MARK MARTIN, NO. KELLOGG'S/CARQUEST IMPALA SS met with media and discussed sponsorship renewal, racing against teammates for championship, Hendrick Motorsports, grass roots racing, and more. THE MODERATOR: We're now joined in the infield media...
MARK MARTIN, NO. KELLOGG'S/CARQUEST IMPALA SS met with media and discussed sponsorship renewal, racing against teammates for championship, Hendrick Motorsports, grass roots racing, and more.
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined in the infield media center by driver of the No. 5 Kellogg's Carquest Chevrolet, Mark Martin, currently second in points. Mark, I understand there is some breaking news with regard to a sponsor announcement.
MARK MARTIN: Carquest has signed up to come back as a major sponsor on a number of races and a major associate for '10 and '11. I'm pretty excited about working with them again. It's been an awesome relationship so far this year that we've had. I really enjoy all the Carquest teammates from all over the country, being a part of their team.
THE MODERATOR: We'll start off with questions from the media.
Q. Mark, even though you whittled it down to a 73-point lead, do you still feel like you have a big mountain to overcome knowing how the 48 performs when it seems to matter most?
MARK MARTIN: Well, NASCAR racing's no different today than it was 30 years ago in this respect. If there are no problems and you have the two top-five performing teams, then there won't be any major shift if nothing goes wrong, okay? I mean, I hope that answers your question. There won't be any major shift in our points unless things go wrong.
You know, we turned upside down at Talladega. Had I managed not to be involved in that wreck, you know, then the race would be on and it would be basically down to who scored the most points in the last two races, right down to performance.
But this is the same as it's always been. There are a lot more than just flat-out performance week in and week out to it.
Q. Racing two of your teammates for a championship, you have crew guys that work on both cars, how do you keep an even keel, how does the team maintain its relationships with each other, not be so competitive that it's toxic and destructive?
MARK MARTIN: Well, it's certainly not been toxic at all. I have noticed very little difference, very, very little difference in our interaction from the drivers and the crew chiefs as well. We're still working hard to make our four Hendrick Motorsports cars the four cars to beat when we're off the racetrack. When we're on the racetrack, we're working to make our car, whichever one we're in and we're associated and worked on, the car to beat.
Q. A lot has been made of what you've been able to accomplish this year at age 50. Tonight Ron Hornaday has a chance to clinch his fourth Truck Series title at age 51. I wanted your impressions of that accomplishment and wonder if you ever spoke to Ron in the garage or had contact with him, that sort of thing?
MARK MARTIN: Yeah, Ron and I had a chance to speak at Martinsville. Obviously both of us are, you know, proud of what we've been able to accomplish this year, as well as a number of other drivers that are in our age bracket.
Q. I guess you look at the guys who make up the Chase, so many of them from Hendrick Motorsports or have ties to Hendrick. Looks like Hendrick Motorsports is going to be a champion again. Why is that operation so good when we got like Roush and the other teams that are kind of struggling? What makes Hendrick Motorsports so good?
MARK MARTIN: I think it has a lot to do with, you know, the people and how they all interact together. You know, we talk a lot about team chemistry, 'team' being the 5 or the 48. But, you know, you can go into a broader scale, you know, when you talk about Hendrick Motorsports and four cars, and that team chemistry as well that encompasses the whole program.
There's a little bit of Rick Hendrick in every person that works at Hendrick Motorsports. You know, when I deal with them, I see a little bit of Rick Hendrick in each one of 'em. It just works. You know, it's the mentality and the chemistry of everyone that seems to get incredible results.
Q. Next week when the checkered flag drops at Miami, are you going to be able to look back and go, Wow, this is one of the years I've had the most fun driving, and after a week off be ready to start 2010?
MARK MARTIN: Yes. I'm going to look at 2009, I may not have the best memory in the world, but I'm going to look at 2009 and say I've had the best year of my life personally as well as professionally. This has been the best year of my life. You know, I found so much peace and happiness and good-quality time with people, relationships, family, coworkers, fans, competitors, as well as success on the racetrack.
MARK MARTIN: You guys, too (smiling).
Q. Mark, having had almost a week now to look back at it, how shocked were you that the 48 actually had the troubles they had at Texas? He was just in here saying he doesn't expect lightning to strike twice. I'm wondering your thoughts on that also.
MARK MARTIN: That's what I said at Talladega: I don't expect lightning to strike twice. But for me it did, so... Sometimes the unexpected happens. But I don't expect it to either. I'm still optimistic, even when it comes to their, you know, efforts as well.
The thing you have to remember is, you know, my focus is on the race at Phoenix, it's not on the point accumulation. The point accumulation will take care of itself if I focus on the race and do our very best, so...
Q. If you can't win this championship and Jimmie does win four in a row, can you put that into perspective? Is that going to be bigger than Petty winning seven, Earnhardt winning seven, some of the other major accomplishment in the sport's history?
MARK MARTIN: I think when you look back on it, it will. I think everyone has it tempered some. I don't think that they really realize that they're getting their brains beat in by that group like they really are in today's age. I think when we get down 10, 20 years down the road and look back, people will realize what an incredible feat that they have achieved. Golly, who would expect that to discontinue anytime soon based on what you see. Incredible, incredible stuff that they're doing and have done. So I wouldn't expect them to be done at the end of '09.
Q. Mark, can you put on your track owner hat and talk about how important tracks like yours are to the grass-roots of motorsports in general and the effect of having tracks like yours in that area help to benefit Homestead and Daytona in the bigger picture?
MARK MARTIN: What track are you talking about?
Q. You own or manage a track, don't you, in Florida?
MARK MARTIN: I helped a quarter midget racetrack get going and everything. I don't own it. I did finance it or, you know, I helped make it happen and pulled a lot of people together, a lot of efforts together so there could be quarter midget racing in Central Florida. The track that was currently being used has now been closed down, the one prior to ours. So it was a good thing that we had ours going.
It's good family entertainment. You know, football or T ball, whatever, is just not for everyone. It might be for almost everyone, but some people want to do that same kind of thing in motorsports. So for me, quarter midget racing is the safest, coolest, most fun, most economical, family-oriented, perfectly managed organization with QMA that you could have going. I mean, it's just really a special time. The most fun I've ever had in racing was going racing with Matt, quarter midget racing. He did all kinds of racing, but the quarter midget racing was the most fun.
Q. The grass-roots of racing, all the places around the Midwest you went to, where would you be today had you not had those places to cut your teeth? As you said, football, baseball, you can go to any high school, grade school, there is a diamond that you can play on.
MARK MARTIN: Racing is much more difficult because, you're right, you can't go to the city-owned baseball field or whatever. It takes personal individuals. They're usually not community funded.
This quarter midget track was obviously kind of the face of it, but there were a lot of people that rallied behind it to make it work. It was actually a big deal, even though they're 1/20th of a mile racetracks. I can't imagine what trying to do a whole stock car track was like, because that took a lot of work from a lot of people.
Q. Looking back at April, does the track itself have much of a difference in comparison to today or is it more of a mental difference in that there's only two races left?
MARK MARTIN: For me there's no difference. I mean, you know, today is a different day than Friday the last time. We have the whole weekend in front of us. You know, we have to go out here and make it happen, just like we did then. Every day's a new day. There's no telling how the weekend will turn out for us, but we sure are hoping to have the best results.
Q. I was talking to your crew chief this week about that go-get-you-some mentality that you talked about before Talladega. As you slide into this race this weekend, he said, Yeah, this is what you're going to have to do. How aggressive, how much do you go after it this weekend?
MARK MARTIN: Same as every week. You just don't realize it. I'm going after it every week. Every time I strap in that racecar, I'm going after it. Every time I strap in that racecar, I'm going to the extreme limits. I've raced that way, I've drove that 5 car, every time I strap in the 5 car, it's the same. It's everything I got, points or no points. If it's just practice, I like being on the top of the scoreboard even in practice.
You know, we're digging as hard as we can go.
Q. Mark, since you've had time now at Hendrick to work with some of the different crew chiefs, what have you learned about Chad Knaus in your dealings with him? Is there somebody over your years of experience, a crew chief in the past, a figure in the past, that he's kind of like? You also mentioned there's a little bit of Rick Hendrick in everybody. What part of Rick Hendrick is in Chad Knaus?
MARK MARTIN: That's too hard a question, okay, too in-depth. That's a pretty tough question. I will answer part of that question. I see a lot of myself, younger self, in Chad Knaus, I do. Although I wasn't a crew chief. He is very, very intense. He pushes really, really hard. He leaves no stone unturned. He's insanely driven. That reminds me a lot of my younger self. So that I see.
You got to remember, I don't work next to Chad all the time. I can't get into his, you know, really, really great details. I see his work ethic. That's what I notice, his drive and determination. That's really what I see the most of.
Q. You talked about the chemistry over at Hendrick Motorsports. When you saw what Jimmie's team did last weekend, in the garage fixing the car, somebody from your crew came over, Jeff's crew came over and helped, is that part of what makes that 48 crew so special, those guys behind the scenes that we never hear or see about?
MARK MARTIN: You would have seen probably the same type of thing from any of the other top organizations, I would expect. If I was a car owner, I would expect the same kind of cooperation with my teams as you saw. But certainly, as I said before, the chemistry that flows through the whole organization has got some Rick Hendrick through it. I can see that. When I deal with different individuals in that company, I get a little feel of how he is. He is a very, very special person in the way he inspires people and the way he deals with people. Most of the individuals at Hendrick Motorsports have some of that going on, too. That really helps I think with the chemistry, helps them be successful.
Q. Why are his cars so different?
MARK MARTIN: I don't know for sure why the Hendrick cars are so good here. We actually ran pretty good here before I drove a Hendrick car. Some of it is the drivers get around here good. Certain drivers get around certain tracks. For me to come and drive a Hendrick car here was definitely a good thing. If you remember last year in the 8 car, we were in position ahead of Jimmie when we pitted at the end of the race. So some drivers just get around certain racetracks good. Then you'll go there one time, do terrible, then you wish you never said, I get around this place good. Maybe I shouldn't have told you that.
-credit: gm racing