Continued from part 1 Q: Rick talked about not every driver can take what every driver has setup-wise these days with new teams with the new cars. How much have you been able to get from Jeff or Jimmie or Dale Junior are doing with the ...
Continued from part 1
Q: Rick talked about not every driver can take what every driver has setup-wise these days with new teams with the new cars. How much have you been able to get from Jeff or Jimmie or Dale Junior are doing with the Car of Tomorrow?
MARK MARTIN: What we did in California was based around Jimmie's setup from there last year, when he dominated the race. That was probably our weakest performance of the year. I struggled with that. We didn't get the car where I really wanted it, although the car was good. It was a tenth place -- it was a tenth-place car, but we have had a better car than that everywhere else. And basically, to be real honest with you, as surprising as it may be, Jeff and I have been really working well together, and Jeff ran in California, what I kind of felt like I kind of liked and sort of developed at the Vegas tire test. Now, he had great results with it. Of course both of us ran similar stuff in Vegas and we have been more similar ever since.
It's seems like that we are sort of gravitating toward the same kind of things in the car, and I think it's been really, really good for us, and I think that Alan and Steve are working more together than they have in the past based on the driver feels correlating. It's just really cool.
It's so surprising to me because Jeff Gordon, you never see Jeff Gordon's car out of shape. You see mine sideways fairly often, and I never would have thought our driving styles would not be so similar and maybe they aren't but they feel similar. So that's where we have been. We have been very close to the 24 ever since California.
Q: We've talked in the past about your passion for flying. Never asked you before, what fueled that? What got you started?
MARK MARTIN: I got on an airplane in '92 and was in the back all the time sleeping. And in '94 I moved to Florida and my pilot lived in North Carolina. So my pilot commuted back and forth, taking me to the races. And I started wanting and needing to go to the race shop in Carolina on Tuesdays and that didn't work for my pilot because he would never get to go home. So I decided I had to fly to take care of that weekly trip.
And like I do everything else, I go overboard on anything I get into. That's why I'm very careful to not get into very much. I really got on the fast track through my ratings, pilot ratings, and became a jet pilot in a very short period of time.
I don't fly that much to be real honest with you, certainly don't fly -- we are not flying as much today as we have in years past, because -- largely because of the testing that we are not doing so much testing and all. But I still get to fly to the races and it is really the only thing outside of driving the race car that I have that kind of passion for. A lot of guys maybe have a passion for golf or fishing or whatever it is. I really don't have a passion for anything else. I have a major passion for business aviation. I'm not a sport flyer, not aerobatic, nothing like that. I'm just a big fan of business aircraft. I love the feeling of being able to fly it, especially in inclement conditions and doing a really nice job of it and not needing a baby-sitter to do it with me.
It's kind of the feeling to me, it's kind of the feeling when you were kind of 16 and your daddy handed you the keys to the car. That's kind of how I feel. Sometimes when I'm in the airplane and got to great altitude, say up at 45,000 feet, I kind of look around in the back of the plane and every once in awhile, I'm the only person in the airplane. It's phenomenal to think that you can be eight miles above the earth, by yourself. You know, it's an incredible feat that we have achieved in such a short period of time, a hundred years or so, or whatever it's been since the Wright brothers made their first flight. It's an amazing thing.
Q: And if you don't mind my asking, what are you flying these days?
MARK MARTIN: I fly a Citation CJ3.
Q: Going back to Martinsville, the race can bring up lots of talk of trophies and thinking about your 1998 season when you won all of those races. Did you collect a favorite trophy or maybe do you have a story?
MARK MARTIN: You know, I'm a real goof when it comes to stuff and memory and remembering things. But I will say this. The trophies back invisible when you see them very often. You get used to them and they don't -- you don't really see them anymore. So really I don't have a -- I don't even see the trophies that much to be honest with you. They are in the museum in Arkansas.
To answer your question, the weirdest thing, the thing that I remember about 1998 and all of those wins, I remember two things about that. One, I remember winning Vegas, which was I think the third race on the schedule that year. And I had a completely brand new race team. Jim Finny was my crew chief and it was my second year as my crew chief but my whole race team was brand new. When I won that race, it was such a huge relief to me because I had left such a successful group behind. Even though I was still in the six car, we moved our shop from Liberty North Carolina down to Morrisville and then in the 99 with Jeff Burton and all of the new people and everything, and I was scared that I had made a mistake by allowing that to happen. So it was a big relief to win that race, No. 1.
No. 2, I never thought much about when I won races back then. I never thought that much about some day, I won't ever win another race. I was always in a big hurry, get this one over with so we can hurry up and get working on the next one. And when I took off at night in the helicopter, it was dark. But you could still see out on a moonlit night. When I looked down and saw the racetrack, it dawned on me that I had won that race. A lot of times when you are doing it and caught up in the moment -- it had not sunk into me before. But it sunk into me as I helicoptered out that night going to the airport. And I remember that vividly.
The other thing I remember about that year, we were having an awesome year, winning races and everything else and Jeff Gordon was still killing me in the points by almost 400 points. I do remember that, too.
Q: You recently said that you were focused mostly on the here and now, of course, but I would like for you to talk about what it would take for you to decide to potentially come back to Hendrick Motorsports for another full season in 2010.
MARK MARTIN: Well, here is what kind of got this started, got it going and I'll kind of explain this to you.
In conversation with David Newton over last weekend, he asked me this horrendous luck that I had had this year, did that change the way I felt about racing. I said, no, it's neither made me want to quit, nor has it wanted me to keep going more. The bad luck has not affected the way I feel about racing. I said, "I love what I'm doing. I love driving this car and I love what I'm doing. I can't imagine what else I would rather do. There is nothing else I would rather do."
So that's kind of got the question way too soon to really talk about. It but there's no convincing, none of that. We just don't need to discuss it right now. We have got really important things at hand.
I'll say again just what I told David Newton. I love what I'm doing and I just can't imagine quitting. There's nothing else in the world like this. If I was running 20th every week, I would say, there's no way I could do that, come back and do it again, but I love what I'm doing and I'm still pretty good at it. And I have a chance to drive for one of the -- we have one of the best race teams on the circuit and I am just soaking it up right now. I'm just happy.
I don't think right now anybody wants to hear about what I might or might not do in 2010. I expect to race in 2010. My deal with Rick Hendrick was through 2010. The number of races, we will worry about when the time comes. This is not the time to be talking about it. It's way premature and I really hate that it even got started, because what I really want to do is drive this car and try to win a race or some races. It's all I've ever done since I was 15 years old and I have not found anything else in life that gives me the same satisfaction or even close to the same satisfaction that I have experienced the last few weeks strapping into that 5 car.
So for right now, I don't even want to talk about 2010. I just want to keep doing what I'm doing.
Q: Sort of unrelated; how confident are you based on the speed that you have shown early in the season that you can fully bounce back from this and into contention?
MARK MARTIN: Most of the people around me are very optimistic and confident. I know a lot about this business and I just really would rather stay focused ongoing out here ask doing what we can continue to do, continue to try to race, be competitive, hopefully be contenders and maybe have a crack to win here and there. Let it go a little further.
There's five races under our belt and finally our first piece of forward momentum after Bristol. We have 20 races to go before the Chase starts. I would rather just, before I really -- we do have good speed. We are very far behind on one hand. On the other hand, if a number of other people have below-average or average luck and we have below average luck going forward, certainly we have a shot at it.
It just all comes down to, I don't know. I don't watch other people. I don't know how many other people are going to have as many, you know, 40th place finishes as we have. All things equal, I feel real confident as far as all things equal; if everybody has as much trouble as we ever, then I feel very confident. We have good speed and a great race team. My focus really is not as much on points as it is going out and doing a good job for Hendrick Motorsports. I believe that even though we had two DNFs and a blown tire in the first five races, that we have done a great job and I feel like I have made a contribution not only to the five, but to the whole group together. And I think going forward, we can maybe even hopefully have even more of an impact and more of a positive influence on everyone.
Every time I strap in that race car, I'm putting everything I've got on the line. That's fair to say. Not to say that I didn't always do that, but certainly you can believe one thing, you know, we are not strapping that thing. I am very aware that this is the opportunity of a lifetime for me to be driving the 5 car.
THE MODERATOR: Mark Martin, thank you, sir, for taking time out of your busy schedule to join us, and best of luck this weekend.