Atlanta: Pole winner interview

MARK MARTIN, NO. 5 KELLOGG'S / CARQUEST IMPALA SS -- POLE WINNER CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR 42ND CAREER POLE, YOUR LAST ON WAS IN MAY, 2001 AT RICHMOND, HOW DOES IT FEEL? "I feel like a rookie, I really, really do. Not only did the lap scare me...

MARK MARTIN, NO. 5 KELLOGG'S / CARQUEST IMPALA SS -- POLE WINNER

CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR 42ND CAREER POLE, YOUR LAST ON WAS IN MAY, 2001 AT RICHMOND, HOW DOES IT FEEL?

"I feel like a rookie, I really, really do. Not only did the lap scare me and I felt like I ran out of talent up off of turn four, there was no possible way I could hold my foot on the floor and not hit the wall with the back end first up off of turn four. It was really fun, I live to scare myself like that, that is part of it. But, I continued to be nervous all the way through the rest of qualifying much like I used back in the early '90s when we lucky enough to get poles back then. Has been a long time. I do want to commend the No. 8 car bunch for putting me the outside pole six times last year, which was pretty incredible. But I wouldn't come out of the trailer until (Travis) Kvapil (final qualifier) ran. I would not budge because that would just be my luck. So, I feel like a rookie right now. It was a previous strenuous qualifying session I'm looking forward to working on race setup tomorrow."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW THE TIRE IS OUT THERE?

"With the sun out, it is for this speed of race track and everything, it is, I don't know what words to use, under the conditions I think it is very treacherous. I think the think you have to do is have the best race car on the track and then you don't have to drive it as hard so then it feels like it is handling good because if you drive it as hard as it will go, it is going to be all over the race track and feel horrible. Our challenge tomorrow for Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and I will be to find, you aren't going to make the car comfortable. The only way it is going to be comfortable is if you are able to run it at 90% so we are going to have to find the greatest speed that we can so that we can do this thing and keep it under us and hopefully we can finish a race which is really...I don't know we finished Daytona, but we didn't really finish Daytona. So Alan and I don't really feel like we have got to work together completely yet. We are making great progress there, but it is going to be a challenge as far as getting the car setup comfortable."

DOES THIS FEEL LIKE A REDEMPTION AFTER YOUR BAD LUCK THE PAST TWO WEEKS?

"To be real honest with you, I thought more about the race team than I did about me. I have pretty tough skin. I have a real soft spot in my heart for the people that are diggin' so hard. This is awesome for them. It is good for me and all that, but it is awesome for them. It is the first real solid step of turning around our luck in what has happened. Now you can always find a silver lining if you look hard enough and I am getting pretty good at that. The silver lining is we had fast race car at Daytona and a top-10 car at California and a top-five car in Vegas in the race. I think that all of guys kept their chins up because of that. This is cool, it is just cool. All it is, we won a competition tonight. Doesn't really have any implications about what will happen Sunday, but we won a competition tonight."

HAS THERE BEEN A TIME PRIOR THAT THE CAR AND TIRE JUST DIDN'T SEEM TO WORK TOGETHER ON THE RACE TRACK?

"We have had different occasions but it hasn't been exactly like this. In as confined as Darlington is, it still for me, still easier to drive. This thing is so big and so sweeping that when you are sliding for life from turn one to turn four, you are sliding for life for a long time. The guys with the best handling cars, if they are able to run their cars at 90%, their cars are going to feel good to them. But if somebody were to push them out to that 100%, they are going to be a handful. Just to give you an example, I have quite a bit of experience driving these cars and I said most of the time, I told Alan, I don't know what to do. Just let me run again, just let me practice and we were in qualifying trim. But I didn't know how to tell them to make the car better, we tightened it up after the first run and that made it worse. So then we loosened it up, and from there, I practiced driving which is kind of unusual. From there we made almost no changes on each of our runs. It is ok. It is what it is. But it just is a challenge.

"Darlington was a challenge and Rockingham was a challenge but the speeds were lower and the corners were sharper. It seemed like you didn't slide as long as far. A lot of it has to do with the fact the race track is getting wore out, which is how you really want them. I mean, that is how every driver really wants a race track. But for some reason, we have gotten in to a situations where it hard to make the tire grip to start with. It would be ok if they were real slippery at the end, but you put new tires on and they were really really good. But they don't feel good when they are new and then go down hill from there. It is not the tires fault, it is the combination of the super high speeds and those long corners. Like you have those short corners at those other tracks."

ARE THE RECENT ENGINE ISSUES JUST A RESULT OF PUSHING THE CARS SO HARD?

"No, our deal in California was a valve spring. A new batch of valve springs that weren't as durable in hindsight as the old batch. Our failure in Vegas is more unexplained. We burned a rod bearing and broke a rod and that just doesn't happen and we don't have a total explanation for that, but that is not related to RPMs or anything like that. If it was valve train trouble, it would be related to RPMs, but this was something that I'm not sure that the engine department are having to look at all kinds of things now. Beefing up areas that they thought they were good in. Ours was the only one that had a failure or showed any distress. It only showed distress I guess on that one journal. That is Mark Martin luck. (LAUGHS)."

YOU SAID YOU RAN OUT OF TALENT, BUT YOU SAT ON THE POLE. ARE YOU SUGGESTING THAT ANOTHER DRIVER COULD HAVE DONE BETTER BECAUSE YOU ARE PRETTY GOOD

"I've watched a number of these guys in action and they may not have thought they were even in trouble at that point. But it's obvious now looking back that we had enough speed across the center of the corner that lifting some off the corner, actually we continued to maintain our speed according to the tracker. It's pretty hard to match yourself up against some of these cats out there and obviously I'm happy to have won a competition tonight because it's pretty tough going out there now. We're going to keep going and try to do this kind of thing on one of these Sundays too."

-credit: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Mark Martin