MARK MARTIN - No. 6 Viagra Taurus (Finished 2nd) "I'm thrilled with the outcome of the race. I would have liked to have had five more laps. Pat and the guys made an adjustment on the last stop and the car was really, really fast. We just had a...
MARK MARTIN - No. 6 Viagra Taurus (Finished 2nd)
"I'm thrilled with the outcome of the race. I would have liked to have had five more laps. Pat and the guys made an adjustment on the last stop and the car was really, really fast. We just had a ball. My car was fast on new tires, it was fast on old tires. We stayed up at the front of the pack all throughout the race. That's why we do this stuff is for days like today. It would be nice to win, but Jimmy ran really good and so did Jeff Gordon and a bunch of other guys. We wound up in front of a bunch of them, so I'm just really proud of my team. The guys were lightning on pit road all throughout the race. The next-to-last stop we had a little hiccup and we had the race car to fight our way back, so I was happy with it."
IS IT HARD TO ENJOY RUNNING WELL WHEN YOU SEE YOU'RE NOT GAINING IN THE POINTS?
"No. Are you kidding, man? That's what I've lived my life 30 year to do today. It's about the races to me. It always has been. The races are the glue that keeps a championship contending team together. I am not one bit concerned about those points. When we made the chase, our year was made. Yeah, we went to Atlanta and thought we could win and we came here and thought we could win. We put on a show today. It was a great effort. I'm so proud and honored to be a part of this team and to have the opportunity to run at Darlington like I did 15 years ago. That's a big deal to me, a bigger deal than you'll ever understand."
DOES IT AMAZED YOU TODAY IS THE LAST SOUTHERN 500?
"I'm so stupid, you know I don't even realize it's the last one. You know how I am. My brain is totally blank to that. I didn't even know it until I got here and you all started asking those questions. You know what else I didn't know? I didn't know until three years ago that I had won a Southern 500 because nobody ever mentions it. I am a traditionalist. You guys know that. I fight change really hard and all that, but it is what it is. At least they're gonna continue to race at Darlington. At least they're not losing their last race here. It's a tremendous place to race. When I came here in 1981 for the first time it took my breath away and I had more respect for it tonight than I did that day in 1981."
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE THE SENTIMENTAL FAVORITE GOING TO THE FINALE?
"Words can't describe it. It means a lot to me. I have a lot of different emotions. One of the emotions that I feel is that I don't want to disappoint those people. It's a similar emotion that I felt towards my father, so I don't know if you guys can really grasp that and get your hands around that. It is a really, really huge honor for me to have that kind of support and that kind of feeling and I don't want to disappoint. I have fought like a dog in 2004 just to be in this thing and when we made it at Richmond, our 2004 season was made. And then we woke up the next morning and that wasn't gonna be enough now - now that we had made it. Being in the chase wasn't enough, we had to go for all of it and that's how every competitor is I'm sure. This year will be a year that I'll remember as long as I live. This year in racing and this race tonight will be one of the races that I remember as long as I live because I know that there aren't that many left for me that will be this spectacular. Pat Tryson was a real big cheerleader. Twice in the last 10 laps I had to catch myself so that I didn't get so excited that I wrecked the car because he was so excited and cheering me on so hard. Two different times I thought, 'Don't get too caught up in that,' because I was pretty deep over my head there those last few laps. We were really having fun and that's what it's all about - men who love and respect one another and put everything that they have out on the line to compete against other groups that feel the same way. That's what it's all about."
CAN YOU ELABORATE ON THAT FIRST TIME AT DARLINGTON?
"Growing up in Arkansas I didn't really get the chance to follow and cover NASCAR that well, but the information seemed to filter to Arkansas that Darlington was a bad place. So I was aware of that. What little bit I knew about NASCAR racing, I knew that Darlington was treacherous. When I came NASCAR racing I didn't really know and understand the tradition and the real heritage of NASCAR because in Arkansas you didn't get very good coverage in the seventies. So I had a lot of things to learn, but when I came to this race track I was very young. This was one of the first superspeedways I had been on and it got my attention, it really did. I had a great run. I qualified second and finished fourth, I think it was with the Busch car. But in practice I did spin out on that end of the race track because this was the tough one. That one suckered me in and I spun, but I didn't hit anything. That was my initiation in practice before the race."