Mark Martin, Rick Hendrick press conference, part 1


July 4, 2008


MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome to the stage the principals of today's press conference, the owner of Hendrick Motorsports, Mr. Rick Hendrick, a seven time Sprint Cup Series championship owner, who has won 169 Sprint Cup Series races, 10 of those right here at Daytona International Speedway; and his teams will be participating in their 50th Daytona race tomorrow evening. Also welcome to the stage 35-time Sprint Cup race winner, the all-time leader in the NASCAR Nationwide Series with 48 victories, and a gentlemen who has finished in the top 12 in Sprint Cup points an incredible 17 times, Mr. Mark Martin.

RICK HENDRICK: "Well since this has been a well kept secret (laughter) we appreciate the opportunity to see you folks. This is a real special day for me. It's been 15 years that I've tried to do this; that we've tried to do this. It's a pleasure to be able to announce Mark Martin coming on board to run for the championship next year in the No. 5 car. That car means a lot to me because that was my first number. And when Harry Hyde and I got started, Mark and I reminisce a lot about meeting Mark early on and then watching him and then watching him flog us in the Busch (now Nationwide) Series and then racing against him in the Cup Series and seeing him come so close to championships, I think four times he finished second, and just to have him come on board with our organization and our drivers and our crew chiefs and everybody is really exciting. Everybody is excited. We're honored to have a guy of his caliber and again, we've talked from time to time, but now to be able to go out in the '09 season and go for the championship (is special). I want to thank (Martin's wife) Arlene. I think she is here. Where is she? Thank you for letting him run all the races. We appreciate that. But this is a very special day for me."

MODERATOR: And Mark, you put a lot of thoughtful prayer into this. Talk to this about this opportunity and why this opportunity.

MARK MARTIN: "Well first of all, I don't know why it was such a bad kept secret unless people are snooping on our text messages because I'd say 50 percent of this deal was done by text between Rick and I. I think that's pretty cool because I just learned how to text myself."

RICK HENDRICK: "I did too (laughter). Junior and Jimmie Johnson, they're both here, now they are the ones that taught me how to text. I had to learn how to do that Mark, because they won't return your phone call (laughter)."

MARK MARTIN: "Yeah, so golly. When I think about being a part of the status organization in NASCAR and being a member of the team with Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. and working with Alan Gustafson and all the folks there and the relationship that I've had and the opportunity I had to go there a year ago and pour an insert for the seat of the No. 24 car, was really the first time that opened my eyes. We did that in case Jeff needed me to fill in at Sears Point (now Infineon Raceway) last year when they were having their baby. I really saw and got a taste of Hendrick Motorsports from the inside. It's just an opportunity that I absolutely could not let pass by at this point in my life. I was very concerned about regretting that decision for the rest of my life. And so I got my arms wrapped around the scheduling situation and here we go. I'm incredibly excited and honored and I know that most people can't comprehend what an honor it is for me to be invited to be a part of this organization, especially at this stage of my career. After two years of catching my breath, I've enjoyed it, it has been very meaningful to my family and to myself. But I've also learned; and rekindled my passion for racing and what it means to me and also given me a taste of what it would be like to not have that in my life. And so all those things played in this decision."

MODERATOR: One of the things that has come out is the similar type of relationship that you and Mark have established. Can you elaborate on that?

RICK HENDRICK: "If you've been in a series and you've watched Mark Martin, you've had to be impressed with his performance in both the Cup and the Nationwide Series. And then when we had an opportunity, and we've talked from time to time, but the stars never lined up. We had opportunities and he couldn't do it and he was happy where he was and it just didn't work. But then when he drove the Nationwide car the first time, you know it actually started before that. He swapped cars with Jeff (Gordon) down in Atlanta in a tire test, I believe it was. And Jeff called me and said, 'Man, you won't believe how much talent Mark Martin's got. We see it, but he got in my car and it was unbelievable what he was doing.' And then when we got him in the Nationwide car the first time, and I don't think we had practice for some reason that day, and he went out and ran second at Darlington. I listened to him on the radio and he was kind of crew-chiefing the car from the drivers seat and just really thinking through what the car needed and how loose he set the car to start the race and what he was able to do. And then the way he treats the team and the way he built the organization around his efforts that day, I had more fun at that Nationwide race.

"It was kind of like some of the things that you do in life that you really would like to have an opportunity to race with someone of that caliber that you've always had a relationship but never had him in your camp. This opportunity has come up. But we've actually talked about it quite a bit. Again, I think Junior and Jimmie and Jeff from the drivers' standpoint and all the crew chiefs, when you mention his name it's immediate respect and admiration.

"So it's not going to be whether he fits or not because he's already been there. And with the respect that he has throughout our whole organization and this garage and the fans and the sponsors, it's just a great opportunity for us."

MODERATOR: Talk about the team dynamics and what you expect Mark to bring to the organization with already having three drivers of the caliber that you have.

RICK HENDRICK: "Well I think the way we share information and work together, a guy of Mark's caliber and again, it's the word 'respect'. They race against him and one thing I've learned in listening to Jimmie and Jeff and Dale, is they will tell you in a hurry how they feel about certain drivers and what they can and can't do. And so when you mention his name, the fact when he has an opportunity to work with these guys and have input into the cars and with the crew chiefs, they've all had a relationship. I know Chad (Knaus) does. I know Alan (Gustafson) really has worked with him so he and Alan have a relationship. So again, it's that immediate respect and I think he'll make us all better. And I think that's one of the things they are excited about and we're excited about. You can never have too many resources. To have a guy as smart as he is running a race and race preparation and I think you see it with the different crew chiefs he's had, he's always up front. It doesn't make any difference. He has that ability to know what he wants and what the car needs. When you can implement that into what we have, it should make us all better. That's why we're all excited and they guys can speak for themselves. In evidence they are here today. Jeff had a charity deal and couldn't be here. But Junior and Jimmie are here."

MODERATOR: On relationships and team dynamics, you've had an opportunity to work with Alan Gustafson. Talk about your relationship with him and what you've seen in working with him that adds to your level of excitement.

MARK MARTIN: "I've watched him for the last several years working with Kyle (Busch) especially and I've been a fan of his and watched him be incredibly successful and I've watched him suffer through terrible disappointment. There have been times when I've identified with him trough some of his disappointments and I've been a silent cheerleader of his, especially since the opportunity I got to work with him starting last year where I have given him encouragement and been a friend to him. We had the opportunity to work at Darlington together and at Michigan together and talked a lot in and around those races and leading up to those races. And Alan is young. He's an engineer. He is very, very, very bright. And everyone, including myself, at Hendrick Motorsports thinks the world of him. For me, I've really, really looked forward to having a chance to work with him and the team. Based on the tremendous preparation and job that they did and the dedication that they had through their Busch, now Nationwide Series efforts last year and being able to be a part of that, I can only imagine what the Sprint Cup level of commitment will be like."

MODERATOR: Rick, you talked about Mark running full time in 2009 and then running 24 -- 26 race in 2010. Have you talked about what those goals are for 2009, or is it obvious what the goal is?

RICK HENDRICK: "I think it's obvious. I think that's what's intrigued Mark and definitely motivated me. After racing with him and watching him, it's a legitimate at the championship. He's finished second four times and I'd love to see him have an opportunity to win one. And So that's what Junior wants to do, Jimmie wants to do, and Jeff wants to do. And if you've got four legitimate shots at it, hopefully one of them can get it. Again, he's got nothing to prove in this sport. He's done that. And just being able to work with him in the last couple of years, or year I guess it's been with the Nationwide car, he will make our company better. And he will add as Tony Eury Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr. has, and Jimmie Johnson when he came on board. I know what Alan (Gustafson) is capable of and our crew chiefs and we're just excited. Junior and I got to celebrate with him in Vegas in victory lane and so it's the championship. It's winning races and a championship, but having fun too, and enjoying being around a person that you like and respect. And so I think the chemistry is there. We don't have to worry about any of that. We're just going to go out and try to make our organization better, win a lot of races, and get another Cup."

MARK MARTIN: "I look at things a little shorter term than a lot of you might. One of the 'coming out of the gate' objectives is to help Alan and his race team get the confidence that they need to realize their potential and get them in a position to go out and contend for wins. For me personally, I'd like to start with one win because you can't get two until you get one. And so, I look at it that short term. I want to get on track with the team and the program. I want to integrate with the people and be able to hopefully, somehow or other, figure out a way that I can contribute, which may not be very easy to find when you have the kind of people that they have here. Obviously as we move forward, of course, our goal is to make the Chase and compete for a championship. But like I say, I look at the shorter-term things. As we conquer one, then maybe the next will come and maybe the next will come and so on. We have a number of steps to take there. For me, I know that one of the important things that Rick has used over and over again when we were talking about his, and he mentioned that, is having fun. I'm not an expert at that (laughter). I look forward to trying to expand that a little bit. It is going to be fun. I am excited. I couldn't sleep last night if that tells you how excited I am. I look forward to it. I can't wait.

"I do have something I want to say. And I may ramble a little bit. There are a number of VIP's in this program and Rick touched on that. In 1983, I got fired by JD Stacy in the Cup Series. And I met (his wife) Arlene at Christmas in 1983. And then in 1984, in February, I brought her to Daytona. Not only did I not have a ride, but I didn't have a garage pass either. And I stood outside that fence out there looking in.

"Arlene says it scarred me. That, forever had an impact on who I am. And when you reflect on that, that has a lot to do with the decisions I make. She is the champion of this deal. Not only does she support my decision to do this, but I don't think I would be the person I am today without her shaping the person that I have become. She's a real champion of this deal. Obviously Jay Frye, who really started our business relationship between Rick and I a year and a half ago, and Jack Roush, for the 19 years that we stood side-by-side building our careers in NASCAR. They are very important people in making this happen. I wanted to acknowledge those folks. None of this would happen today if it weren't for them, especially for Arlene."

MODERATOR: Let's take questions from the media.


MARK MARTIN: "Well I think it has dropped off a little bit, just not as much as most. I do believe that I was a little bit more potent 10 years ago. But thank you for the compliment. I really believe that it has to do with the fire and desire. I may change my mind from time to time, but one thing is for sure. Whatever I decide to do, that's what I'm going to do. I think that has a lot to do with it, the fire and desire. But I also would like to say another thing when I mentioned about VIP's. One other thing that we should acknowledge is Tony Gibson and the DEI team also gave me the confidence to do something like this by giving me such great race cars this year and making it fun. I've had more fun this year racing than I can remember, in racing with those guys. And I've had a taste of just almost being able to win a race at Phoenix, and I want to win a race. I want to win another race before I can't anymore and before that opportunity isn't there anymore. The motivation to come due this deal was largely based on that I want to drive something I can win in. And I think these guys can provide that for me."

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Jimmie Johnson , Tony Eury Jr. , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports