Continued from part 1 Q: You've been able to race with a guy who everybody says has the potential to have the most talent in the series, but to have the opportunity to race with a veteran, TV kept saying not a veteran, but TV kept saying he ...
Continued from part 1
Q: You've been able to race with a guy who everybody says has the potential to have the most talent in the series, but to have the opportunity to race with a veteran, TV kept saying not a veteran, but TV kept saying he was your hero. What's it like to race with a legend? What does that mean when your career culminates to the point where you can say you led Mark Martin's team?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: It means a lot. I've been really fortunate to work at Hendrick Motorsports, first of all. I feel really fortunate to be able to do that. I feel fortunate for Mr. Hendrick to have the trust in me to be crew chief, is a big deal. I was fortunate to work with Kyle and have success and I've been fortunate to work around Jeff Gordon, who is incredible and Jimmie Johnson, Terry Labonte, on and on, Dale Junior, you can go down the list.
But Mark is really special for a lot of reasons. Mark was a guy that I watched growing up and had a huge amount of respect for. I loved the way that he raced. I loved his attitude and his working man's ethic and how he went about his business, how appreciative he is, how he understands the magnitude of the situations and respects that and appreciates that.
So for him to have the faith in me to do the job and Mr. Hendrick, you know, you can't put into words, I'm just really fortunate, lucky, and I'm just really blessed. I don't know what else to say.
Q: There's a saying that you don't get a second chance to make a first impression and yesterday you talked about having this opportunity at the end of your career with Hendrick, and you've had a very distinguished career in Cup already, but in a way, is this opportunity like a second chance for you, particularly in light of having the opportunity with that organization and also I think you are now nine points out of the Chase, which kind of brings the championship back into the picture?
MARK MARTIN: It's really cool, actually, technically, it's probably my third chance. I got a second chance when I got with Jack Roush. Most people don't get a second chance.
My dropping back to a limited schedule, that's also most careers like this, you don't really get a chance to resurrect. Like I said yesterday, I'm not as smart as I look. I'm lucky I have stumbled and tripped and fell into all seems like things have worked out for me. All this really came about from Jay Frye hooking me up over in the Hendrick Busch car. That's really how it happened. One thing led to another from there.
So you know, it's pretty cool. Jay Frye deserves some credit in this thing. I didn't plan all this out. It's been an incredible ride since stepping out of the 6 car, and you know, having a chance to re energize myself and realize that how much I love it, and how you know, something that's going to be hard to give up; obviously not hard to give up if you were not doing well, but the good fortunate. The performance level that I have and the cars that I'm get to go drive right now, I love it. I feel really lucky.
Q: It seemed like just about every driver came over to congratulate you in victory lane. Do you remember what any of them said specifically, and what did it mean to you to have that kind of tribute?
MARK MARTIN: Oh, you know, it was a lot of excitement. It was awesome. To see Jeff Gordon; I believe in my heart, that Jeff Gordon has a lot to do with me being here. I think that he has a strong voice with Rick Hendrick, and I believe that he I believe he had a lot to do with it. But Jack Roush, he sure had a lot to do with it, and all of the guys, the Jeff Burtons and Matt Kenseths and just everybody. I don't remember the specific words.
There's a lot of excitement going on and everything, but it's really special. It's more special even more special than the trophy. You know, you can't that's just respect, and you can't that, you earn, for sure. You just can't get it any other way. And you've got to give it to get it; I also believe that.
Q: What would Julian think of all this?
MARK MARTIN: He would be so happy I'm driving a Chevrolet, gosh.
Oh, I don't know. Talked about him today, actually, with Juan Montoya, a little bit. It's been 11 years, and we sure would be having fun. He would be proud as a peacock and running that mouth around his buddies, I'm sure. Thank you for asking.
Q: As hard as you've been on yourself at times throughout your career, can you allow yourself to really enjoy this victory tonight, and how long will that last, do you think?
MARK MARTIN: I don't know. Talladega is right around the corner, and it has been my nature to start worrying about that before I get out of the press room.
I'm going to temper that some. This one here is real special, and there's the possibility that remember I said, win a race. I took this deal, you know, so that I might have a chance to win a race, and we'll talk about multiples after we get won. I'm going to try not to be as insane, you know, as I have been in the past, and do my job and enjoy it, because you know, this one truly might be the last one. (Laughter) Hopefully not. Hopefully not. But you know, it's been a while since we got it done, and it certainly didn't look good except a year ago at this race it looked pretty good.
You know, like I said before, having a good enough car to win is only a tenth of getting it done. There's another nine parts to it that all have to work out. This is really, really good, it's really good for the 5 car, very timely.
I am going to enjoy it more than I have any other one, but I am going to race, too. I push pretty hard, but I'm going to try to keep that under, in check, thanks.
Q: Do you feel like you needed a win to validate any of your decisions to come back, or do you feel with the opportunities that you had, that they were still the right things to do?
MARK MARTIN: Really good question. Really good question. I had to think about that just a little bit.
You know, you can think and feel things, two different things, I think. I took this deal because I wanted to drive a really fast race car, seriously. And I thought I was going to get the deal done with my schedule, and I got my heart wrapped around it before the final thing came down that we had to do them all.
And so really, for me, I struggle with that I did this because I wanted to do it out of love. You know, I do it for the passion of what I have, and I don't have anything else with that kind of passion. I haven't found anything to fill that void and drive me like racing and all those things.
But there is a little voice in the back of my head, you know, asking if, are you sure you're worthy of this opportunity. And that's part of the reason I've been successful. And if you'll check with successful people, they are insanely driven, and so yeah, there's been a little voice in the back of my head saying, are you worthy of this opportunity.
I know that they thought so. I know that Jeff did and I know that Rick did. And I've still got to produce. This is not over. This is something like I think eight races. I've got to keep on; I can't just go out and start riding around now. (Laughing).
We'll do that. We'll be fine. That's two answers to one question, I think.
Q: When you finished second at the Daytona 500, you were on such a roll where it looked like you were just in championship form then, but you got out of the car because you were scheduled to get out of the car; how hard was that? And since things have turned around, since the luck has turned around, do you feel like maybe that championship is out there for you to grasp?
MARK MARTIN: I'm really glad I got out of the car. I have a reputation going of being a flip flop. And I have flip flopped on some things. But I didn't flip flop on that. And I'm glad that I did what I did.
It was my commitment to myself and to my family, and it's what I needed to do. And I wouldn't have been a happy person had I gone forward. I needed that. And that's changed me, and I believe that everyone that knows me has seen a difference in me. I needed to do what I did.
And so, that's the answer to that part. The second part is, the championship, I refused to consider championship. I didn't take this a lot of y'all wrote, and you shouldn't have, but a lot because I read what y'all right. I lot of y'all wrote that I took one last chance at a championship, you know, and it's like whewww, that's not why I took this ride.
I'll give it hell, but that's not why I took this ride. I took this ride to drive a fast race car, and maybe get a chance to win a race. And obviously we are going to race for points. It will be very disappointing if we don't make the Chase. And it looked like that was a very real possibility when we were setting 35th in owners' points or 31st or 27th. There's a lot of competition out there. You just can't out run those cats every day. I'm telling you, every one of them can drive and every one of them's got a good race car, and it's expecting a lot.
So what we need to do, Alan and I need to build our team; we're building. We need to build our team, and we got to get better, from where we are right now, if we want to be a championship contender, we have to get better. But we are eight races in. And we showed improvement tonight. The other races were really good, and we were about sixth place in every race, every single one but that one won't win a championship anymore.
And so, I don't know if I told you this, but it's like Hendrick Motorsports has a hundred let's just say, a hundred tools in the toolbox, and I have had not had a chance to drive but 25 of them; and 20 of them I didn't like, and five of them I did, but there's 75 left, and we only get to put two or three of them on the cart each weekend and I say yes, no, yes.
So I believe there's potential for us to get better, like we did tonight. Not all the time, because it's competitive, but we didn't run good, and I couldn't I couldn't run with the leaders at Bristol. And I couldn't run with the leaders at Martinsville. I could run in the Top 10 but there were three or four of them that just point a whooping on us and I didn't know. Why.
But part of that was I didn't have a chance to fill those tools, and some of that stuff I'm going to really like. Like the stuff we had here tonight, that's going to Richmond, that logic. We have to make some adjustments for that racetrack, but you know, I just I'm not going to wreck a good time by worrying about a championship or points.
I'm having a ball. I'm not going to let that ruin, just let me have fun. Let me enjoy this. This is the opportunity of a lifetime, you know, and that's where I am on that.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Mark, and congratulations.
MARK MARTIN: Thank you, guys.