NASCAR Media Conference
November 12, 2013
AMANDA ELLIS: Gil, congratulations on the victory at Phoenix. This weekend's race at Homestead will mark Kevin's final race with RCR, and how do you approach this weekend knowing you have one last chance at winning a championship together?
GIL MARTIN: Thank you for having me. One of the biggest things we'll try to do is the same thing we did at Phoenix, our biggest objective is to try to win the race, lead as many laps as we can, and just collect as many points as we can because that's what we're going to have to do to try to have any shot of winning this championship because there will be things that are out of our control that we won't be able to do anything about. We've just got to try to get maximum points and go from there.
Q. Gil, we've heard talk this past week, after this past weekend's race from Matt and those guys about regardless of what happens, they've had a really good season, nothing to hang their head about. He's had a career high in wins. How do you guys look at the season regardless of how it turns out on Sunday? Are you looking at it as like we had a really good year, or do you look at it as a missed opportunity or what exactly?
GIL MARTIN: Well, the way I look at it is back in December when we got ready for this season, going into January, we set several goals for ourselves knowing the scrutiny we would be under with Kevin leaving and a few things like that, that we knew we would have to face each and every week. But still, through the course of the season we intended to win a race, get into the Chase and have a chance at the championship. That's all you can ask for.
But with that being said, to have the season that we've had with four wins and two non‑points wins, to be in the Chase and to have a shot going into Homestead, it's been a tremendous season.
As far as missed opportunities, I mean, yeah, you can find some points here and there, but quite honestly it's just been a tough act to follow with the numbers that the 48 has posted all year long. It's a great season, a phenomenal season, and the season we've had is something that we'll probably win many championships from here on out. It may not this year, but the way that we've run I'm extremely proud of.
Q. Normally when a team ends a season strong and everything, you talk about carrying that momentum into next year and building toward 2014. With you guys going through change, how does that impact what you guys will try to do?
GIL MARTIN: Well, I mean, the biggest thing that we'll try to do is just, like you said, try to carry this momentum because we're excited about how the season is coming to an end and how we've been able to run. But some of the things that this team will affect to do for next year is just to try to get another game plan because we're going to be going through a lot of testing with the proposed rule changes that's going on right now, just for 2014, and that's what we're going to try to focus on, to get ready for that.
Q. Talking about 2014, do you expect this whole group to be together in some form or fashion next year, or are you guys entering this weekend with kind of guys not really knowing what their future holds?
GIL MARTIN: No, this whole group will be together, no matter what happens. This whole group will be together. Looking forward to that, no changes internally on this team. I think that all that part will be a known, so we're looking forward to it.
Q. The Saturday of Martinsville weekend on Saturday night, did you think it would be possible to win a championship with all the turmoil going on?
GIL MARTIN: Well, I mean, this deal is tough enough, like it is, and obviously you don't want things like that to happen, but it did. But I felt like after several phone conversations and several face‑to‑face conversations that we would get right back on track. I never had the doubt about the focus of the team or Kevin once the race started. After the race was over, I felt pretty confident that we were right back on track right where we were at.
Q. At the end of the first season with the Gen‑6 car, from a crew chief's perspective and what you've got to do to adjust the car and all that, how do you rate how it's performed in comparison to the Gen‑5 car?
GIL MARTIN: Well, I think right now this car has still got a lot of upside potential. I think we've just barely begun to scratch the things that we can do with this car. Sometimes it takes a long time to find huge changes along with the car, but I think as the season has progressed, we've gotten much better with the car, and I think the garage has.
And then with the tests that we've got coming up in December, I think there's a tremendous amount of upside for what's going to happen with the future of this car. I think the racing is just going to continue to get better. I think the passing that you've seen this year has been on a high, but I think that's going to get to be a lot more because this car has just got a lot of potential that we really haven't had the opportunity to just completely iron it all out yet.
With the things we've got coming, I'm excited about it.
Q. I know you said that you guys want to go out there this weekend and lead every lap and win the race and all that, but are you in a position where you might get a little creative with strategy and you might go for the big picture, the championship, or do you look at this race as even a bigger fight with Matt Kenseth to take away at least that second spot?
GIL MARTIN: Yeah, obviously we can't do something that's going to be so out of the box that we jeopardize the fact that finishing third where we currently are or have an opportunity to grab second. If we're going to come up short in any kind of gamble, five, 10 points, 15 points, the gamble won't be worth it at that time. You're going to have to weigh it out on what the gamble is going to be worth.
Obviously even if we lead all the laps and are leading the race, Jimmie and Matt both are going to have to have probably something go wrong during their day. So at that point we would weigh out any options on any over‑the‑top type of calls we might make. Obviously we want to try to come out of there with a second‑place finish. If we can't do that we want to maintain our third. So we're not going to do anything to jeopardize that.
Q. For the past couple weeks the talk has been Jimmie versus Matt but you've been there and you obviously proved that with the win in Phoenix. Has there been any extra motivation in the shop, hey, we're still here, too?
GIL MARTIN: Well, there always is because everybody wants to feel they're worthy out there in this garage. It's a tough atmosphere and you want to go there each week thinking you deserve to be there and you want all your peers to think that you deserve to be there. These guys showed this weekend that they have tenacity and that they are more than willing to fight to the end to see if we can take the trophy home. I know it's a David and Goliath task that we've got ahead of us right now, but there's a lot that can happen.
Q. Gil, over the years we've seen kind of the championship contenders go and the drivers kind of playing mind games and poking at one another and things like that. Is there any gamesmanship that you expect between you three crew chiefs going into the weekend?
GIL MARTIN: Not really. I mean, I think we're all pretty familiar with each other, and we know everybody's tendencies and traits. But for the most part, the crew chiefs really don't have an opportunity to play any of those games. The crew members, they kind of do it I think a little bit to pass the time and just work with each other in the stalls. But I think it'll be business as usual for us. I know I will, I'll have a lot on my plate just trying to figure out‑‑ at least match what Chad is doing because of the fact he's going to be extremely prepared when he goes into this weekend. So we're going to have to be, too, so there won't be any time for that, really.
Q. Gil, I don't think anybody would have expected much if Kevin and you and the whole entire team had a lame‑duck season like it could have been, and yet it wasn't. It wasn't just business as usual, it was better business than usual, actually, or it seems that way with the wins and all. Was there anything that you can talk about that was different about the team and about Kevin that just said, well, let's get it done?
GIL MARTIN: Well, I think if anything, it's not just trying to prove a point, but everybody is trying to, quite frankly, we want to win the championship really bad. And we want to win races. In order to do that, again, you just can't have any distractions. This garage is full of distractions, whether it's the fact that Kevin is leaving or Budweiser was leaving or whatever the case may be, and you have to try to overcome those. It's hard to do because everybody else in the garage is trying to find a way to either bring you down or make it to where you're not a car to contend with that week because you've got 43 other guys that you've got to contend with. If you can bring somebody down by having drama stirred up around them, you're all about that.
It's a tough thing to do, but we want to try to send Kevin out of here with a championship, and quite frankly that's what we're trying to do.
Q. As far as the team goes, do the team members feel that, too, that they kind of overlook it and just get it done?
GIL MARTIN: They certainly do. I mean, they have to because you take‑‑ that's the good thing about having a lot of veterans on your team that have been there and seen all this stuff instead of a lot of kids who are inexperienced, because they can get distracted very easily because of just the things going on in the garage, and you listen to news reports or things going on on TV that can quite frankly‑‑ it can bring you down, and each one of you guys that travel each week with us for 38 weeks knows the drain this puts on you mentally and physically, so if you get caught up in a lot of that, it'll distract you and you'll make mistakes throughout the weekend. They've been able to shed away from that.
Q. I think it's safe to say you've got a Type‑A type personality for a driver and Kevin is sometimes volatile. Matt and Jimmie, I don't think you would say that about them. What to you describes the relationship or the adaptability to a specific driver's personality that a crew chief has to have to find success?
GIL MARTIN: I think that the driver and the crew chief have to feed off of one another. When Kevin has an issue at the track or with a car, it drives me to want to push our guys to fix the problem as fast as possible.
When you have somebody that's got a personality like that and as vocal as Kevin is and the way Kevin wants everything to be laid out perfectly, very meticulous, it's very easy for the guys to shut down on that and not function very well under a high‑pressure situation.
I kind of like that. I like the fact that Kevin pushes me and pushes us to be that much better each week, and I think with that being said, because he does that, when we stand up and we find whatever it is he needs, it pushes him again, too, because he doesn't want to be the weak link. So we continue to push each other each week, and sometimes the more controversy that's going on, it kind of helps that a little bit. It kind of fuels both of our personalities. Kevin is more vocal than I am probably, but on the inside I know what he needs and I know what he wants.
When he's firing off a bunch of commands, it's basically just letting me know an insight of what he needs, so it works pretty well.
Q. To follow up on that, you and Kevin have obviously been in championship points races from year to year, sometimes not. The 48 is there all the time. When you sit back and see that relationship, what about you stands out or what about that stands out?
GIL MARTIN: I think the fact that they endure the years together, that they stuck it out in the early portion of their career together, and that they were able to work through that and they've grown together. That's something that you can't replace. You can put a lot of guys together, you can put great crew chiefs and great drivers together, but if they don't know each other's personality and don't know what it takes to make that guy tick from weekend to weekend, it's a hard thing to do because you've got to know when to let your driver have his head about him and really complain in a car and you've got to know when to shut him down and know when he's gone too far. I think they know each other's personalities so good that they know when they can say something to each other that in a lot of cases people would tiptoe around.
I look at it as the dating stage, the holding hands stage that you have to go through with somebody new. They're past that. They know exactly what they've got to do each and every weekend.
Q. I wanted to ask you, I know you talked about the things that have helped you and Kevin do so well. What are the challenges, I guess, in moving ahead? Obviously the last preseason you got top‑three points finishes. What have you learned from this experience and how can it help you and your group moving forward as you're with somebody else next year?
GIL MARTIN: I think one of the biggest things is over the past 13 years of working with Kevin, we've built a database of things that we need to do at each individual track, and I think a lot of those things are going to come true and those are going to work with whatever driver is in a seat. And with that being said, I think our group being together, not having any change in personnel next year, that we'll have that known going into the season, too. So that's going to lend a big helping hand for what's going to happen next year.
We're just looking forward to it, and we'll see how it goes.
Q. And also I know you talked about the 48 team's success and the relationship between the driver and the crew chief. There are other teams that have those kind of relationships and don't have the success. Being a competitor, going against them, having the success that you guys have had, what kind of perspective does it give you on what that 48 team has been able to do year after year?
GIL MARTIN: Well, for everybody that's been in this garage, they know how hard it is just to physically run 38 races, much less do it at a level that they've done it at, to win championships, to win races over that extended period of time. That's a tough feat to follow.
We've been able to win several races in the past several years, and to finish in the top 5 in points, and I know what it takes to do that. It takes a supporting cast back at the shop that's tremendous. It takes an owner, sponsors and people behind you to put up a great deal of commitment just to keep that ball afloat. But for those two guys to be able to do it with different personnel that's been their supporting cast, they've had a lot of the same people I'm sure, and I can't really say how many people they've had or haven't had in their situation, but they obviously haven't all been there the whole time. Their personalities have led to putting the correct people in place to handle the jobs. Two guys can't do it all. You've still got to have a supporting cast. So I know they've done a tremendous job on that, and a lot of people in the garage try to emulate it.
Q. I wanted to follow up on something you said to me earlier. You said that after some phone calls and after kind of what you saw on race day that you had confidence this team could be in the hunt. I'm curious what did you need to hear in the phone calls that you made or what did you see during the race at Martinsville that convinced you that, okay, we can get through all this?
GIL MARTIN: Well, obviously after you have something like that happen, no matter what the situation is, with two parties, you've got to have somebody that's a mediator. So I tried to be a mediator in it and to try to do some things just to let everybody know that obviously Kevin wishes he hadn't said what he had said and wished it hadn't taken place, but by the same token after it is said you have to get everybody together and talk about it. It's one of those situations you can't stick your head in the sand and not address it. There had to be some conversations just to get things smoothed over, because like it or not, in this environment there's so much stress, so much pressure, you're going to do and say some things in the heat of the moment that you absolutely wish you hadn't said, and then you're going to have people who are going to stoke that fire and you're going to have people who are going to try to calm the waters.
Well, we had enough people try to stoke the fire, so all I was trying to do was calm the waters, making certain that when Kevin got in the car on Sunday that he knew the support was still behind him, the company was still behind him, and I think Richard relayed the exact same messages. I think as the race went on, Kevin became comfortable because he's extremely comfortable in the race car. I think when he gets his helmet on, a lot of the controversy that's going on outside of the car, he kind of puts aside, and I think after the race is over and going into Texas, I know there was a lot more conversation just to everybody sit down and talk and just forgive and forget at that point because with a lot of things at stake you have to do that, and quite frankly with everybody as close as they are in this garage, whether you work together or not, you've still got to be around one another, so it's a lot easier to put it to bed and be done with it.
Q. How much of the fact that you were still in the championship hunt allowed those waters to be somewhat calmed?
GIL MARTIN: Well, obviously that had a lot to do with it, also, because there's a lot at stake, not just for Kevin or anybody else, but we've got 400 employees here and a lot of sponsors and everything else. So you've got a lot of commitments that you have to make sure you stand up and do those commitments because people are looking for us to do the right thing each and every week.
Like I say, you have to find a way to put that behind you, resolve the issues and move on.
AMANDA ELLIS: Thank you for joining us today, and best of luck to you and the team this weekend at Homestead.
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