when Jay Frye did call me and Mark had mentioned this that he was going to work at Ginn (Racing) and wanted to drive the Busch car and I could not say yes quick enough. Benny over there, I was like a kid because again, you watch guys and its no different than Jimmy or Jeff or Dale. You are around them and you watch them and you get to know them. When he got in the Busch car for the first time he amazed me at what he could do and how he could read the car. I had been scanning him and then I scanned him some more after that. But then I walked by him and he and Arlene were standing by the car and I just kind of casually walked by him and said, 'you know I sure wish you would consider running a whole schedule, I would put you in a car'. Then I knew the bait was there and Benny called me two days later and said 'you drove him crazy' so we kidded about it and we talked about it but you know again there are just some guys that you respect a lot and you can walk up to and you talk to them. And the best barometer that I have are our drivers that race around guys and give you feedback and they know who's got the talent and they know who they would like to work with and who they feel comfortable with. And when all the pieces fit and the only piece that didn't fit was him agreeing to run all the races and then when that worked out we couldn't do it quick enough."
Q: CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION YOU ARE LEAVING AND DEI THE STATUS YOU THINK THEY ARE IN RIGHT NOW AND MOVING TOWARD THE FUTURE AND WHAT MAKES GUYS LIKE YOU AND BRETT FAVRE TALK ABOUT COMING BACK FROM RETIREMENT AND WANT TO KEEP GOING AT THIS AGE?
MARK MARTIN: "I'm thinking about first of all, I don't know very much about football. Okay. And I saw something the other day likening me to him but all I know is that Matt Kenseth thinks that he's the greatest thing since sliced bread. And I know nothing about football. Evidently he's awfully good at what he does. I don't know for sure, but I think he's awfully good because people would still like to see him come back again.
"I don't know how to explain to you and I have no apologies for not knowing what my whole life holds for me. When you're pretty good at something and its been the focus of your life and the driving force of your life for thirty-five years and you're still pretty good at it you know, you probably don't want to quit. Till then, for me, until you are not still pretty good at it. I don't have anything else really, beyond my love of family, I really don't have anything else with that kind of passion that I have for racing and I thought at the end of 2006 that I thought I was fine with couch time the rest of my life. But that was because I was in a frustrated fog of emotion of being wore out. And the two years that I have had to reflect on that there is really special relationships that I have with the people in this room, with the fans, and especially people like Matt Kenseth and Jeff Burton. The respect that people like Jimmie (Johnson) and Dale Jr. have shown me, Jeff Gordon and many of the others. If I never come to another race, then that's all gone. And for right now I don't want to come to a race that I am not driving, so if I can drive something that will give me a chance to win and I can still do it, then I will probably still want to do it. And I have told you guys that if I didn't, if it was all or nothing that I would choose nothing. And I have said that. Well, I may have changed my mind again because if I was given a choice of nothing or all in the five car, I chose the five car. But one of the reasons why I appear to be indecisive is because you guys ask questions before I am ready to answer them. And I am such a nice guy, I am trying to answer your doggone questions. You know. And if you wouldn't ask them before I was ready to answer them then maybe I wouldn't tell you something that wasn't accurate.
RICK HENDRICK: "I like that, that's good. He is a car salesman."
Q: THE FIRST PART OF THAT, WHAT ABOUT DEI AND THE ORGANIZATION?
MARK MARTIN: "I thought you were going to forget about that David. You know they have put me in race cars that have exceeded my expectations this year. They have a great group of incredibly loyal people there. You know, and that's really what I see there. I see a bunch of people that are incredibly loyal and that are digging in hard. Max Siegel, John Story's doing an awesome job there......incredible job there really. They have moved the organization into the Ginn building and have integrated the four race teams and they have come really, really far in the past twelve months. And I commend them for that."
Q: YOU SAID IN 2006 WHEN YOU MADE THE DECISION, THERE WAS OBVIOUSLY SOMETHING THAT WAS PULLING YOU AWAY FROM FULL TIME COMPETITION. RICK SAID IT BEST IN THAT YOU DON'T HAVE ANYTHING TO PROVE. BUT FROM A PERSONAL LEVEL IS THE WILLINGNESS AND DESIRE TO COME BACK AND WIN AND COMPETE AND RUN FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP, IS THAT AS MUCH OF A PULL AS THE OPPORTUNITY TO WORK WITH RICK? IS THAT THE STRONGEST PULL BACK?
MARK MARTIN: "The number one factor for me was to drive a car that I thought I could win in. The full schedule wasn't my first choice. Looking at everything out there, I made a commitment to Aric Almirola and to me a secondary commitment to J.D. Gibbs to really, so that he would release Aric to me sort of in my custody and to Eddie Jarvis, which represents Tony Stewart that I would take care of Aric.
But number one, Aric Almirola. I had so much fun this year driving the eight car that I really would have loved to have driven a twenty-six race schedule again next year, but that would not have been fair to Aric Almirola. Aric is ready to be a full time Cup driver and I felt like it was my responsibility and the right thing to do to get out of his way. And so that being said when I looked at the field, the climate, the options, or possible opportunities to drive a limited schedule out there and drive cars on a limited schedule that could win, I didn't see anything that was nearly as attractive as going and driving the five car. And if it took driving it full time to get it, I was, you know, that was what I was going to do. Remember that old thing that I said about making up your mind come hell or high water -- I made up my mind that I was going to drive that five car, whatever it took. And we are going to do it, and do it with a smile."
Q: ANY FINAL THOUGHTS MR. HENDRICK?
RICK HENDRICK: "No, I think everything has been said. Again this is exciting times for us and I think it's going to help us be better."
-credit: hms/gm racing