NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Chevy Rock & Roll 400
Topics: Chevy Rock & Roll 400
September 12, 2009
KERRY THARP: We are joined by Mark Martin, Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch. Congratulations to all three. Mark, you are seeded first in the Chase with 5,040 points. Kurt Busch, you have 5,010 points seeded 7th and Ryan Newman, you're seeded 10th. Your thoughts heading into the Chase with the No. 1 seed in.
MARK MARTIN: Well, that's certainly cool. I'm certainly going to enjoy that for a week here. I feel like a whole new person, huge weight off my shoulders. It's just like I said before, to make this thing is the icing and now we get to go race for the cake.
Of course, I'm living in it now, but to me, this is certainly the best year of my career, the most fun, and since Chicago, some of that fun has been sort of smothered out by all of the pressure. We are in, we are out, we are in, all that. But the thing that I'm excited about is our race team has been so strong since Chicago. The cars have gotten better and better on the racetrack, and Chicago, Indy, Bristol, Michigan, and here, I don't think we ever ran outside the Top-5, and those are the kind of race cars and the kind of effort that you have to give to be a championship contender. So we'll see how things fare here.
But anybody in this Chase can win this Chase. Every team that's in it is capable of putting together a ten-race row. That's all it takes is the magic ten races, and anybody can win it.
KERRY THARP: Ryan Newman, your thoughts about getting into the Chase your first year with Stewart Haas Racing. Congratulations.
RYAN NEWMAN: Thank you. It's a dream come true, to think back to Daytona going through basically three race cars and make it to Richmond here and be in this position, it says a lot about the hard work that Tony Gibson, Tony Stewart and everybody at Stewart Haas Racing has put into this effort.
People say it looked like a risk to leave Penske Racing but to me it looked like an opportunity. Yeah, there was risk associated with it but it was an opportunity. I'm extremely gratified to be in this position. Everybody is going to be working their hardest to do it and only one can win it. We will do what we have to do and I'm so proud to represent U.S. Army and knowing that I'm driving for over a million solders fighting for our freedom and this is a win for them, too.
KERRY THARP: Your thoughts about being in the Chase and being able to contend for your second title.
KURT BUSCH: It's a fantastic opportunity to be able to work yourself through the regular season and to get into the Chase. It's a sigh of relief, but at the same time, it's an opportunity. We now have that in front of us. To have our cars run with the strength that we had in the beginning of the year, and then to plateau a little bit, it feels good to finish off strong, especially at the most recent short tracks like Bristol and Richmond.
So the confidence that it gives the crew and the team to know of all the changes that we have made this of off-season and to put a car back in the Chase; it's my second out of four years at Penske to do that, it's huge. Roger Penske is ecstatic, all of the top guys; it's amazing, the feeling you get when you do something special. We did that but we cannot stop at just making the Chase. We have to continue to push forward and to attack at the tracks that we are going to be good on and continue to advance our program on tracks that we think we might struggle. And so a great day for Miller Lite and Dodge and everyone associated at Penske Racing, feels like we are back in the game.
Q. What's the overwhelming feeling right now? You ran in the Top-5 all night. Were you thinking something might jump up and hit you?
MARK MARTIN: I was happy about that but we did the same thing at Atlanta and the same thing at Bristol and we did the same thing at Michigan. But now, you have to remember, at Michigan, we ran out of gas at the end, and that took our cushion that we were building up; we did the same thing at Indy, as well.
So that kind of performance is really exciting. And when we started off the year, we were running sixth and seventh and stuff like that, and I was really pretty excited about that. But you know, we needed to make our stuff a little bit better and we managed to do that. And the cars were better everywhere we are going now, we are making them handle better.
Make no mistake, Alan Gustafson is the reason we have had all of the success that we have had this year; I am not. It's Alan.
RYAN NEWMAN: Maybe a little bit, Mark.
MARK MARTIN: Our chance, our opportunity to work together, is really coming together. And I trust him to make decisions on that race car that I don't check behind and I don't ask questions. I just strap in and mash it.
Q. How much better can you get performance-wise?
MARK MARTIN: I don't know. How would I know that? We'll keep working and see. We'll see what happens.
Q. Kurt, your little brother gave a good shot, but fell just eight points short. Have you had a chance to speak with him? How do you kind of feel to know that here is a guy with four victories that could not get in the Chase.
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, when I did hear that he didn't make it, I slid down and sat next to my car and thought for a moment what eight points means in this sport. And I was on the fortunate side of winning the championship by eight points back in 2004. And to see my little brother not make it, it's devastating.
You always hope you have the most bullets in the gun for the Busch family for a shot at winning the championship but they had a great start to their season. They won at tracks that you expected them to win on. And then they struggled at tracks that we didn't expect them to struggle. And so eight points for him is tough. His sun will rise again, though. He will have a shot at coming back, and their season is not lost. They are still going to be one of the toughest guys to beat for wins week-in and week-out, now that he's not even running for points, which fits his mentality. So this could be a good lesson learned that you don't have to win them all, but you have to run consistent. I'm sure he's been told that a hundred times.
But it's just tough to see the kid not make the Chase.
Q. With your team early in the season, consistency seemed to be a bit of a factor and like you said, you talked about since Chicago, for the most part you guys have been pretty strong. What have you seen in the development or the progression in the team to where you are building on that consistency which everybody thinks is going to be the key for the Chase?
MARK MARTIN: You use the term consistency, but it's not fair. We didn't run bad; we broke. We didn't blow engines, we blew a tire. We fixed our engine issues, two different issues at two different racetracks and we fixed those. I can break a nail in the sand bed, Yates figured that out and Jack figured that out and Yates figured that out when I started running their stuff and it has to be pretty bulletproof for me to not break it. We got through all that stuff.
And then we got caught up in a couple of wrecks and performance has been consistent and gotten better. So can I guarantee you I won't have flat tires and run out of gas, or whatever, or wrecks? I can't tell you. That's what the Chase is all about. We'll go out here and we'll race and we'll see who does what. But I can tell you this; in my opinion, we can go racing next week and know that we can have a bad day and still have a chance. If I had a bad day here, we wouldn't have a chance. And that's the difference.
Q. How hungry are you for this championship, because this looks like this might be your best chance at getting it finally after all these years; just how hungry are you?
MARK MARTIN: Well, I don't know how to answer that right now. I'm not really thinking about it. It's not something that defines my career. I didn't take this job to win the championship. I took this job to drive a fast race car and hopefully win a race. And you know, I don't think you can will your way to scoring points. I tried that, for 19 years. I tried to will my way, will more points than we were scoring on the racetrack, and it never worked. And it was very frustrating.
So what we will do and what I will do is do my very best, I'm a really intense person, I'm really competitive, and I will give every ounce that I have at it just like I do every time. And we'll see how it turns out. You know, I'm proud to be driving for this race team. Alan Gustafson is the key to all of the success I've had this year.
Q. Was there one defining moment in the first 26 races, something that just kind of turned the season around that? Hendrick thought it might have been at Darlington.
MARK MARTIN: Darlington was nice. I thought Phoenix was overwhelming, the realization of a dream; how long it had been since a won a race. A lot of people questioned whether I would win another race. I certainly questioned it myself.
I don't know. I thought that Phoenix win was pretty special myself.
KERRY THARP: Thank you very much, Mark. Congratulations.
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