Richmond II: Pole winner interview

MARK MARTIN, NO. 5 KELLOGG'S/CARQUEST IMPALA, Pole Winner THIS IS YOUR SIXTH POLE IN 2009, WHICH MATCHES YOUR CAREER HIGH SET BACK IN 1989. THIS IS YOUR FOURTH POLE AT RIR. HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE SITTING ON THE POLE FOR TOMORROW NIGHT'S ...

MARK MARTIN, NO. 5 KELLOGG'S/CARQUEST IMPALA, Pole Winner

THIS IS YOUR SIXTH POLE IN 2009, WHICH MATCHES YOUR CAREER HIGH SET BACK IN 1989. THIS IS YOUR FOURTH POLE AT RIR. HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE SITTING ON THE POLE FOR TOMORROW NIGHT'S RACE?

"It just feels so good to be driving Alan (Gustafson) and that No. 5 team's car. To be able to do stuff like this is just beyond my dreams. I can't describe it to you. This is it. The car is awesome. The car is great in race trim too. We had a pretty good car in Atlanta and I went out to qualify and there is a lot of pressure. I felt a lot of pressure to not mess up. And so when qualifying was over with, I felt like I had been a tad conservative. And tonight when I went out to qualify, I had the confidence in the car from practice and I knew what was riding on it. And I felt like it was worth the risk to go out there and try to get it all. And it's cool to be able to drive a really fast race car and go out there and feel like you got all of it and not mess up. So, I'll rest easy until tomorrow night. It was a little better than I expected. I didn't really expect to sit on the pole. I hoped to be fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth; in that range. But we got a stellar lap with a stellar race car."

WHEN YOU GET IN THE CAR AND TAKE THE WARM UP LAP, DO YOU KNOW RIGHT THEN AND THERE THAT YOU HAVE A CONTENDING CAR? AND DOES THAT AFFECT WHAT YOU DO IN THOSE TWO LAPS?

"A lot of times you do (know). I had a good feeling because we were third quickest in practice. And sometimes I get all of it in practice and the other guys don't and then they do and so sometimes if I'm third fastest I qualify sixth. A lot of times if I'm fifth, I figure I'm safe at 10th. Although this year, I've been getting some really nice laps. So it probably has to do with the car and not trying to overdo and letting the car do the work. To answer your question, you measure a lot of your grip when you go into Turn 3 and come off of (Turn) 4 and you make large decisions on that as to how hard you're going to push it on entry of Turn 1 because usually if you go into the corner too hard, you're going to lose time. There's no recovering that particular lap. And this is a different situation because this was a second lap situation. Most places, you're quick lap is your first lap. I went after a really good first lap. And I felt I got a really good first lap.

"So based on that, I went after a really good second lap and I almost went over the edge on the entry of (Turn) 1 and was able to do just a slight, slight wiggle. I don't even know if you could see it on TV and I got it corrected and managed to keep my speed up and really blast off that corner off of Turn 2 and it was a good lap. But you don't ever really know, but you have a great idea. You definitely figure out in (Turns) 3 and 4 how hard you're going to try to drive it. But sometimes you think the grip feels really good and you don't qualify so well. So, it's hard to predict where you're going to wind up with these cars being as close as they are on speed."

YOU SAID IT WAS WORTH THE RISK TO GET IT ALL. TALK ABOUT THAT

"I wasn't going to wad it up. I might slip up the groove and not get an optimum lap. But I wasn't out there far enough to wreck. But the thing is, I didn't know I had a pole car.

"I knew I had a good car, but I didn't know how the sun was going to affect the times. Let's say I had a ninth place car and I didn't drive it as hard as that, And I wound up 15th. That's a little too far back for my comfort zone. So I'm not saying I went out there for broke and risked wrecking the car, although I always feel like I'm about to wreck. Really, what I did was I risked a little slip where I would have to look my team in the eye and say I'm sorry. You gave me a better race car than that. And for me, that's a lot of pressure. I don't like to let my guys down. So, a little tiny wiggle didn't cost us any speed. It was cool."

ARE THESE MOMENTS AMONG THE REASONS YOU DECIDED TO KEEP GOING AND TAKE THE OPPORTUNITY TO DRIVE FOR HENDRICK

"Well, this is beyond my wildest dreams. I had hoped that we might win a race. And I hoped that I would drive a fast race car and have great camaraderie with great teammates in the No. 5 car and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. That's what I'd hoped for. This is far and away beyond my wildest dreams. But I tend to try not to shoot too high. I don't like falling short of my expectations. It's very difficult for me to fall short of my expectations. So, I might have had higher expectations if I weren't so afraid of that, but that's how I protect myself. And this is what it's all about. I'm just living a dream no matter what happens tomorrow night. We don't have to make the Chase to save our year. It's been phenomenal. Some of the teams need to make that Chase to save their year. For us, it'll be icing and then we'll have to see if we can get a cake to put it on. If we miss it tomorrow night, their ain't going to be no icing or cake (laughs). It'll just be a great year. The media's expectations for me this year were scary; frightening for me. I would have to say we've exceeded almost everyone's expectations even from that. But it was a little frightening for me in January reading what you guys were saying we might be able to do."

ON NOT RETIRING IN 2005 AND ON THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE YEAR IN CAPPING HIS CAREER

"It's been incredibly significant and I have made a lot of mistakes in my life and in my career. I'm pretty sure that would have been the biggest one. I didn't really say I was going to retire, but I said I wasn't going to run full time anymore. So, that I did say. And it is so incredibly significant when someone can say yeah, I won six poles in a season once. It was 1989. Or, this is the first multiple-win season I think I think I heard them say since 1999 or something like that."

NO MICROPHONE:

"I like it. I do. And I have my family's support. Not only Arlene and Matt, but the girls as well. Everyone has really rallied behind it. They come to so many more races. I have so much support right now that it makes me feel good that I am still doing it and that they are so proud for me and of me. Listen, I hoped it would be good, but man, this is....

"I don't care what they say, I went up in the trailer and I told Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and the guys on the car, you are giving me some good stuff to drive.

"They are going to say it is because of the information I am giving them, all I told them I have been giving that information for a long time, it is the same stuff I have been saying. I don't think I can drive home the point enough how I feel about the individuals that work on that No. 5 car. Yes I am proud I am part of Hendrick Motorsports. But those guys, to see their faces from the first time I climbed in that race car, the third time out on the race track at Charlotte in October, or whenever that test was, we went to the top of the board. You should have seen their faces and it is still that way every day. I heard them talking over there, I won't let them talk to me about, 'Are you going to run a 30'. I read a guy's lips from another team ask one of our guys, 'Are you going to run a 30', man, I don't want to talk about that. They are so fired up and so proud and that is what it is all about for me and that is why I love it so much. It's not about me. I have done a lot and I have experienced a lot, but you know when you see your kid, knock the winning home run in little league or whatever. I just feel proud for them. Because they want it so much and they are so excited. Just being part of that team and seeing them, that is the deal."

TRUEX SAID HE THOUGHT YOU WOULD PICK THE OUTSIDE LANE TO START THE RACE, IS THAT RIGHT?

"I'm not sure if he is playing mind games or what, but I'm not prepared to talk about it yet. I am not ready to pick a lane just yet. I have a lot on my mind and that is a long way off, I have thought about it but I certainly haven't made a decision."

-credit: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Cup
Teams Hendrick Motorsports