NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Ford 400
Topics: Ford 400
November 22, 2009
THE MODERATOR: If I could have your attention, please, we have tonight our 2009 runner-up in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and that's Mark Martin. He drives the No. 5 Kellogg's CARQUEST Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.
Mark, I can't say enough about the type of season you had. I know you gave it everything you possibly could and certainly put on a great show for all the fans and the competitors that follow this sport. Your thoughts about how things unfolded this evening and maybe this entire season for you.
MARK MARTIN: Well, there's a little bit of a dark cloud over it all because the boss and the family in Charlotte. I'm sorry that he wasn't -- that he needed to be there. We made history in multiple ways tonight at Hendrick Motorsports, and for me it's just incredible, just incredible to have had a chance at it.
We were the only team in the garage that had earned a chance in the last race at it, and that's quite an accomplishment.
And just what the fans have done and what the competitors have done means so much to me. I don't have one of those trophies, so I don't know what one of those things would mean to me. But I can't imagine it meaning any more than the feeling that I felt from so many people, competitors and fans.
Q. I just wanted to ask you the same question I asked Jeff about trying to put this victory by Jimmie into context in terms of where he might belong.
MARK MARTIN: Jeff told you the same thing. It's very difficult when it's happening to make statements, and I don't want to offend myself or any of my other old-timers by making statements right now. Let's just let it play out. He's not done yet.
I look at that a little bit like that old question, are drivers athletes, and I say, who cares, because the race is still on whether we are or not, and we love racing, right? I look at that a little bit the same way. It's like, what's the argument? I mean, the numbers speak for themselves, and I don't think they're done yet.
Q. Congratulations on a great season coming back. Reflecting back to where you were at the start of the year with the goals you set for yourself and what you've accomplished, what's your dominant emotion now? What are you feeling right now? Is it pride at what you've accomplished? Is it frustration at not --
MARK MARTIN: There's no frustration, man. I know you'd love it. I know y'all would love it, but there's no frustration. There's none. I'm very proud of what we accomplished.
I'm very proud of what we accomplished, and on top of all that, I had more fun than anybody. So how could you -- what else can you say, man? I had a blast. It's been an honor and a privilege, and I didn't leave nothing. I never left anything anywhere.
We got beat, and we got beat under any scenario that might have happened. I didn't leave anything out there.
My race team dug as hard as they could dig, and we accomplished more than anybody else in the garage this year except for the 48. That ought to be enough to make you proud.
Q. In a lot of ways, your story has kind of made you like a beloved figure among your competitors in the garage. Do you think that is more fulfilling to you than any championship could have been?
MARK MARTIN: Look, I don't have one, so I don't know. That's what -- sure, I can say that because I don't have one. But when you're young, it's all about you, at least it was for me. And when you get older, you know, things look a little bit different, at least they do to me.
I am one of the luckiest guys in the world to have done what I've done and worked with the people that I've worked with and earned what I have earned.
Q. Rick has said this a couple times and said it when he was in here again on Friday. He felt like he needed to say something to you at the beginning of the season when he had talked you into coming back and you had a couple engine failures at a place where you probably never expected to. Just what were your thoughts at that point? Did you have some second thoughts at that time? Alan said that he had tried to keep -- he had to keep thinking, not looking at the hard numbers but looking at the potential.
MARK MARTIN: Well, it was bad luck, and it was a little gloomy. But we were running good. So it would have been so much worse if we'd have been running bad and all that stuff would have happened.
We just had to dig in, roll our sleeves up, and we made a tremendous year out of it. I've got enough experience, and I might use the word mature. I'm mature enough to realize that there's more to this sport than four races, the first four.
Q. You were in a situation a couple years ago with Roush where all five cars made the Chase. Now you've been a bigger part of history with Hendrick finishing one, two, three in points. What did this situation have this year? You've been at Hendrick a year now; what gave Hendrick a little bit more of an edge to get you guys to that next level and be as dominant as you guys were this year, compared to Roush?
MARK MARTIN: I don't know, we were pretty strong that year that we did that at Roush's. The level of your competitiveness is cyclical; it don't always -- you're not always on top, you're not always on the bottom and not always in the middle. And Hendrick does a good job of getting knocked off the top a little less than most.
But it's still a moving target, and we've got our challenge on our hands for next year.
Q. Enough of this gloomy. There have been times when you were a little bit younger man when it seemed like you had the weight of the world on your shoulders. How do you think you're going to feel when next season starts?
MARK MARTIN: Happy. I'm going to be happy. You know, this is the first time in -- in as long as I can remember that I'm not glad it's over with. I'm fine. I've had a blast all year, and I do look forward to starting with a clean slate. But other than that, I'm a happy guy.
Q. Again, on a lighter note, about five years ago at your first retirement lunch, you told us Joey Logano, you'd hire him. What have you seen from him in the last five years, and where do you predict he's going to be five years from now?
MARK MARTIN: It's always nice to say I told you so, isn't it? (Laughter.)
I guess that was obvious, blindingly obvious, what a great he was going to be. And will be. He'll be fun to watch.
Q. We haven't heard anything about the race. How did this thing go? Were you chasing the car, or what --
MARK MARTIN: Yeah, our car didn't work well today. It didn't work well, and we really struggled with it. And as the sun went down -- and we went to the back, we came in and pitted and tried to do some work on it to try to improve it, and it didn't really improve it a whole lot, so then we were stuck with sorry track position on top of not having a great race car. We just fought and fought and fought, and actually the last adjustment perked it up, and we drove from 21st to 10th, and then right at the end a couple of the guys got the high line going and got me back.
It was a great run, that last run. I mean, it wasn't good enough. I mean, if we'd have been with that all day, then we were a top six car maybe, like that, but we would have needed to be like that the whole race and not just the last run.
We've got our work cut out for us to make our cars better for here. It didn't work well.
Q. Can you share with us what you said to Jimmie when you met him out there at the stage?
MARK MARTIN: You guys would just write it in the paper if I told you. How about I just say congratulations. I wanted to see him and Chad and all those guys who did a superior job. It's incredible. What they've done is incredible. Ask anybody trying to beat them.
Q. As the night wore along and as it became semi-obvious what the reality of the outcome was going to be, how much does it make you -- I don't know if proud is the right word or not, that you were able to hang onto second for the season?
MARK MARTIN: I was concerned when -- I was very concerned when we made the stop and worked on the car, went to the back, because the car wasn't good enough to drive back up through there. You know, and I wanted to -- when you're third, you want to be second (laughing). And I had the third and the fourth place guy race me for it, as hard as they could go. But we made a great adjustment on the last stop, and we drove up through there pretty well. I was very pleased with the car the last run versus the way it had been all night.
Thank you guys for everything all year. You guys have been awesome. It's been fun. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Mark. We certainly enjoyed watching you race this year.
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