NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: LifeLock.com 400
Topics: LifeLock.com 400
July 11, 2009
KERRY THARP: We're going to roll into our post race press conference. Tonight's race winner is Mark Martin. He drives the No. 5 Carquest/Kellogg's Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. This is his series leading fourth win of 2009. This is his 39th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory. Moves up to 11th in the points.
Mark, congratulations. Just another exemplary performance by you and your race team. You got to feel good about how things turned out there tonight.
MARK MARTIN: Thanks, man, I do. But this guy's birthday is going to be in a few minutes, so a slightly early birthday present. They have wore him out with champagne and Gatorade and everything else. I kind of feel sorry for him. I know he's going to be sticky and stinking going home, but that's how it goes.
KERRY THARP: Congratulations, Rick. In fact, it's past midnight, so happy birthday to you. This has got to be a good present for you tonight to see how this No. 5 team continues to show its determination.
RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, you know, I'll tell you, Mark put on an unbelievable performance tonight. To see him get four wins this year is pretty phenomenal. He's just an awesome talent, he and Alan, a great combination. They just get better and better every week. If we could just take out three or four of those real -- the two plate races and the three failures, we wouldn't be sweating this top 12 so much.
KERRY THARP: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. Talk me through the last restart. Why did you go with the high line?
MARK MARTIN: Well, I'm racing for my job. He tells me I got it, but he's gonna -- I've also told him he's in the clear to set me down, you know, when the day comes that I'm not getting the job done.
I feel the heat every day. I know the opportunity that I have driving Alan Gustafson's car and with this team. I feel good we're making the most of it.
The last restart, on cold tires if someone could get to your outside, you know, they would suck you around pretty bad. I think you saw that with the 83. You might not have saw it that much with me, the 48. He managed to slip me enough that I had -- you know, I couldn't beat him around there the first time. So the second time we went through there, I wasn't going to let that happen again. I almost wiped us both out.
I thought I had me a handful of wheel and was going to race him hard for it, and about slipped and wiped. With Jeff Gordon, new tires, put him on my outside, it was a risky move. Restarting and putting me on the outside of him was also a risky move because it wasn't my favorite place to be. But I thought, you know, I'd rather put him in that vulnerable position rather than me be in it. That was it.
Man, I don't even remember all the things that happened toward the end of the race. But with 15 to go, I thought we were gonna win the race if nothing else happened, but I knew it was going to be a long way. And, boy, it was. It was a lot longer than I thought it was gonna be, and eventful.
But, anyway, it was really cool to make a fan a millionaire tonight. It was really special. I'm glad Jeff got second.
Q. Going into 2007 you were starting to go into the part-time rides. Where do you see your career heading? Did you kind of see it going away? What did you see from your career at that point in your career?
MARK MARTIN: Well, I felt my like performance was already slipping in '05. In '06, I thought my performance was slipping. I didn't want to hang on my downward slide. I was really burned out and I needed a break and a chance to reevaluate things and a change of scenery. I got that break and I got that change of scenery in '07. Then I got another change of scenery in '08, and got some breaks. I drove a really fast car. That was the No. 8 car. Really fast. Had a chance to win a couple of races. Sat on the outside pole six times. Rick Hendrick, he wouldn't quit. Between the confidence that I gained driving the 8 car and Rick, I was persuaded to do it. And I can't believe what an idiot I would have been had I not. I had no idea it could be like that. Had no idea it could be this much fun.
And Alan and the team are a huge part of that. But Mr. Hendrick is a huge part of that, as well, his organization, the professionalism, the people, the way that they have treated me and my teammates, you know. The whole thing has been beyond my dreams.
KERRY THARP: Let's hear from Alan Gustafson. Four wins this season. You guys are just getting it done.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, it's really special. We're really fortunate. We had a really, really good Carquest Chevy tonight. Mark drove his tail off. The race was really perfect for us about 200 laps in or so. Then Jimmie, being the fierce competitor he is, there's a reason he's three-time champion, he knows how to drive that car and put it in places it needs to be. On the restart, I think he knew our Achilles' heel was going to be that we were going to be free to start. He exploited that, got on our right rear quarter and got by us.
From them on it was about a blur until three to go and we won. I couldn't tell you what happened on all the restarts, what we did. We were just working as hard as we could to get back up front. Mark's intelligence and patience showed through again when those guys got to racing really hard, I think he could have been right in the middle of that if he chose to. But he's really, really smart, knows what's gonna happen. He kind of backed out and drove on by 'em.
Q. Mark, you said on the radio, Tell me we won. It was so humble. You really sound surprised. With every position you went back and forth, it was like one spot out of the Chase, one spot in. Did you ever ask on the radio where you were on points all night long?
MARK MARTIN: Thank you. It is very humbling. I can't believe we won.
Q. Almost sounded like you were crying when you told him you loved him.
MARK MARTIN: I mean that, from the heart.
Let me tell you about the points. Tonight I leave the track in 13th. That's fine with me. It's just weird, okay? I'm not gonna let myself get sucked into all that. We were 13th coming here. What we needed to do was lead the most laps and win. No matter what happens going forward, I may change my mind later, but right now I'm leaving the track the same points position I was last week, 'cause it's just a rollercoaster.
I feel more solid and better about the effort that we've made. I can't do anything more about how the points have fallen. You know, we have had a horrendous number of, you know, really unfortunate situations. I will only be disappointed for these guys if we were to manage to not make it. It's very, very tight. It's very, very close. For me to get four wins halfway in was beyond my dreams. These guys deserve it, and I hope we do.
I think my attitude coming here was just fine. We're 13th. The only way we'll ever have a shot at it's to go lead the most laps and win. I think I'll go to the next race, don't even know where we're going, Indy, that's what we need to do at Indy as well.
For now, that's how I'm managing my head, you know, 'cause I really thought when we jumped up to wherever we were, eighth or ninth, wherever we were, several weeks ago, that maybe, just maybe, we would be able to breathe. And that was a mistake. Two horrendous races.
I'm not worried about it. You know, had we not won a race and we were sitting here right now, I'd be worried about it because we need to do something good. But we have done a whole lot of good.
I just couldn't believe it. Jeff Gordon flew up beside me like we were still racing. Damn, have I pulled off on the white flag again? What the hell is going on? I can mess up anything, you know. I don't know what I was thinking. I couldn't believe we won. I mean, it's incredible. It's hard to win these things. And I don't know how we won one, much less four. I don't know how we've done it. I know how these guys have done it, but I don't know how they did it with me.
Q. Mark, despite what you just said, your reputation for being a smart driver was on display the last 20 laps or so. With all the whacky stuff suddenly going on after a relatively calm race, did you feel like you were more or less in control of your own destiny there or not?
MARK MARTIN: You know, no. We were in control of our own destiny till they started wrecking. And you know they're gonna do it. They do it every race. I shouldn't complain because more often than not recently they've run the first two-thirds of the races nearly caution-free, and I should take that and be happy, because that's a lot better than it used to be a few years ago where it was just 15 laps at a time the whole race. So we get the long greens now, but you don't get 'em at the end, you just don't.
My forté is long runs. We had a spectacular car. The double-file restarts, and I don't mean this coy, but seriously when you think about double-file restart, what's exciting about that? What's exciting about it is you take the guy that probably earned a spot and you mess him up. That's kind of what it is a little bit, right? It kind of happened tonight. You know, you took the car that was gonna win the race for sure and you had a double-file restart and you took the car that was second and put him out front, and then you had another one, and I wound up in fourth or something.
So that's kind of what that whole thing is all about. So when the cautions start coming, you know, I cringe because I got the superior car on the long run and who knows what happens on the short runs. We didn't have very many restarts. I got great restarts every restart all night except for that one or two.
So I've got to be thankful for that. I've come out better on the double-file restarts this year, more pluses than minuses. So that's a good thing. But there's seven more races or something like that before the Chase starts. All that means to me is I'm likely to lose out more than I gain going forward. So that's why I'm just gonna keep the mindset. I'm gonna still think I'm 13th like I did here, because it seemed to work pretty good. I'm going to go to Indy and drive the fool out of that thing, just like I did this week. Hopefully we can do something the same.
Q. Rick, I think many of the pundits would have expected this organization would have won at least one race this year, maybe two. I think that's fair to say. We're at four now. What were your real expectations at the beginning of this season to what this team could really do?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, Alan and I got a glimpse of Mark Martin's talent in a Busch car, and we talked about it. I've said this many times. I don't want to repeat myself to all these folks that have heard it. But when you ask Jeff Gordon what he thought, you ask Jimmie Johnson, Can you get Mark to drive all the races? I said, I think so. He's awesome. And Alan and I, again, witnessed it, just knew you can tell when a guy is so smart on a chassis that he knows how to run a fuel run. I'll put him up against anybody I've had on a car, planning a full fuel run and tire run.
I just knew the two of these guys would be good. Mark's dedication and determination, the way he takes care of himself, you look at him after he got out of the car when he won Michigan, he was probably dryer than our other drivers, and he had no air-conditioning two-thirds of the race.
When you saw raw talent, you know if you put him in the right equipment, they can get the job done. I'm not surprised. I legitimately, Alan as a witness, he and I talked about it, Mark doesn't want to hear this, but I'm going to say it anyway, Alan and I said we can win a championship with Mark Martin this year. We said that before we started. We were confident we could win races. He's so smart and takes care of his stuff. The Darlington car didn't have a scratch on it. The only car in that race that came out of that race without the right side tore off of it. So he's a little bit more modest than we are about him. I think we felt that way early on.
Q. Rick, when we look at your organization, how dominant it's been, whether with your homeboys or the satellite organization at Stewart-Haas, the one thing is you choose your generals very carefully. Very little leaves your company as opposed to a lot of the back and forth that goes between the middle range organizations out there. Can you talk about your philosophy, how you choose people like Alan, like Stevie, get them young and train them, Chad coming back into Hendrick Motorsports. It seems like the information doesn't leave the building, which is why you keep getting stronger rather than depleting your resources by everybody finding out what your secrets are.
RICK HENDRICK: Our secret is people. It's pure and simple. It's talent. We've got a lot of young guys. We've got a lot of guys that have been there, like myself, for 25 years. You've got a guy like Alan that is as smart as anybody that I've ever worked with, that loves the company, and Stevie, and they've worked together and been together for a lot of years, and Chad. About five races to go, the end of the year, I'll start thinking about how to keep it all together for the next year, keep the momentum going, keep the guys building on the momentum we have. If you have a bunch of crack soldiers that go into battle, you got the best training, you got a plan on how to win, you know, the fit factor of trying to plug people in is one of the most critical things that we have to do in our organization. It's no different than Mark. Will they add to our company? Will it be a positive move for all the teams?
Alan stuck with us. He had tremendous offers. He never flinched. It's all about the human capital. It's not about money. It's not about anything else. It's about the folks that are working together, getting smarter together, getting a little bit better each week, and believing, like Jeff Gordon coming over to congratulate Mark. The 24 team got beat by the 5 team. The 24 team was out there congratulating these guys.
It's a sharing of information. It's working and not letting someone drive a wedge between 'em. I'm real proud of the longevity of our guys, guys like Alan, that have built the company. They've been there. They've never worked anywhere else. I hope it stays that way.
Q. Rick, since Charlotte, either your cars or the Stewart-Haas cars, you have a lot of people scratching their heads how to keep up with you guys. Is there a way to define how dominant your organization has been the last six to eight weeks? Is there a way to compare it to something? Do you feel you're as dominant as the records might show?
RICK HENDRICK: I really don't. I really don't feel that way. The 18 car and the 11 car were awesome at Daytona. The 11 car got up there tonight. I watched his lap times there toward about the 50 to go, 75 to go. He was really, really quick. You know, I hate to say we've been lucky in a lot of ways, but we have been lucky.
Alan, you might jump in here, but I don't think we're that dominant.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: I don't either. There's a lot of guys who have picked their performance up. The 9 comes to mind. He was really, really fast. He was fast again tonight. Juan. The 42. We lapped him when he was 26th. He was running really good at the end of the race. He finished 10th, it looks like. He's battling really hard and running good. It's tough.
If you take a break for a minute, these guys are going to jump all over you. I've never seen anybody dominate this sport since I've been here. You may have some things go your way and it looks like it on paper, but in reality I don't think you're dominating. I don't think we have that. I think if we have that, we're going to be real sad at Indy because they'll whip us. We have to stay focused on what we do. I definitely don't underestimate the talent we've got to race, the people they've got, the drivers they've got. I feel like we've got the best, but they're not far behind us. We've just got to keep pushing.
Q. Mark, do you feel 50? Does any part of you feel 50?
MARK MARTIN: I will in the morning. I don't right now.
Q. Do you feel it more the next day, the days after?
MARK MARTIN: Oh, I'm going to feel like hell tomorrow because I ain't gonna sleep much tonight (laughter). But that adrenaline is something, there's nothing like it. When I'm pumped up driving fast racecars, I certainly don't feel 50. But I do on Monday mornings, or tomorrow Sunday morning. It's going to be nearly daylight by the time I get home. I don't care. But that is certainly past my bedtime.
That adrenaline is something really, really special. These guys have made me feel really, really good and really special, even on the days when I stub my toe, they're the first ones to pat me on the back.
KERRY THARP: Gentlemen, congratulations. Great show out there tonight. We'll see you at Indy.
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