NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Southern 500 presented by GoDaddy.com
Topics: Southern 500 presented by GoDaddy.com
May 9, 2009
DARLINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
KERRY THARP: We're going to roll right now into your race winner for tonight's Southern 500, Mark Martin, driver of the No. 5 Cheez-It Carquest Chevrolet for Rick Hendrick Motorsports. We're also joined by his crew chief, Alan Gustafson.
Mark, your 37th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory, your second win here at Darlington Raceway. The first one came back in 1993. You guys were up here on Friday. You're back here now on Saturday night. Just your thoughts, your emotions about what was just a terrific display out there tonight.
MARK MARTIN: Well, I want to start by saying what an incredible privilege it was to spend time with the past winners. That intro, that was a very, very special time. David Pearson told me I was going to go out here and win this thing. David Pearson is the coolest dude ever. Cale Yarborough, so many of those guys...
I really do appreciate bringing that flavor back into our sport. We need to remember our heroes, and that's really special.
I'm overwhelmed, just totally overwhelmed. This is a little bit more special in some ways than Phoenix because I was just kind of spun out, I just couldn't hardly believe it at Phoenix. There was so much going on. It's soaking in a little bit better.
Also this win was pure race team and Alan Gustafson. As you guys know, I'm in my second childhood right now (smiling). Alan says that I was one of his childhood heroes. Well, the tables are turned now. He's mine.
It's early in the year. A lot of cool things could happen yet this year the way things are going.
KERRY THARP: Alan, talk about this race out here tonight. Certainly a grueling, grueling race. Only the survival of the fittest there. Talk about your race team.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, I'm really, really proud of our race team. I'm exhausted, man. I don't know how Mark does it. That's definitely the toughest race I've ever won, one of the toughest races I can remember running.
We weren't very good on Friday. Mark went out there and got us a good qualifying lap, salvaged a starting spot for us. But we knew we had a lot of work to do on the car. Just really proud of the guys. All the guys on the team, you know, especially the engineering staff, Chris, Lee, Clint, those guys, they jammed keys all night long. My wife let me work a lot and didn't give me a hard time. We made some adjustments that are really probably four or five times more than we would normally make on a race day morning. So really proud of all the guys for making those adjustments and getting it right.
It was a tough night. We ran up front most of the night. Had some lug nuts fall off, had to go back to the back, Mark drove his way back to the front, got stuck in the back again. Just glad it worked out. Extremely happy. Really proud of the guys. They earned this one. It was not easy for a second. Phoenix wasn't easy. They're never easy. Sometimes things seem to go your way, and nothing went our way. It was tough, except for the end, it went our way. It's really special.
KERRY THARP: Questions now for either Alan or Mark.
Q. Mark, the last time you won here 16 years ago I bet pit strategy was pretty much four tires every time you came down pit road. Can you just contrast how this track and the strategy behind it has changed. We saw no tires, two tires, people staying out tonight.
MARK MARTIN: That's very true. You know what, I lost a race one time putting four tires on. The caution came out, and we had the thing in the bag. I didn't think Darrel Waltrip was in the picture. We came in, put four tires on. He stayed out, it rained (laughter).
I tell you, yeah, we could figure out all kinds of ways to lose races, that's for sure. But, yeah, you know, this place was repaved, though, many years ago. The first couple of years it was similar to this. So the only thing that I will say about the paving is it seems to hang on a little longer than it used to. Other places as well. Charlotte has hung on, Lowe's, as well. It will eventually get back to the way it was before.
But, you know, tonight was a very frustrating night for many, many other drivers, including myself. My car felt like I was trying to race on ice. I didn't have the option to slide the car. And I like sliding the car. I like making the car do things by pitching it and slipping it and all that stuff.
But if you slip this thing, you're gonna get a piece of that wall. So, you know, we were very calculating starting on Friday. It was pretty cool what Alan said. We're going to set the car up to defend over here so you can do your business over there. I showed him where I liked to do my deal. That's what we did pretty much. We had a great strategy starting on Friday. Alan called a brilliant race I'm really lucky to be working with some of the brightest NASCAR's ever seen.
Q. You obviously are very happy. Could you talk a little bit about creating a very happy crowd out there.
MARK MARTIN: I hope they were happy. I sure was.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, I mean, I guess you might have heard it. I don't know. When you win, you're just kind of like, Wow, this is unbelievable.
But we can't do it without the fans. They're a huge part of what we do. We love the support they give us. They're really great to this sport. If they like your car or your team or not, the passion they have is unbelievable. We really feel privileged to be a part of it. If we made them happy, that just makes it that much sweeter.
Q. Mark, this is the first time since 1999 you've won more than one race in a season. You have two already in the first 11 this year. I know you've always talked in the past about cherishing each win because you never know when the next one is going to happen. With the way you're performing, can you start to get greedy? Is it easy to get greedy, start thinking about more and more wins in this second childhood of yours?
MARK MARTIN: You know, my answer to that is: be careful. Don't set yourself up. I'm just very, very happy right now, and I don't need to say, you know, we're gonna win a whole bunch more races this year. We're going to race just like we raced this race and all the other ones, and the ones we cross the line first, we'll take the trophy.
It could happen. But if not, at least we got two instead of one. That's the way I look at it (smiling). Don't take those kind of answers from me as pessimistic or a lack of confidence. All I want to do is be happy and have fun doing this. If you don't set yourself up for disappointment, then it's much easier.
You know, let's just go out, and I want to get the All-Star Race. That's one of my favorite races. I can't wait to get there. We're having a blast. I mean, we really, really are. I think we'll learn, as we experience the disappointments, to let those roll off our backs a little bit more. It was pretty tough on Alan and I. California was really tough. I think we grew a little bit through that experience. And Vegas was really tough. But I think we'd already grown some from the experience in California. That's the thing that we have to do.
It's okay to have the passion. It's okay to have the drive. But you can't let it tear you apart, you know.
Q. How did you avoid all the craziness out there tonight?
MARK MARTIN: Well, I felt like my car was about 50% or 40% out of control, so I didn't get very close to anybody most of the time (laughter). I was hating it, you know, on the restarts when we'd have to get all jumbled up there.
But, you know, Dick Trickle told me back in 1977 something that kind of irritated me. He told me, in order to finish first, first you must finish. What does that tell you? He wouldn't have told me that if I hadn't been wrecking. I was a young man, I was in the gas, knocking front clips off. He told me that, and that's the truth.
I guess some of those other guys haven't learned that yet. I guess that's okay, you know. There are a lot of people eliminated theirselves. You have to watch yourself if you want to survive conditions like were out there tonight.
Q. Alan, when you made the decision to stay out on the old tires, were you surprised that six other cars stayed out behind you also on old tires? Did you get a sense at that point you might have a real good chance to win the race?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: I wasn't surprised. I actually thought that more would. The way the race was going, there wasn't a whole lot of value in tires. You know, you could kind of see that with two tires, some of the varying strategies. Seemed like everybody was better when they were up front and in the lead. That was definitely an advantage.
I expected more to do it. We were really, really close to a fuel window. I think we were about six cautions away from making it on gas when we pitted. I think we got a couple of 'em right there on that caution. So I was a little surprised that more didn't stay out.
And then when we had a buffer, you know, that was good. But anytime you have Three Time right there behind you, that's not going to be an easy task. We knew he was going to be tough, but at the same time he's one of the best teammates out there. You have some comfort in that.
Then Tony came charging through there. We were concerned about Tony. He seemed to make a big run to third, then kind of stalled out. You don't know you win 'em till you win 'em. When we came across, that's when I really knew. Obviously with each passing lap, the opportunity and possibility got better.
Q. When you had the lug nut problem, could you talk about your conversation on the radio about being frustrated, trying to stay calm, work your way back up from the trouble you were in.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: I guess you're going to let me answer this one (laughter).
I was afraid to get on the radio at that time. So, no, the guys, knock on wood, our pit crew has done great. That's the first lug nuts that have come off this year. That's been a big problem.
MARK MARTIN: This guy right here was Kyle Busch's crew chief for how many years?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Three.
MARK MARTIN: He can take it (laughter).
ALAN GUSTAFSON: I was a little concerned. I told Mark, We did it to you, just bail us out. I tell you, that's really when I knew our car was pretty good because he came from I don't know where it was, you know, 25th or 24th to 10th quick. I said, Wow, that was impressive. He did, he bailed us out, got us right back up front. We're gonna make it up to him. I promise him that.
Q. Mark, for years and years when you would get into one of your hot streaks, you would always be very careful to admonish us that you didn't take anything for granted, that you treated every win as though you might not get another one. That kind of philosophy. Here I couldn't help noticing you talking about you can't wait for the All-Star Race, who knows what else could happen this season. Are we hearing a Mark Martin who has a whole different feeling right now than you've had either ever or in a long time?
MARK MARTIN: I am a different person. I still think that I'm cautious about what I set myself up for. But I know I'm gonna have some fun. You know, I mean, if everything turns into a disaster, maybe not. But then the next week we will.
I'm having a blast. I'm really, really having a blast. And I learned things all through my career. I never stopped learning. And I learned some really great lessons in 2007 and 2008. You know, like I said, yes, I'm a different person. Yeah, I'm still growing up, I'm still maturing.
Q. More optimistic than you used to be?
MARK MARTIN: I'm cautious. I can't expect results. I can't do that. Just like Alan says, I can expect the effort, and the effort's phenomenal. But you can't expect all the results to be like they were tonight, nor can you expect them to be like they broke our heart in California. But we have to control that. We can't let that be a negative charge in our deal when things don't go right.
Yeah, I'm optimistic because I'm happy. I'm having a blast. I can't wait. That's my favorite place, Lowe's. I'm driving a fast racecar, you know. I expect it will be fast there. We haven't had a slow one yet. This is fun.
Q. Alan, with your years in the organization, you have maybe as good a perspective. Tonight six of the top seven cars were Hendrick equipment. Certainly with what Stewart-Haas and Hendrick the last five or six races, domination. Can you put in perspective the depth of the Hendrick organization, even with Stewart-Haas. So many years there were one or two cars at Hendrick that were up there, a struggle to get the other cars up too.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: This is as good as I've seen us in some time. We're all pretty proud of that. We're proud of the effort and the work. It's countless hours from a lot of people. It's incredible direction from Rick Hendrick. It's Rick Hendrick going out and getting us Mark Martin to drive our car. That's awesome. Him having faith in us. We know what the 24 and 48 have done. They've had a lot of success. But we've worked hard. We haven't had the results in the 5 and 88 that we would have wished for, but we're working hard to change that. I think Mark's a big piece of that puzzle.
The depth you're talking about, there's an incredible amount of talent there. You know, it's hard in this sport to keep that talent and keep a budget and keep everything in check. And the reason that happens is Rick Hendrick. There's nobody else I'd rather work for. There's nobody else I want to work for. And I think there's 80 people in that 5 and 88 shop who say the same thing. I think there's 500 people at Hendrick Motorsports who say the same thing. He's really a special person, somebody you want to be around.
Stewart-Haas, they're really fortunate I think to have gotten somebody like Darian. It's not often that somebody will leave our organization because they want to be around Rick. I know Darian has a huge amount of respect and admiration for Rick. But I know Rick also will take care of Darian regardless of what happens. Stewart-Haas is fortunate to have a guy like Darian. I've worked with him a long time. I think he's as good as there is out in the series. He's going to win a lot of races. He's going to be tough to beat. That's obvious by the way they've run. Tony is a great driver. He's really special also.
That 39, you can't discount what they're doing. They had a rough start to the year like we did. Tony Gibson is doing a great job. Ryan is doing a great job. Ryan has had a couple off years and really looks rejuvenated, really looks good. He was really fast tonight. We raced him hard tonight all night long. Richmond was the same way. They should be proud of what they've done over there at Stewart-Haas.
I think the one thing, I say a million times, I'll say it a million times again, the one thing that all comes back to is Rick Hendrick.
Q. How come everybody but the winner gets out of the car all gassed after a race like tonight? When you're on the outside looking in, once you get inside a place like Hendrick, can you believe what you didn't know or appreciate about that team from the other side?
MARK MARTIN: Well, it was hot. But when you're leading a race, it could have been 200 degrees in there and it wouldn't have bothered me. It's especially hot when you have a bad night, a frustrating night, very irritating. But these guys have done a great job of making me comfortable in the racecars, an incredible job on the seats and everything.
When I go over there to that shop, I feel like I've gone to NASA and they're getting me prepared to go to the moon. I really mean that. They treat every little pad, every little detail, everything about it, the helmet, the shield, the air to the helmet, the cooler, the cooling, every piece of it is handled as if it was the most important thing in our race. It's just really, really cool. This is quite an experience for me to get to be a part of this at this stage in my career.
KERRY THARP: Again, congratulations. Just a great performance out there by this 5 team. We'll see you at Charlotte.
MARK MARTIN: Thank you.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Thank you.
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