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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Subway Fresh Fit 500

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Stock Car Racing Topics:  Subway Fresh Fit 500

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Subway Fresh Fit 500

Alan Gustafson
Mark Martin
April 18, 2009


AVONDALE, ARIZONA

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined in the in-field media center by tonight's winner of the Subway fresh fit 500, driver of the No. 5 Car Quest Kellogg Chevolet, Mark Martin. Mark, tell us about your run.
MARK MARTIN: Man, that was, that, was pretty awesome. Great, great race car. Great pit stops. Great strategy. There was a lot of pressure on both of us, and I really, truly believe that it will be a little bit easier for us going forward. Maybe not for Alan, I don't know, but for me, I've carried a lot of weight, you know, on my shoulders. I really, really, really wanted to do this. I really, really, really wanted to win.
You know, I couldn't get my fingers -- we have had Top-10 cars every race, but I couldn't get my fingers out there and get them around a win, and the performance yesterday in practice was something that I said, maybe this is it; it's better. I liked the car better than the other places that we've been.
So I think it's going to really make it even more enjoyable. I've had a blast already. This is -- I don't know. It's overwhelming. You know, I don't know. This is very, very overwhelming to me.
I hoped it would happen. But I didn't expect it to happen. I only hoped. It's a stretch. But Rick Hendrick, you know, I sat and watched him make Tim Richmond's dreams come true from being sick, and this may not be as dramatic, but big to me.

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by tonight's winning crew chief, Alan Gustafson. Alan, tell us about your view from on top of the box tonight.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Well, like Mark said, it was a great night. To win one of these races, it's really hard, and a lot of things have to go your way, and all of the work has to kind of culminate at one time together. Fortunately for us, it did. I'm just really proud of Mark and all of the guys.
The start to our season wasn't what we expected, and I don't think in my eyes it was what we deserved. But tonight, I'm just really proud for all of the guys and Mark and Mr. Hendrick for supporting me. We had a dismal season last year, and he never had -- his faith never wavered on our team, and what we need to do to win. And I just want to thank him. We could not do any of this without him. He's just a really special person.
It was just a great night. Pit stops were really good. Mark's qualifying effort really helped us with the pit stops and we had a good car, but Mark Martin is the one what went out there and did it for us; he did it Friday night and he did it tonight.
To touch on something Mark said, I made a pact with myself: If I'm lucky enough to have Mark Martin drive my car, I'm going to win. So it's nice to get that done this early.

Q. As you're driving around there on the post-victory lap and the fans are right there and they are lining the fence and flash bulbs are popping and they are cheering, what was that like looking out at them, what kind of things did you see and hear and feel at that moment?
MARK MARTIN: It was -- you know, it was pretty -- I wasn't going to do a burnout, but it was pretty incredible. It came to me, usually I'm all preoccupied with all kind of stuff, but it came to me immediately. I actually had quite a bit of thoughts about Alan, you know, and where he might have been in front of me if he would have still been around tonight; what an incredible competitor he was.
So I thought about that. Obviously enjoyed seeing the enthusiasm from the race fans. But you know, the response from the competitors means much more than the trophy, and that was an incredible -- really, really incredible, from all of the crew guys to all of the guys, including Jack Roush, who seemed genuinely happy. And Jack and I are at tight as we have ever been and have been through all of this.
I'm still a huge fan of Jack Roush's and he's still a huge fan of mine. So that was good to see. And then all of the drivers, you know, and the crew. It's just, like I said, I hoped it would happen, but you know, it's asking a lot, man. These things are hard to win. Alan told you, you know, it's hard just to make a car good enough to win, and then it's like ten times harder to win one on top of that.
So it's cool. It's a cool night.

Q. So with like 30 laps to go, we are going through the record books, everybody is scrambling to find age charts and everything. You are the third-oldest driver in NASCAR history to win a race and only before tonight, only three drivers 50 or older had done it. So tonight, how old do you feel? You don't eat In-N-Out; you haven't been in Burger King in like 15 years; Kurt Busch read your book, Strength or whatever.
MARK MARTIN: I feel fine right now, I tell you. (Laughter) I told the guys in victory lane when they asked something about that, it was like, you know, I don't have any problem keeping up with a 25-year-old, at least not for the next 15 minutes, because I have got the biggest shot of adrenaline that you've ever seen.
Feel really good. I've been so incredibly blessed. I was really happy in 2008, and have been even more happy in 2009, and I didn't think that was possible. I am in a different league stress-level compared to last year. But working with these guys puts so much more fun in the factor that it overcomes the stress level of, like you told you guys, measuring up, measuring up to myself. I don't want to let anybody down, especially Alan and that team.
You know, I've wanted the effort -- or I've wanted the result, you know, to equal the effort on their side and on my side. We didn't just fall into this one. It was cool. That's the way I want to win right there, not stumble around and fall into it. Man, go out there and take it.

Q. Does he drive like someone half his age?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Age is irrelevant with Mark. You hear his age come up and people ask me a lot. If I've been asked one, I've been asked a thousand questions about Mark and Mark's age, and I can tell you, I don't even think about it. It doesn't even come into the equation when I talk with him and work with him and when I'm around him. It's irrelevant with Mark.
Mark's enthusiasm, his energy, his drive; you know, he has more drive than any other person I've probably met in my life, make up for anything, any other shortcomings that he may have, which are very, very, very few, if any at all. I think that's irrelevant. He's incredible. He's as good as any of them, and you can't say enough good things about him.

Q. After your last green flag stop with like 52 laps left, they tell you you have enough gas to make it --
MARK MARTIN: And I asked three times, four.

Q. You come on and say, oh, boy, we are in trouble if it goes all the way.
MARK MARTIN: No, it's so loud, you can't understand. I think I said, "They are in trouble."
Our stuff was right. They were in trouble if it went all the way. But I know where you're probably going here. And let me just tell you, I knew for positive it wasn't going to go all the way. That was way too easy. It ain't ever been easy and never will be for me. I knew for positive.
And I also knew that there was the old comments that comes out, and you guys claim I am, I never thought I was going to win. I finally thought I was going to win when I got to the white flag, and when I got -- when he said two to go, I ran my guts out. I had to hurry before they had them a wreck. So these things are hard to win, man.

Q. You did have the caution, as you said, right there almost at the end of the race. Were you like, I'm going to get by Ryan at the very first opportunity? What was your game plan?
MARK MARTIN: Tony Stewart, I've seen that dude in action on the restart. Wheww, he can do stuff. I knew it was my opportunity to lose it, and I also knew that Ryan, you know, he couldn't just quit. I mean, he knew he was done for, but he still had to do what he had to do.
So, you know, we were in a pickle there. I really -- it really would have been so much easier if Ryan had not been up there. That was my perfect opportunity to stumble, and of course, with better tires, I could accelerate better, and we accelerated and the got the run at him. Everything was perfect. I looked to the inside. He started coming down and I couldn't lift. I had to make a change, quick, and we did. I could not afford to skip a beat.
I've seen Tony in action, man. I couldn't afford to; I had to go. And I'm really fortunate that it worked out. He looked low, he went in the corner and slid up some, but our car was really spectacular the last two runs of the night.
Alan did good. I gave him an opportunity to -- I don't always give him free reign to make adjustments. I kind of gave him opportunity the last couple of stops, and he made the right calls, and our car was rocket ship the last two runs.

Q. This is the fifth consecutive race at Phoenix won by Hendrick Motorsports, other than the great job from the drivers and the pit crews, is there anything specific that you can tell us that Hendrick Motorsports crew chiefs have found on setups here that would point to five consecutive wins at this track?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: I don't think that there's anything specific. This was a track we actually did not have a very good record at up until a few years ago. I don't know exactly, but I think Terry may have won a race here a while back, and we won with Kyle in 2005 and I think at that time that might have been our only two wins here.
Jeff won, I don't remember, might have been the first COT race here or might have been one of the first COT races here, and I think the COT, we jumped out with a good program here. And any time you have success that kind of validates what you're doing, and Jeff won that race; and then Jimmie and Chad have been really dominate here.
So I knew coming into this weekend that what the baseline that we were going to have to beat was. We weren't scrambling or guessing what you have to do to win, because Jimmie has won so many races. So we knew that's what we had to beat; so we could look at that and evaluate it and try and make it a little better, and fortunately for us we had Mark Martin driving our car and that helps, too.

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.



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