MARK MARTIN - No. 6 Viagra Taurus (Finished 4th) "I guess a couple of things I really want to say is I never really looked at this thing this year and allowed myself to think that I would win it and that's a good thing because I feel no letdown...
MARK MARTIN - No. 6 Viagra Taurus (Finished 4th)
"I guess a couple of things I really want to say is I never really looked at this thing this year and allowed myself to think that I would win it and that's a good thing because I feel no letdown now. But I had so many people that wanted me to win it so bad, that I almost got afraid that they were gonna be letdown so bad and I was gonna let them down. I guess what I'm trying to say is thank you. Thank you to all the competitors that felt that way and all the fans and all the people that I know. I want to thank them. I gave it everything I had from January testing to the last lap today. I'm not disappointed with the outcome. Probably one of the things I'm most proud of is that we beat Tony on the race track the last three races in a row. I don't know how you do that. That is a tall order. I told you guys when we took the point lead at Dover that the guy I was really worried about was Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman. Those guys had the speed. They had the speed that I didn't know if we could hold 'em back. Tony put it all together and Ryan put a tremendous charge on and, actually, Kurt surprised everyone with his charge. But Tony Stewart and his team were the ones that I feared the most back at Dover. It's an incredible feat that this team managed to outrun him three races in a row. That's big. We whittled that down, down, down each week. Unfortunately, we got a little bit too far behind. We had three weeks where we went from right on top of it to a little bit too far behind due to some unfortunate circumstances that happened on the race track, which happens to everybody."
COULD YOU SHARE WHAT YOU SHARED WITH JEFF GORDON?
"No, I'm sorry, that's private."
YOU AND YOUR TEAMMATES FINISHED SO STRONG THAT NEXT YEAR LOOKS PRETTY GOOD. HOW DOES THIS AFFECT HOW YOU LOOK AT NEXT SEASON?
"It's OK with me if you write that, but you know me by now. I don't know if we can make the top 10 next year or not. I just don't know. I don't know how we did it this year, I just don't know how we did it. It's so competitive and it's so difficult, I have no idea. But these guys gave me a shot right down to the very last lap and you better believe I'm grateful for that. I'm grateful to the fans, I'm grateful to the people who have supported me through the years, but I'm mostly grateful to Jack Roush and Ben Leslie and the guys that work on that car."
HOW REJUVENTATED ARE YOU BECAUSE OF THIS YEAR?
"It's good, man. The last time I finished second in '98 the championship was sewed up at Rockingham, man. I mean, we had a great year. We won seven races and were awesome, but Jeff Gordon won 13 and just clobbered us. We didn't have a chance, but we finished second. Man, we fought for this one right down to the wire. I can't remember back in 1990 and don't care to, but this may be the greatest battle that myself and the people around me ever fought. This 36-race deal was incredible. I don't predict next year, but I do know one thing - they're gonna be there. I've got a great sponsor and great people and we finished the year on a high note. We were fast. We were fast at Rockingham. We battled back today from mediocrity to being really fast at the end and we really had a great car last week at Phoenix, so that's the way to end the year."
HOW HARD IS IT TO WIN A TITLE?
"I haven't thought about it. One think you do have to remember is you can beat me all you want to about running second and that's not good because I feel like that sometimes, but I've had a great career and I've done all I can do. Say what you want. I didn't score enough points this year, nor did I in '98, nor did I in '90. I never scored enough points. I don't think that I'm the greatest race car driver that ever lived and I don't want anybody to write that about me. I do what I do and I've been very fortunate. I have a lot of respect and I've got a lot of trophies, believe me, a lot more trophies than most people. I've done a lot of really neat things in my career and that's all I can do."
CAN YOU COMMENT ON TONY?
"I admire Tony Stewart. I am a commercialized racer. You have to be commercialized in this business and I've done my very best to do that and to represent the sport the best way that I can. But, down deep, I'm like Tony. I'd rather be on the road right now headed toward the dirt track or the quarter-midget track and watching the kids race. That's where I'd really like to be going right now, instead of sitting here talking to you guys. I admire Tony Stewart. He's a racer's racer and he's really, really good.
"He didn't just step in and get this stuff given to him. He's won everywhere he's ever been. Yeah, he's intense and, yeah, it's gonna be interesting to watch because it's a tremendous load. I've thought about the load because this could have swung my way too, and I know it would have been a tremendous load on me as well. Whoever does win the Winston Cup championship carries a big load and it will be interesting to watch, but I admire Tony. I race with him hard and he races with me hard - fair, clean and he has respect. I was there first a long time ago when he was just a kid and he respects that. It's nice when these young guys come along that are so incredibly talented and also have the respect that you would like to have. So I'm a Tony Stewart fan. I guess you could say that, but I'm a fan of all these guys. I'm a fan of Ryan Newman's big time and I'm a fan of Kurt Busch as well and Kyle Busch."
HOW GRATIFYING IS THIS SEASON AND CAN YOU COMMENT ON KURT?
"Maybe I should have prepared something because I'm blank. I don't feel disappointed, I don't feel excited, I don't feel anything right now. I just raced my brains out in the middle of the pack half the day and had a triumphant fourth-place finish and made it a tremendous points race and made it close. That's all I know. I'm just blank other than that. Kurt Busch is just unbelievable and they say his little brother may be even better yet. It's gonna be fun. You watch Ryan Newman out there blazing, Jimmie Johnson, which, I don't know if Jimmie is as young as Ryan, but I look at Kurt and I look at Ryan and I look at Casey Atwood, who has been overlooked so much. What a tremendous talent Casey Atwood is, that we have all sort of forgotten that when he gets in the right situation he's gonna show you all something too. We've got kids coming along. I know a 14-year-old right now, spent one day with him, and I'd race with him out here. I mean, they're coming. I'm a race fan and I'm excited. Now last year when I told you all that you all strung me up and tried to say I was quitting or lost my drive to race - whatever it was. It's not that. I'm a race fan and it is very exciting to see these guys come along. I have a lot of fun watching Ryan and Kurt. Kurt has really shown tremendous improvement in not how to go fast but how to win."
IS TONY DIFFERENT IN THE GARAGE THAN OUTSIDE BECAUSE MANY DRIVERS SAY THEY HAVE GREAT RELATIONSHIPS WITH HIM?
"Tony Stewart is just a tremendous racer. He says some things like the press conference yesterday, he was pretty candid about some things and we all laughed. I went back and told Arlene, I said, 'Tony says things that I think.' If you ever wonder why I'm quiet (laughing). It's gonna be interesting, but that's Tony. He's an incredible race car driver."
WHAT KIND OF ADVICE DID YOU GIVE TONY EARLY IN HIS CAREER?
"He asked me things about tracks and about driving. I probably talked to him a little bit about give and take on the race track, but more than anything it was like, 'Hey, it's the middle of the race and I come up on you from nowhere, just pull over and let me go. Later on, you come up on me from the middle of nowhere and you get it back, and then we don't ever take a chance on bending a fender or having a flat tire.' You don't race like that when you race 30 lappers or whatever. These races are so long and so many things can go wrong. I gave him advice on how to race smart. He overplayed it too. I didn't do that much. I've had a lot of people ask me a lot of stuff, especially Busch drivers and beginners or rookies."
DID YOU TALK ABOUT WHERE YOU WERE AT DURING THE DAY?
"You know what, I saw him falling back because I was in the middle of the pack. I knew he was back if he was coming to me, so I'm sitting there thinking, 'Man, I can't even run good enough to capitalize on this,' but we just kept hammering and managed to capitalize on it well. But they never said a word and never said a word after the race. I was the one that asked them where Tony finished, but I knew he had made his lap up."
IS IT EASIER KNOWING HE WON BY MORE THAN 25 POINTS?
"Yes it does. I think that was important. It would have been 13 points either way, so I feel good about that. I feel like they beat us, they earned it and I congratulate 'em."