Michigan: Winning team press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: As you said about your history, you've been on the other end of some of these. Back in '93 at Michigan, you led 141 laps, were dominant like Jimmie, ran out of gas coming in for your final stop. Were you thinking...

Continued from part 1

Q: As you said about your history, you've been on the other end of some of these. Back in '93 at Michigan, you led 141 laps, were dominant like Jimmie, ran out of gas coming in for your final stop. Were you thinking of anything like that when you started conserving gas early in that final run?

MARK MARTIN: Really what I was thinking about was the hole that we are in in the points standings. Before we started that final run, Alan and I knew what we were going to do. Alan has actually taught me some things about how to do this deal when it comes down to the fuel thing. We had the racecar to do it today. I had to make a choice fairly early in that run that I couldn't race those guys to win and save enough fuel to have the margin that I needed to score the points. I could get an easy, easy, easy top five here, easy, you know, or I could try to win this thing and run out and be 25th. We couldn't afford the 25th at this point in time. I made the conscious choice not to run that kind of pace because I knew that we needed to save quite a bit to get there and couldn't afford to run out.

Q: Mark, in every area other than average finish, the best season of your career was 11 years ago when you won seven races. You are on pace to win seven this year. A lot of people were talking, I bet Martin will make the Chase. A lot of people said you might well have a fine year. Did you have any idea you might be looking at maybe your best year?

MARK MARTIN: Absolutely not. And you know how I look at it? If we don't win another race this year, we still did good. You know, I'm not gonna deal with expectations that cut my legs out from under me again ever in my career. I'm gonna go out and drive the racecar as hard as I can drive every time I get in it. I'm not gonna expect anything other than, you know, a tremendous effort by my team and from myself. I'm really pleased that we are having such a great year.

But the thing that pleases me more than the trophies is just that we've been fast. That's really important. When you're not fast, you know, there's not a whole lot you can do. But when you are fast, you know, if you keep doing that every week, sooner or later you get great results.

So, you know, I just don't feel any pressure. I'd like to see us make the Chase because this race team deserves it and because you never know. It would be awesome. It would be an honor to be a part of that elite group again. We have got the equipment to do it, and we've just encountered so many setbacks.

If we can keep on a roll here going, the car's plenty fast, we just got to avoid, you know, more disasters.

Q: Mark and Rick, while you've been announced of the driver of the 5, you haven't set up the sponsorship yet. Three wins positions you well for the Chase, but how much does this help in terms of shoring up the financial situation for that car and where are you with finding sponsors for the car?

RICK HENDRICK: We have got a lot of things in the works, and our sponsors are coming back. We don't know to what extent. That's the question. As you go along with this economy, companies are taking longer to get their budgets in line. They're not a year out, or not even eight months like they have been in the past. We're in good shape. We have a lot of sponsors inside our company that we're talking to about, you know, splitting up the car. So I look for the guys that are on it to be back, but there will probably be someone new along there with them.

Q: Alan, not getting you to criticize the other guys, but do you think it was inevitable that with three guys all nursing their fuel that somebody was going to decide to go?

ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yes. You know, there's one winner and somebody's gonna want everybody wants to be that guy, and somebody's gonna fool themselves into thinking they can be him and go fast.

I think the reason that happened, though, is the position the 48 is in points. They're in really good shape in points. They're looking at wins. That's what's gonna put them in a better position to win the championship. If we were in that position in points, we'd have been whipping it, too.

So that was the smart thing for them to do in their position. So if they finish 10th or 2nd, it's not going to matter, it's going to matter how many races they won. That's what they were doing. If they wouldn't have done that, Greg could have probably saved and just paced himself to us, then it would have been up to us how much we want to push him.

Yeah, it's gonna happen. Jimmie and Chad going hard is what allowed us to win the race, like Mark and Mr. Hendrick have said. We're not in a position to go hard. We couldn't push those guys for the win on sheer speed because we have to finish, we have to pad our points. Fortunately for us it was our day so we got both.

Q: Mark, you mentioned your struggles on Friday here. Seems like when you haven't been fast off the truck, that it's taken you a while to get the car sorted out, and you haven't been as strong on Sunday. What was different about it this week that you were able to turn it around so much?

MARK MARTIN: You know, we've been fast on race day about everywhere. Dover was a good example where we didn't qualify well, and we weren't really the heat in practice either, but the car drove good. That's all the speed we had. The car really drove good, drove good like I needed. It was doing the things it had to do for Dover. It was a top five car in the race. It actually was concerning. But, you know, we've had a lot of speed at most places. We were missing a good bit there at Dover, and that concerned us, but it raced really well.

It was funny, the 48 bunch said after practice yesterday, you know, car drives good, but we are 3/10ths or 4/10ths off. I didn't bother to tell them they would probably be all right. If it drives good, it would probably be all right. But it was okay today.

You know, sometimes you just really can't have everything, and so the main thing you've got to have is the car handling, when the racetrack deteriorates because of all the heat, the oil, the sun, everybody running on it, it starts to pay dividends, so...

Q: Mark, the other day you said one of the biggest contributions you can make to the team is preparing yourself physically and mentally. How nerve wracking was that today with the steering shaft problem you had early on as well as the batteries going dead, trying to work through that and be able to run hard, then at the end having to conserve, go after the carrot at the end of the stick? Alan, you said in the past that Mark was one of your childhood heroes. How gratifying has this been for you this year? Even though Mark is not quite ready to start looking too far ahead this year, how gratifying would that be for you if you could close it out this year?

MARK MARTIN: You know, it's funny the things we talked about on Friday really showed today. Mental toughness, you know, is important. I have a lot more of that, obviously, and put that to use today. This weekend, through the disappointment Friday, to the high Saturday, all that.

I think that, like I said, those are the things that I can really, really do. My dedication to physical fitness and nutrition. I don't have a lot of other interests, business or anything else, so I'm able to give them about everything I've got.

ALAN GUSTAFSON: For me, you know, it just doesn't get any better for me to work for Rick Hendrick and Hendrick Motorsports and have Mark Martin as a driver, you know, a place I've been for 10 years and I love dearly. It's great. It doesn't get any better.

I'm really fortunate and blessed to have those opportunities to do that. If we were fortunate enough, God willing, to win a championship with Mark, I said it at Darlington, I'll say it again, to me there's nothing more professionally I could accomplish than that. That's probably the biggest thing that I could do. So to have a chance, there's not a lot of people in the world that have a chance to do something like that, and we don't take that for granted. So we'll just do the best we can.

If it happens, it happens. That's one of the things you say, Hey, man, that was incredible. That was what I worked so hard for my whole life. So it's just really special.

Q: Mark, you talk about how this car has been fast all season, which is a sign of a championship contender. The three wins give you good bonus points leading into the Chase. You talked in the past about not wanting to chase the personal glory, the championship, really focus on that. But as you've matured or as you've gotten this extra chance, can you possibly embrace a championship run and the willingness to the questions that will come with this situation because obviously there are signs pointing towards something like that?

MARK MARTIN: Well, it will be an incredible honor to me to be in that Chase. That's a big deal. Everybody should know that, for every reason, but for me personally. At a stage when I might have written myself off, or the competition might have written me off, to be able to do that is pretty cool.

I feel like that we have some time between now and when the Chase starts, and I certainly think that we need to get stronger if we want to be a contender. But, you know, we have time for that. And all you have to do is have 10 great races. You know, you don't have to be the strongest team or the fastest or anything else. You just have to have the 10 best races to pull it off.

So first you got to be in it. That's what I'm going for. I want this team to be in it because they deserve it and because it would be a real privilege for me to be a part of it. Then we'll go out there and we'll race and we'll fight for everything that we can get.

I'll answer the questions and everything else, but I'm not going to lay in bed at night and think about what it will be like to lift that trophy. It just doesn't exist, you know, in my brain. I'll just go out there and race every time. I raced today. I raced to win. I didn't tell anybody I was going to win before the race. I didn't expect to win before the race. I knew we had a great car. I went out and drove it.

We've won some races this year. I don't expect 'em; I just hope that they come. Same thing with the Chase. I just want to make the Chase. We'll worry about how we do in it after we find out we're in it. But we've really been on the outside looking in a lot this year.

Q: Last couple years has been a part time deal so you haven't had that opportunity. You go into every race wanting to win. To not have been a part of that the last two years by choice, how has that felt?

MARK MARTIN: A lot more fun because I could go race for the race. This whole sport has forgot that it's about the race, you know. I could do every race, and I went to every race for the race, not about a bunch of things you couldn't control, flat tire, this and that, just the race. It's about the race. And it's a lot of fun.

I'm using that mental toughness that I was talking about to prevent worrying about scoring points, take away from the fun that I'm having. I'm not going to let that happen. We'll score every point I could score. I was thinking points today, you know, but I'm not gonna mess it up either. If we'd had a devastating outcome today with battery or fuel or anything else, you know, I wasn't going to let the points part of it be the disappointment. It was going to be a disappointment because we didn't reach our full potential today.

Q: Rick and Mark, given the news that came out on Friday about GM, was there special significance with the victory here in Michigan for Chevrolet? Rick, how does this change your next couple of days?

RICK HENDRICK: It's always good to win in Michigan because all the manufacturers are here. It's one I've always wanted to win and run well here.

I think what it's gonna do for us, you know, next week, next month, I don't think it's gonna change our relationship with Chevrolet much.

I can say this. Chevrolet gave me my first chance. I was the youngest Chevrolet dealer, I might still be, was the youngest one to get a franchise in a little town of Bennettsville, South Carolina, and they've supported me ever since. Everybody in the world, in the economy, has had to tighten their belt, everybody. I don't care what kind of business you're in. NASCAR, the teams. We cut out testing. We've done everything we can to cut expenses.

I'm a team player and a supporter of Chevrolet. I know what it does for selling cars 'cause I'm also a big GM dealer. They got the best products they've ever built right now. It's gonna be a leaner, meaner company. I think down the road they're gonna come out of this better than they've ever been, shedding a lot of baggage that they've needed to shed for a lot of years.

I think they're going to be in racing. It might not be what we've had. It won't be what we've had. Everybody's going to have to take an adjustment. But that's no different than everything else I've been involved in.

So, you know, I'm excited about the future for them as a dealer and as a racer. They've been great partners. Until they tell me they're not gonna race anymore, which I don't expect to hear at all, then you'll see a bowtie on the front of our cars.

KERRY THARP: We appreciate it very much. Congratulations to this No. 5 team. Good luck next week at Infineon.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports