Indianapolis: Brickyard 400 qualifying press conference, part 3

Continued from part 2 Q: There's been a lot of talk this year about the new optimistic happy Mark Martin. Even Jimmie was talking about it, saying he doesn't even recognize you sometimes talking to you about winning the Brickyard. What has ...

Continued from part 2

Q: There's been a lot of talk this year about the new optimistic happy Mark Martin. Even Jimmie was talking about it, saying he doesn't even recognize you sometimes talking to you about winning the Brickyard. What has changed this year, or do you feel like anything has changed?

MARTIN: A lot has changed. You know, I really had a chance to catch my breath the last year and a half, you know. It took a while last year when I started setting out and staying at home and spending quality time with my family. Really feeling like I got my personal life sort of in order the way I wanted it, and priorities kind of moved around.

I've had a lot of pressure off of me, because I haven't worried about a single point for a year and a half. So I haven't had that riding on me. I felt like I've got a lot off my shoulders right now.

It's also given me a chance to reassess what's important to me. You know, I love my family with all my heart. The time that I spend with them, you know, is precious to me.

I also realize almost all my friends are here. This is an important part of my life. It's been my life's work for 35 years. And on a good day, I'm still pretty good at it. If I wasn't, I'd be staying at home.

The chance to drive the Army car, the 8 car for DEI this year has been, you know, you guys have seen it. When I drive fast race cars, that is life. That is what life is all about. I won't have a chance to do that very much longer. So, you know, that is also very precious to me.

I'm having the time of my life. I can see the end out there not too far away, and boy, I believe I'm making the best of it. I have a total different I'm a happy person. I don't, presently, I don't do anything I don't want to do. For a long time, I felt like I was doing a lot of stuff I didn't want to do. So right now I'm doing everything that I want to do and nothing that I don't want to do. So why shouldn't I be happy and optimistic?

Q: Jimmie, I know you've been asked this a few times. There's been talk recently about how Kyle is able to drive the car into the corner maybe closer than other people, maybe a yard out. I was just wondering what he's able to do in the Car of Tomorrow?

MARTIN: I've been out there, I've seen it.

JOHNSON: I'm not sure and been asked on that. Kyle being, a teammate with Kyle, there are things that Kyle does with the brakes when I see him running fast which has been a lot lately I think it's tough for me to drive a race car like Kyle does. When I say he uses no brake, he really uses no brake.

We were at Charlotte testing one time and he left pit road, and the crew chiefs love to tell you you're driving it in too hard, get off the brake. And Chad's telling me all these things.

I finally got off the car and looked at the data of Kyle's brake trace. I thought the brake channel wasn't working, the computer wasn't working and something was wrong, and I thought he used the brake to come into the pits and slow down to come into the pits. So I thought, "Damn it, Chad's right."

So from that point when I see Kyle, I think because of the way he drives the car, the tire will only do so much. One, he's got a great race team, he's doing a great job. But he's been, I think, taking advantage of the grip of the tire and how it positions the car in corner entry without using the brake. He's not overworking the tire, the tire lasts longer, and the tire has more grip.

I've been trying to adjust to do that, but it's tough. I'm one that sets the nose of the car with the brake. I help the car turn with the brake, and it's just the opposite.

As I think about those things, this car hates the brakes. It will not change directions with help, it has to do it at its own pace. So I think all those things are lending to Kyle's style, and he's doing a great job of it.

Q: Will he be able to carry more speed into the corner?

JOHNSON: No, that's a deceiving thing. When I try to drive that way I, unfortunately, go to my same braking point. Just don't touch the brakes and go into the corner, scare the hell out of myself and don't make the turn.

So he's actually in most cases off a little sooner, but efficient in carrying good speed. It's tough to see with the naked eye, carrying good speed to the center of the corner. But when he gets to the turn, and the car goes through its transition, it's not overstressed. The tire still has the grip that it needs and the car changes direction and its right from the throttle.

>From my standpoint watching him, I think he does a great job driving the car on the throttle loose. He can really control the car well up off the turn.

Q: You've touched on this on the grid or after your qualifying lap, but this place has been a mixed bag for your team. There have been times when this weekend has been one of the most unhappy weekends you guys have had all season, and then two years ago you won it. Has this place been kind of like do you had any explanation for that? Here you are sitting on the pole this year.

JOHNSON: I think a lot of it has to do with where our race team was coming into August or July/August, the summer stretch. You look at years past, got off to a good start. Everybody caught us. We were kind of revamping what we were doing and slowed through the summer months and got our stuff sorted out and got back to the front after that.

This year has been just the opposite. Off to a slow start and been improving our race cars each week. Learning how to drive this thing each week better and better. It's all coming to a head. I hope it continues into practice and on into the race. But so far this place has been good to us this year.

Q: NASCAR relies on youth and image seemingly more than ever to reach out to fans. What's it mean to you to come to one of NASCAR's premier events and have the success that you're having right now?

MARTIN: You just don't know what it means to me to be competitive and drive a fast race car. The fan response is overwhelming. For some reason I just really have I think that a lot of your general race fans that aren't particularly my fans still kind of use me as a secondary fan because I'm the last of the gray hairs out there to some degree, you know?

I think a lot of fans that aren't kids can identify with that. You know, I certainly see a lot of Dale Jr. apparel coming up with tremendous enthusiasm to me and getting autographs and stuff.

So I really, to be honest with you, feel like the only reason I know that some people might say that I have pretty good results on the racetrack, but I really truly believe the only reason I still have a job in this sport is because of the fans' support. I'm still, you know, still supported strongly by the fans, and that is recognized by the sponsors.

Usually when you get to this stage in your career, it's hard to get sponsors to line up behind you. And I've been really blessed in that respect.

Q: You had mentioned before you probably have a few things that at least stir a little bit of passion in your racing. Would you share any of those other sort of things that stir you up a little bit?

MARTIN: Business aviation is something that I lay in bed awake at night thinking about. You know, different ratios, sometimes it's 50 50, racing and business aviation. Sometimes it's, you know, obviously more racing, but I think about it a lot.

I do have a great passion for it. I don't understand how I could do it and not just run the bank account dry. I don't know. Business aviation is not something cheap. I haven't figured out how I can be a ... what I'd really like to be is maybe a demo pilot for a Cessna or the Citation brands and fly all the Citations and take passengers around.

Take a nap in the pilot's lounge while passengers were doing their things. Those things are kind of dark and cool. Those pilot's lounges. That's kind of cool. That would be something that might rival the racing thing for me. When I knew that I wasn't going to be able to drive a competitive car or be competitive with myself.

Obviously, I have great passion for my family, but that's a different kind of thing. You know, Matt doesn't race, so I don't have that to share with him. So I really can't think of anything else other than business aviation.

I'm not a sport flyer and into little airplanes and turning it over and all that acrobatics. I'm not into any of that. I'm into business jets. I'm into going from one place to another for business.

I'm not a sport flyer, like many people are excited and thrilled about that. But for me, I just really like flying jet airplanes.

Q: At Daytona you talked about going there in '83 when you didn't even have a garage pass.

MARTIN: '84.

Q: Do you have any different kind of experience of that, a close call of anything here that when you come to the Brickyard it makes you want to win this race?

MARTIN: Yeah, I've got a story. I'm not sure which year it was, but it was the year that Ricky (Rudd) won. We were in a battle with Jeff Gordon and someone else for the championship. I know it was early August, but you got to race every race like that.

That was late '90s, I guess it was. We had a history of running out of gas. Huge history of running out of gas, including running out with 25 miles to go running at Daytona. Thought we could make it all the way.

So when I passed Ricky Rudd, and I was running I believe third, I know Gordon was in front of me and probably the other car that we were worried about for the championship. A caution came out, and I had just passed Ricky. We were strong.

Those two pitted for gas. Jack (Roush) said we could make it on gas, and Steve Hmiel's like, "Hmm, hmm." Jack says we can make it on gas. And Steve's like (imitating) and I'm like (imitating), I've run out at least 50 times, you know. So I followed those guys in, and Ricky won the race.

So, you know, had I stayed out, Jack swears we had plenty of gas. I don't know. But, you know, that was our win. If we could have. You know, we just had such a horrible history on gas mileage, and that continues right to Phoenix this year.

But that's my story. That's my story on here. That was our the race that the two guys pulled out with 15 laps to go or whatever. And no way anybody was coming from behind, because I had already passed Ricky and was driving on. But I was more worried about points than winning the Brickyard at the time. We see how that worked out for me.

MODERATOR: I believe that was 1997 that year.

MARTIN: OK.

Q: What do you need from yourself, the car and the conditions in order to make your prediction come true tomorrow and get that win?

MARTIN: I need to make absolutely no mistakes. I have to be on my game and make absolutely no mistakes. My team just needs to do their routine work on pit road. They are on it, on their game.

And the other important part of it is we need to get the car wired in in happy hour as awesome as it was today in qualifying. Then we need to keep it wired in tomorrow, and we need the strongest guys in the field to not get wired in better.

Then we need all those things I talked about. We need gas to not get in the way, because I won't have the longest gas mileage of people out there. So I don't think I'll win it on gas mileage, so we need to not lose it on gas mileage.

We need all the other scenarios to lineup perfectly so that somebody doesn't do something that puts them in a position you know, positions themselves ahead of us at the end and me not having enough race car to get by them. So you're asking an awful lot, and I realize that. I respect how hard it is to win these races.

This team needs, you know, and I don't I didn't feel like when I made this statement I didn't feel like Babe Ruth pointing at where he was going to knock it out. Maybe it was, but I didn't mean it that way.

But I did mean that we were going to come here and be strong. I feel like that no matter what happens tomorrow, I can half way save face on that because we were top 10 in both practices, and we qualified second. So, I think that prediction is coming true.

Q: You talked about ... actually you mentioned babe Ruth and you wanted to declare winning this race. What's that going to mean for your fan base?

MARTIN: You know, to me it would mean a lot to my fans, and it would mean a lot to a lot of race fans. Because a lot of race fans that aren't my fans, you know, would be happy to see for me.

But I don't think of it in terms of what it would be for me or my trophy or any of that. When I think about it, I think about DEI and Tony Gibson and the guys, everybody at DEI. They've weathered the storm from this time last year, you know, with the merger. Because with Dale Jr.'s departure and all of that, they deserve a lot of credit for keeping that program together and keeping it strong.

I really feel fortunate to be driving their car. It could have definitely gone the other way. It could have all crumbled. They could have allowed it to crumble, and they all could have ran for cover, but they just not to. They just to keep it together and be strong. I'm proud to be a part of it.

MODERATOR: Mark, thank you, and thank you so much for coming back.

MARTIN: Thank you, guys.

-credit: ims

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Mark Martin