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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Allstate 400 at The Brickyard

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Allstate 400 at The Brickyard

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Allstate 400 at The Brickyard

Jimmie Johnson
Mark Martin
July 26, 2008


INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA

HERB BRANHAM: First up, second fastest qualifier, the driver of the No. 8 U.S. Army Chevrolet, Mark Martin. Mark, you've been talking about confidence recently and tell us about that lap today?
MARK MARTIN: I really knew we had something when we came off of 4 for the green flag there. It really flew through turn 4 coming in for the green. I knew we had something.
The car was just spectacular. You know, just really want to commend the U.S. Army Team and everybody at DEI, Tony Gibson and ECR, Earnhardt/Childress Racing Engines. They've got a real special engine in that car this weekend.
I really appreciate their dedication and everyone's dedication in putting me in such incredible race cars.
It was a great lap. That's one step in not embarrassing myself. You know, I predicted that we were going to be strong here this weekend, so at least we've been strong in qualifying. Hopefully, we can go out and back that up with a tremendous run and contend for this thing tomorrow.
I really, really would love to see the 8 Team in Victory Lane, and I'd like to enjoy that with them. They're overdo and they deserve it. All those guys have really big hearts and they're really dedicated to this program. I'd like to see that for them.

Q. What would it mean to you to win this race at this point in your career. You've done so much already?
MARK MARTIN: You know, I don't think about it in terms of me. I think about it as my team. I couldn't be a contender if it wasn't for the heart and dedication of all the guys that work on on the 8 Team and everybody at DEI.
I think about them. I don't think about the trophy and what it would mean to me personally. I think about what it would mean to see their face in Victory Lane.


...

HERB BRANHAM: We're joined by our pole sitter, Jimmie Johnson
Former champion in this event, two time series champion. Jimmie, great effort. Tell us about your qualifying laps today.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Thank you. It was a great race car. A car that I could get aggressive with. From the first lap off the truck, we knew we had a lot speed in the car and we were towards the top of the sheets, or the sheet, I should say.
All in all, I was really impressed with the car. Takes a little bit to get used to this track and remember the reference points and where to be. And we only ran six or seven laps yesterday, And things were working well. Woke up this morning, and drove probably 50 laps this morning in my mind mentally to make sure I hit my marks.
Rolled out there and got two of the four corners right and got the pole. I had a great car. I did make some mistakes on my lap. This track sucks you into doing things that you regret.
I nailed 1, felt really good through 1, got into 2 too hard and missed the exit at 2. Then went down into 3 and tried to make up some time and made another mistake. Then calmed down and got turn 4 pretty good and came back to the start/finish line.
So just great car, great effort. I'm very proud of my guys and how hard they've been working. Since the start of the season, we've been playing a little bit of catch‑up here, and I think we're going down the right road in making a lot of progress.

Q. Pretty much single car traffic at this point. How do you think the new car is going to be once you get more traffic out there this afternoon and in the race?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I'm sure you're going to hear a lot about tight, aero push and things like that. This racetrack is probably one of the worst for us being as narrow as it is, as flat as it is.
Great facility, tons of history and all positive things about this racetrack. But when you run single file, the first car has the best air and on back it gets worse and worse.
You'll hear a lot about being tight, a lot about track position. I predict more than what you've heard in the past. This car seems to be more sensitive to that stuff.
We're very proud of where we're starting, that's why I put so much effort into starting up front, and, hopefully, we can maintain that on Sunday.

Q. Your description of your qualifying lap seems like it was quite an eventful experience, but at the same time it kind of underscores how you had the time to gather it in, you know, in order to make things right. Was that indicative of the run you had here, the adversity you had? Your team still gathered it in and made it right at the end?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think our team does a great job over the course of the race adjusting and really trying to put ourselves in position or get ourselves back into position. We haven't had a funner day of that than when we won here. Overcoming the flat tire that we had, worked through traffic, pit stops, get up there for the race and win.
It really was a special day. This track is so challenging mentally. We call it turns 1 and 2 and 3 and 4. But normally from when you leave the wall going into turn 1 in the oval, your arc's in motion in one continuous corner. So here you have four chances, two more opportunities to mess it up. And it is really difficult to get around this track.
1 and 3 looks very similar, but drives totally different. 2 and 4 look similar, but they drive completely different from end‑to‑end. And you have to continuously adjust as you're going around the track.
Not only for the corners, but as your tires wear off even as you take your qualifying lap, turn 1 you have the most grip, as you get back to 4, you're losing grip. So whatever the balance of the car is doing, if you're losing the front it just keeps getting tighter and tighter. If you're loose, you're getting looser and looser. It makes it exciting. You have a lot to stay on top of inside the car.

Q. Can you talk more about going over the laps in your mind if you do that every weekend? How can you click into that focus to do it, where you do it, and how much that helps you?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I spend a lot time doing that. I've just done it my entire career. I know where it came from. My swim coach in high school had us memorize our starts. How many strokes it took to get to the end of the pool, your kick turn and back to the finish. We'd sit there with stop watches as we were stretching and kind of work on that. That just got into my mind at a young age and has been real helpful for me in the Cup Series.
In off‑road racing, a lot of the races I ran on, you'd never see the same terrain again, so it didn't really apply. But in oval racing, especially NASCAR, you get so few laps on track before you've got to qualify and make it count, so I just look forward to that and go through that in my mind.

Q. Thank you for letting us know you wore Speedos, that's new information.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I said that. Now there will be photos everywhere. Fantastic (laughing).

Q. When you were in Pocono you were seeded next to Mark Martin. And he said, and I plan on winning the Brickyard. And I remember you kind of got a look on your face like wow. Looking back now, was that a that's awfully cocky or what was your initial reaction when Mark said that? And now that you guys are 1‑2, how does that play out? Is it going to come down to two and he's already got this overconfidence that the race is his?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: You know, when Mark said that, I looked at him with that face because mark never is optimistic about things. The fact that he was so confident about it, I couldn't believe it was Mark Martin sitting next to me.
For him to say that, I think that's a huge statement. He backed it up today with qualifying. He's a much better racer than he is at qualifying, so I would assume he's going to be one of the guys to beat.
Of course, I'm very optimistic about our car and what we're doing. But for Mark to go out and say that type of comment, he's got something in store for us.

Q. What conditions are you going to be looking for? What do you need to have come together tomorrow to be successful and grab your second win here?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think you need to have a car that's going to stay turning all day long. I would prefer in most cases to have a loose race car, especially here. These corners are really tight. If you're in any traffic, you don't have air on the nose of the car, and the car's going to get tighter yet. You need the car to really turn well for you.
So the guys that enjoy loose race cars are really going to pull ahead from everybody and find their way to the front.

Q. Do you feel like even if Kyle remains kind of a dominant figure going into the Chase, your experience at winning Chase races, winning 11 of them in the four years, offsets that and gives you the same kind of confidence you had going into it last year?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think that even last year and in '06 when I was asked who I would favor for winning the Chase, I would instantly turn to guys that won championships. I rank them first.
So, with that in mind, I would look at Jeff as the top seed. I guess, Tony and I both have two now and work your way down from there.
Not saying that you can't overcome that, but there is something about it. I experienced it last year. There was something about the fact that you've been through it that brings you a lot of peace, and you start worrying about the right things. I can only imagine as more championships are under a driver's belt, how much more relaxed and focused you can be on the right things through those ten races.
It's not impossible. Everybody has to win their first, and it certainly could be Kyle's year, and he's shown he's figured out how to win races and win them consistently. I think he's always been fast but has had trouble getting to the end of the races. But now he's grasping that and doing a great job at it.
I hope my experience, I hope I make the Chase. I know that sounds crazy. But you've got to cover that first goal and cross it off the list. After that, I think that with the momentum we have as a team and the experience we have over the last, really, all seven years we've been in the championship hunt, at some point that experience is very important.

Q. How would you describe the learning curve at this track with this particular car in light of what you've been able to put on the board these last two days?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: It's pretty tough. I'm thankful that I figured out how to drive this track with the old car. I feel for the new guys that are coming in, especially someone like Patrick Carpentier. Juan did a great job adapting last year, which was really impressive. But those guys are used to going around here flat out at 225 or whatever, and there is no way you can even think about driving this car like that. Even from last year's car to this year's car, the cars are slower and don't react as well.
It's a track that's extremely inviting and make you want to drive in the corners steep. But you get penalized if you don't hit the corner right, the straightaways are so long, that if you miss the center of the turn or get in too hard, you can't get off the corner.
I'm thankful that I figured that out and brought that approach over here. I know my marks, know my reference points. It's tough as a rookie. Tough as a guy that doesn't have a lot of experience in these cars to come and run well here. Probably one of the more difficult tracks to run at.

Q. You seemed pretty relieved when Jeff didn't bump you from the pole. Had mark gone earlier in the day, would we talk about him winning the pole?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't know. We were watching the temperature and things. It seemed like the track stayed pretty consistent throughout the day. Knowing that I made the mistakes that I did on my lap had me really nervous about the 24, about the 8.
There was the 19 that was still left to go that was really strong, so I was definitely worried. I felt like I could have gone .2 or .3 faster if I didn't make the mistakes that I made. Not often you leave something on the table and end up on the pole. So I was pretty nervous for all the guys going.
Even the 10 car, I was nervous about the go‑or‑go‑homers. Because Patrick, you know, is known for his qualifying. He's doing a great job at that, and I was even worried about him.

Q. I wasn't in Chicago, so I apologize if I do not know what I'm talking about. But when Marty was on TV he was talking about the closing laps and he said Kyle stole your will when he passed you. I took that to mean that you were maybe demoralized after the race. What were your emotions the last race after you did not win?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I was really mad at myself. There was no one to blame but myself for losing that race. I ran Kyle down, passed him, drove away, had a restart at the end, and made two mistakes. For days after that I kicked myself.
Then as I knew I was coming to Indy and getting my mind ready to come race here, I started kicking myself again. So that was my fault. I apologized to my team over and over. They're tired of hearing it, but we should have had that trophy. That was our race.
I didn't get the restart right. And Kyle timed it just perfect. He got into the back of me just as I went on the gas, which was a great move on his behalf. I couldn't hook up the rear tires, he got a run on me and got to be outside.
One, I needed a better restart, and two if he had a run on me, I knew better than letting him have the outside. I should have given him the bottom. I would have been the one side drafting around for a lap or two. Things would have been different. I wasn't†demoralized, just pissed. I was mad at myself for doing it.

Q. (Asking about will today's pole win help him get over the loss to Kyle.)
JIMMIE JOHNSON: It does help. I mean, every time you're on track, kind of erases what went on before. But, God, I hope roles are reversed at the end of this thing. I want to get back the same way, and that is out of respect for him. He got me. And Carl Edwards got me in Atlanta.
I still think about that. Especially when I see the clips with me coming to the checkered. I've won a couple like that, and I'm sure I passed Matt and Bobby LaBonte, I'm sure it drives them crazy when they see it. It's just the competitive nature of us.

Q. Speaking of that race and that restart, is what Kyle did there with that second place guy sort of driving the train, has that been going on all along and we just realized it? Or has he sort of changed the way guys are going to approach a restart with a couple laps to go?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, timing couldn't have been perfect. If he would have gotten into me much harder, I think he probably would have crashed me or he would have needed to checkup and both of our runs would have been messed up and maybe Harvick could have gotten up there and challenged us.
I did the absolute wrong thing, he did the absolute right thing and took advantage of it. From short track racing to all types of racing, and that restart and how you get the run, that is just a normal thing that takes place and he timed it right.

Q. But the second place guy actually pushes?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, if you can get to the guy's bumper in front of you. Normally you wait till you get bumped and then you go. I waited for the bump, and I got the bump and I hit the gas. And he expected that and just stayed on me and kept me from hooking up my rear tires.
MARK MARTIN: Chad wanted me to ask you if you could tell me what springs are in your car? They seem to be working better than mine (laughing).
JIMMIE JOHNSON: You'll know in December (laughing).
MARK MARTIN: Expect me to mess up. It's Mark Martin, and I'm with the U.S. army 8 car. What springs are in your car?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: You'll know in December (laughing).
MARK MARTIN: Thank you.
HERB BRANHAM: If you have questions for the second fastest qualifier driver of the No. 8 Army Chevrolet has graciously agreed to come back.

Q. Mark, you said at Pocono with Jimmie sitting right there that you planned on winning the Brickyard. Why did you think that then, and I guess your strong qualifying efforts shows that you knew something was coming?
MARK MARTIN: After the first practice yesterday, I was feeling a little bit like a heel. But I've been a heel many times before, but not for this reason though, I haven't.
I felt like we had a really incredible car at Phoenix, and a pretty dog gone good car at Richmond, too. We parked this car. It was new at Phoenix, and we parked it after Richmond and earmarked it for Indy.
I felt like the same set‑up, geometry and all that stuff would work well here in these flat corners. Based on not having any testing here or anything else, I felt like that was the best place to start setup‑wise. It was, you know.
We fought some issues coming out of the gate yesterday. I'm sure a lot of people did. But we got the car some better in race trim, switched to qualifying trim, made four qualifying runs and improved the car each time. And some of that will translate back to race trim.
So with these next two hours, I believe and I hope, I have great hopes that we can get the car in race trim as good as we did in qualifying trim or as good as it was in Phoenix. If we do that, why shouldn't I think we can win?

Q. Why is it so difficult for athletes and not just in your sport but all sports, to step away and stay away?
MARK MARTIN: Well, because it's hard to describe to anyone that hasn't done that and been there. You know, it's their life's work. It's their passion. For me, I don't have the same kind of passion toward anything else. That is going to be a tremendous void for me unless I find something.
I have a couple of ideas, you know, but they certainly don't fill the passion come meetly. I have a couple ideas. It's something everyone has to face, just as I saw my grandfather, my dad take the car keys away from my grandfather. That was a really hard day, you know.
At some point in time you have to meet those kinds of things all through life. I think for a professional athlete that is pretty good at what he does, that comes earlier in life than maybe, you know, the example I gave you with my grandfather.
It's just I'm not any good at anything else. Never was, that's why I liked racing that's why I liked racing.

Q. How old was your grandfather?
MARK MARTIN: He was 100 when he died. But he got the car taken away from him around 90, 88 or 90. Yeah. He lived by himself until he was like 97. He was in very good shape, but he didn't see well. When he hit somebody on a bicycle, I think they finally decided to take the keys away from him. It was kind of a tough time in his life.

Q. What was his name?
MARK MARTIN: Clyde Martin. My dad's dad.

Q. Jimmie, you mentioned these win that's got away. How much more emphasis do you put on that? Because Kyle's not a guy you want to give a head start going into the Chase, and that is ten points right there when you don't get the win.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I can't really change what took place then, so I just try to learn from my mistakes. I really have over my career have learned a lot more from the mistakes that I made than the positive things that have gone on.
So it's been in my head that I won't let that happen again. I just take each day as it comes. We have a great race team. The Chase itself is an entirely different world than we're living in now. The pressure to show up that you didn't think existed, your mind goes to places you didn't think it would.
That Chase is a different world. I'd like to close the gap, get some wins and not be so far behind when it starts. But I'm not too worried, because the Chase it its own animal.

Q. There's been a lot of talk this year about the new optimistic happy Mark Martin. Even Jimmie was talking about it, saying he doesn't even recognize you sometimes talking to you about winning the Brickyard. What has changed this year, or do you feel like anything has changed?
MARK MARTIN: A lot has changed. You know, I really had a chance to catch my breath the last year and a half, you know. It took a while last year when I started setting out and staying at home and spending quality time with my family. Really feeling like I got my personal life sort of in order the way I wanted it, and priorities kind of moved around.
I've had a lot of pressure off of me, because I haven't worried about a single point for a year and a half. So I haven't had that riding on me. I felt like I've got a lot off my shoulders right now.
It's also given me a chance to reassess what's important to me. You know, I love my family with all my heart. The time that I spend with them, you know, is precious to me.
I also realize almost all my friends are here. This is an important part of my life. It's been my life's work for 35 years. And on a good day I'm still pretty good at it. If I wasn't, I'd be staying at home.
The chance to drive the Army car, the 8 car for DEI this year has been, you know, you guys have seen it. When I drive fast race cars, that is life. That is what life is all about. I won't have a chance to do that very much longer. So, you know, that is also very precious to me.
I'm having the time of my life. I can see the end out there not too far away, and boy, I believe I'm making the best of it. I have a total different†‑‑ I'm a happy person. I don't, presently, I don't do anything I don't want to do. For a long time I felt like I was doing a lot of stuff I didn't want to do. So right now I'm doing everything that I want to do and nothing that I don't want to do. So why shouldn't I be happy and optimistic?

Q. Jimmie, I know you've been asked this a few times. There's been talk recently about how Kyle is able to drive the car into the corner maybe closer than other people, maybe a yard out. I was just wondering what he's able to do in the Car of Tomorrow?
MARK MARTIN: I've been out there, I've seen it.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I'm not sure and been asked on that. Kyle being, a teammate with Kyle, there are things that Kyle does with the brakes when I see him running fast ‑ which has been a lot lately ‑ I think it's tough for me to drive a race car like Kyle does. When I say he uses no brake, he really uses no brake.
We were at Charlotte testing one time and he left pit road, and the crew chiefs love to tell you you're driving it in too hard, get off the brake. And Chad's telling me all these things.
I finally got off the car and looked at the data of Kyle's brake trace. I thought the brake channel wasn't working, the computer wasn't working and something was wrong, and I thought he used the brake to come into the pits and slow down to come into the pits. So I thought, damn it, Chad's right.
So from that point when I see Kyle, I think because of the way he drives the car, the tire will only do so much. One, he's got a great race team, he's doing a great job. But he's been, I think, taking advantage of the grip of the tire and how it positions the car in corner entry without using the brake. He's not overworking the tire, the tire lasts longer and the tire has more grip.
I've been trying to adjust to do that, but it's tough. I'm one that sets the nose of the car with the brake. I help the car turn with the brake, and it's just the opposite.
As I think about those things, this car hates the brakes. It will not change directions with help, it has to do it at its own pace. So I think all those things are lending to Kyle's style and he's doing a great job of it.

Q. Will he be able to carry more speed into the corner?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, that's a deceiving thing. When I try to drive that way I, unfortunately, go to my same braking point. Just don't touch the brakes and go into the corner, scare the hell out of myself and don't make the turn.
So he's actually in most cases off a little sooner, but efficient in carrying good speed. It's tough to see with the naked eye, carrying good speed to the center of the corner. But when he gets to the turn, and the car goes through its transition, it's not overstressed. The tire still has the grip that it needs and the car changes direction and its right from the throttle.
From my standpoint watching him, I think he does a great job driving the car on the throttle loose. He can really control the car well up off the turn.

Q. You've touched on this on the grid or after your qualifying lap, but this place has been a mixed bag for your team. There have been times when this weekend has been one of the most unhappy weekends you guys have had all season, and then two years ago you won it. Has this place been kind of like†‑‑ do you had any explanation for that? Here you are sitting on the pole this year
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think a lot of it has to do with where our race team was coming into August or July/August, the summer stretch. You look at years past, got off to a good start. Everybody caught us. We were kind of revamping what we were doing and slowed through the summer months and got our stuff sorted out and got back to the front after that.
This year has been just the opposite. Off to a slow start and been improving our race cars each week. Learning how to drive this thing each week better and better. It's all coming to a head. I hope it continues into practice and on into the race. But so far this place has been good to us this year.

Q. NASCAR relies on youth and image seemingly more than ever to reach out to fans. What's it mean to you to come to one of NASCAR's premier events and have the success that you're having right now?
MARK MARTIN: You just don't know what it means to me to be competitive and drive a fast race car. The fan response is overwhelming. For some reason I just really have†‑‑ I think that a lot of your general race fans that aren't particularly my fans still kind of use me as a secondary fan because I'm the last of the gray hairs out there to some degree, you know?
I think a lot of fans that aren't kids can identify with that. You know, I certainly see a lot of Dale Jr apparel coming up with tremendous enthusiasm to me and getting autographs and stuff.
So I really to be honest with you feel like the only reason I know that some people might say that I have pretty good results on the racetrack, but I really truly believe the only reason I still have a job in this sport is because of the fans support. I'm still, you know, still supported strongly by the fans, and that is recognized by the sponsors.
Usually when you get to this stage in your career, it's hard to get sponsors to lineup behind you. And I've been really blessed in that respect.

Q. You had mentioned before you probably have a few things that at least stir a little bit of passion in your racing. Would you share any of those other sort of things that stir you up a little bit?
MARK MARTIN: Business aviation is something that I lay in bed awake at night thinking about. You know, different ratios, sometimes it's 50‑50, racing and business aviation. Sometimes it's, you know, obviously more racing, but I think about it a lot.
I do have a great passion for it. I don't understand how I could do it and not just run the bank account dry. I don't know. Business aviation is not something cheap. I haven't figured out how I can be a†‑‑ what I'd really like to be is maybe a demo pilot for a Cessna or the Citation brands and fly all the Citations and take passengers around.
Take a nap in the pilot's lounge while passengers were doing their things. Those things are kind of dark and cool. Those pilot's lounges. That's kind of cool. That would be something that might rival the racing thing for me. When I knew that I wasn't going to be able to drive a competitive car or be competitive with myself.
Obviously, I have great passion for my family, but that's a different kind of thing. You know, Matt doesn't race, so I don't have that to share with him. So I really can't think of anything else other than business aviation.
I'm not a sport flyer and into little airplanes and turning it over and all that acrobatics. I'm not into any of that. I'm into business jets. I'm into going from one place to another for business.
I'm not a sport flyer, like many people are excited and thrilled about that. But for me, I just really like flying jet airplanes.

Q. At Daytona you talked about going there in '83 when you didn't even have a garage pass.
MARK MARTIN: '84.

Q. Do you have any different kind of experience of that, a close call of anything here that when you come to the Brickyard it makes you want to win this race?
MARK MARTIN: Yeah, I've got a story. I'm not sure which year it was, but it was the year that Ricky won. We were in a battle with Jeff Gordon and someone else for the championship. I know it was early August, but you got to race every race like that.
That was late '90s, I guess it was. We had a history of running out of gas. Huge history of running out of gas, including running out with 25 miles to go running at Daytona. Thought we could make it all the way.
So when I passed Ricky Rudd, and I was running I believe third, I know Gordon was in front of me and probably the other car that we were worried about for the championship. A caution came out, and I had just passed Ricky. We were strong.
Those two pitted for gas. Jack said we could make it on gas, and Steve Neil's like, mm, mm. Jack says we can make it on gas. And Steve's like (imitating) and I'm like (imitating), I've run out at least 50 times, you know. So I followed those guys in, and Ricky won the race.
So, you know, had I stayed out, Jack swears we had plenty of gas. I don't know. But, you know, that was our win. If we could have. You know, we just had such a horrible history on gas mileage, and that continues right to Phoenix this year.
But that's my story. That's my story on here. That was our the race that the two guys pulled out with 15 laps to go or whatever. And no way anybody was coming from behind, because I had already passed Ricky and was driving on. But I was more worried about points than winning the Brickyard at the time. We see how that worked out for me.
HERB BRANHAM: I believe that was 1997 that year.
MARK MARTIN: Okay.

Q. What do you need from yourself, the car and the conditions in order to make your prediction come true tomorrow and get that win?
MARK MARTIN: I need to make absolutely no mistakes. I have to be on my game and make absolutely no mistakes. My team just needs to do their routine work on pit road. They are on it, on their game.
And the other important part of it is we need to get the car wired in in happy hour as awesome as it was today in qualifying. Then we need to keep it wired in tomorrow, and we need the strongest guys in the field to not get wired in better.
Then we need all those things I talked about. We need gas to not get in the way, because I won't have the longest gas mileage of people out there. So I don't think I'll win it on gas mileage, so we need to not lose it on gas mileage.
We need all the other scenarios to lineup perfectly so that somebody doesn't do something that puts them in a position†‑‑ you know, positions themselves ahead of us at the end and me not having enough race car to get by them. So you're asking an awful lot, and I realize that. I respect how hard it is to win these races.
This team needs, you know, and I don't†‑‑ I didn't feel like when I made this statement I didn't feel like Babe Ruth pointing at where he was going to knock it out. Maybe it was, but I didn't mean it that way.
But I did mean that we were going to come here and be strong. I feel like that no matter what happens tomorrow, I can half way save face on that because we were top 10 in both practices, and we qualified second. So, I think that prediction is coming true.

Q. You talked about†‑‑ actually you mentioned babe Ruth and you wanted to declare winning this race. What's that going to mean for your fan base?
MARK MARTIN: You know, to me it would mean a lot to my fans, and it would mean a lot to a lot of race fans. Because a lot of race fans that aren't my fans, you know, would be happy to see for me.
But I don't think of it in terms of what it would be for me or my trophy or any of that. When I think about it, I think about DEI and Tony Gibson and the guys, everybody at DEI. They've weathered the storm from this time last year, you know, with the merger. Because with Dale Jr's departure and all of that, they deserve a lot of credit for keeping that program together and keeping it strong.
I really feel fortunate to be driving their car. It could have definitely gone the other way. It could have all crumbled. They could have allowed it to crumble and they all could have ran for cover, but they just not to. They just to keep it together and be strong. I'm proud to be a part of it.
HERB BRANHAM: Mark, thank you, and thank you so much for coming back.
MARK MARTIN: Thank you, guys.



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