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January 20, 2017

Mark Martin

Charlotte, North Carolina

THE MODERATOR: Mark, congratulations, great job with your speech tonight. Mark, 40 career wins in the NASCAR premier series and 96 wins across all three NASCAR national series, won 49 times in what is today's NASCAR XFINITY Series, which was a record that stood for 14 years. Mark, tell us real quick if you would about this evening, what it means to you, and I know you're probably tired of talking about it, but one more time, recap it for us.
MARK MARTIN: Oh, I feel like I've had a cup of coffee or I've been playing some Gucci Mane. I'm wide open.

Q. Mark, you had said in your speech, if I understood it correctly, that Jack Roush gave you the second chance when you were looking through the fence. When you retired, you were 20 years with Jack?
MARK MARTIN: I raced for Jack I think either 18 or 19. It was either 18 or 19 that I raced for Jack.

Q. When you finally retired, didn't you come to your mind maybe the idea of opening your own team or start a co‑owner team with Jack?
MARK MARTIN: I owned my own team in 1981 when I did the five races, and did so spectacularly, and had owned my own team for several years. And so I went full‑time NASCAR racing in‑‑ the next year in '82, and I went broke, and I finished the year‑‑ the Hutcheson Pagan, that was the parts supplier, and Goodyear were very good people and let me race on credit. I was in the hole bad by the end of the season and had to sell everything I owned to pay them off, so I had nothing.
So to answer your question, no, it never crossed my mind and never will.

Q. Never will?
MARK MARTIN: No, I would not own a race team unless you gave me the money. I'm just not up for it. Number one, financially, it's a terrible business model financially. Number two, I did my deal for 40 years, and I'm all the way in or all the way out, and I can't‑‑ to win, the rest of my life would be sucked up like the past 40 years, and I can't do it. I don't want to lose my next 40.

Q. During your speech, you talked about your parents, your dad in particular, and I was wondering if you could retell the story, I'm remembering it way back then, about your first experiences with your dad teaching you how to drive on some of those old dirt roads.
MARK MARTIN: Well, you know, the speech was incredibly limited. It needed to be boring and 20 or 30 minutes, so I didn't get to elaborate on anything. But my dad was my hero. He taught me how to live, how to survive doing dangerous things at a very early age.
There's a lot of stories. There needs to be a book and a movie about my dad because he was a phenomenal guy that did stuff that no one could ever believe. People think you're telling stories when you tell the things that he did.
But yeah, I mean, I was‑‑ the story is, and it's hokey, but the story is we lived out‑‑ the dirt roads out around Concord, Arkansas, we'd get out in the old car, and I would stand in his lap and steer the car. We went fast, and I was pretty young. Those roads had one‑lane wooden bridges. They were short because they were just over creeks, but the road would narrow down to the one‑lane wooden bridge and widen back out, and I remember starting to cry as we're barreling toward the bridge and telling him I can't do it, and he said, then we'll wreck.
So I think that's the story you were after. That is the truth.

Q. After kind of going broke and getting fired as a Cup guy, you go back to ASA. Why keep racing? What was it about racing that said, okay, I'm going to still try to do this instead of maybe just hanging up the suit?
MARK MARTIN: Because racing was my passion. Because racing was my passion. The easy thing to do was to go to the trucking company that my dad owned and go to work there. I had no interest in that trucking company. The only thing I knew was racing.
So yeah, it was really, really, really difficult. I found an owner that was willing to build two ASA cars, and Ron Neal from Prototype was willing to put motors in them again. But the days of free cars were over. That's what Ray had told me at that time. So that's how far down I was.
So we didn't have much to go on, but I was very grateful for the opportunity to start back, build those two cars, and get one ASA win that year and win some other short track races and get my feet under me, and then the following year I got with Jerry Gunderman and Jimmy Fennig, and though we didn't win the championship, we won some races, a bunch of races, and did really well. And then the next year we won the championship, and Jimmy got offers to‑‑ Bobby Allison was after Jimmy to come crew chief his Cup car, and I got this offer to go full‑time Busch Grand National racing, and Jimmy is like, I'm not going if you're staying, and I wasn't‑‑ I didn't want that. I wanted Jimmy to go chase his dream and career, and I thought that Busch Grand National move was a fairly‑‑ was a lateral but a little bit of a step‑up opportunity. I still didn't have plans to come back to Cup racing, even when I took that job. But by May we won our first race.
The phone started ringing from Cup guys, and obviously I would entertain‑‑ but my heart was not set on coming back to Cup racing, it was set on establishing a solid career that‑‑ I had a family that I had to support, and I needed a solid career, and that's what I was doing. Jack Roush came along, and there the second chance was.

Q. You've talked a lot of times about how driven you always were. It seemed like a lot of times when you would win races, your emotions were more relief than joy in a lot of ways because you're already thinking about Monday and what we're going to do next. Was that essentially always the case for you through your last years in racing, or did you get to a point where you could really sort of relax with a win and enjoy it?
MARK MARTIN: I think I enjoyed the wins in '09 much more because I had put all that behind me. But through the ASA races, you know, I was a little bit that way but not terribly, but when I started racing the Cup races, as we went forward and we missed that championship, first of all, very disappointing in '89, we were actually second in the points going into the last race and blew up and finished third. That still pisses me off. You know, I know it's not a championship, but I'd rather have been second than third.
And then missing the championship the next year in '90. Every year we went forward from that, the pressure grew to get it done. I mean, I thought it would happen, but still, the pressure was there. There was so much pressure that I put on myself, you know, that I think it just sort of snowballed, and I got worse and worse and worse, and I just let it suck all the joy out of it. And I really regret that.
And so when I stepped away in '06, I never planned to run a full schedule again. I never planned to race for points again. I got over it and past it all. And the short schedules in '07 and '08 were fantastic for me. I had no intention of driving for Rick Hendrick. I told him no twice because I wouldn't run a full schedule, and then, you know, he's a car salesman, don't you? Car salesmen are pretty good, and that dude is pretty successful.
I got to thinking about, if I could just win one more time. And you know what happened. It was magical. And I never cared all year long about the championship. I mean, it did not faze me. Even though we led the points coming out of New Hampshire for the next week or two and had a great shot at winning it, I was‑‑ I would not ever let that suck the joy out of my life again ever. And so I was pretty happy.
We had the time of our lives in '09.

Q. You spent so many years thinking about nothing but racing. What does Mark Martin think about these days?
MARK MARTIN: How shiny can I get my motor home. I've got to get that trash and take it out. That lightbulb is burned out, dammit.
You know, I know I'm not an electrician, but that damned outlet don't work and I'm going to fix it because it's too much trouble to get a real electrician out here, so hopefully I don't get my hair curled doing this.
You know, I just do all the things that I used to pay people to do. I still go like hell every day. That's the same ol' me.
Yeah, I just really enjoy not‑‑ not having that laser focus. I'm still focused. Don't get me wrong. And I'm still OCD and I still run wide open, and I'm still odd about how I want things and all that. I'm still that same guy.
But you know, life is just a lot more serene for me now.

Q. Along those lines, I wanted to ask you, was it‑‑ even though you sort of eased out, you did come back and run the full schedule for Rick, but you'd already scaled back before that. Initially was it a difficult transition for you when you weren't going to the track any at all?
MARK MARTIN: No. It wasn't. I never missed it and have never missed driving the race car for the whole entire three years. I've never once missed driving the race car. I've missed the people. I've missed you guys. I've missed the garage, and I've missed the fans. But especially the garage and you guys because y'all were family for so long.
But I liked racing from the very start because I was good at it. I'm talking about when I was 15 years old. I didn't like racing because I liked driving, and I never gave a flip about driving a car fast. I never‑‑ I hated testing. Hated it. You know, I didn't drive race cars for the joy of going fast, man. It was to see that scoreboard, that car at the top of the scoreboard, and that's one thing that is really strange because that's the one thing about it that I know I'll never experience that feeling again. But when I stepped out of that car after every practice and saw that number at the top of the scoreboard, or after qualifying or if I was really lucky after a race sometime, that I can't describe to you what that meant to me.
I'm done giving what it takes to do that, so I care zero about going and driving a race car or testing a race car or driving a car fast. You know, come drive this Ferrari at the test track. Why? That's not what I do anymore. I'm really competitive, and I was pretty dang good at what I was, but what I did for a long time. But with me, if I ain't going to do it right, I ain't going to do it, and I can't do it right anymore. I did everything I could to extend my career as long as I could, and when I was done, I was done, and I haven't missed it‑‑ and I'm so blessed, because I know people that do. That doesn't mean that it didn't take me time to figure out my passion. You asked me what my passion is, and I give you no really good answer, but my passion is I get up and go like hell every day, and that's it, and I'm excited and happy about every day and the opportunities I have to spend time with family or do the things I do or make somebody happy, whatever it might be. I embrace every day with great enthusiasm like I did from '07, the last eight years I raced or whatever it was, after I put those points behind me in '06. I was a different guy at the racetrack. Everybody could tell it.
I'm that same guy now. I just don't drive race cars.

Q. When you left, you pretty much didn't come back to the track. Have you enjoyed this past year being with this process of coming into the Hall of Fame‑‑
MARK MARTIN: Yes. I know‑‑ when I tell you this, people are going to say, that's not right. It doesn't matter what's right or what's not. I don't feel like I have a place. I didn't feel like there was any place for me. What was I supposed to do, go to the racetrack and stand in the middle of the garage area with no‑‑ I mean, and I feel like now if I go to the racetrack, I kind of have a place. I still don't really have a place to go, but I can go in anybody's trailer and hang out. But I feel like I have no business at the racetrack anymore, so I was a fan, what I was to start with.
So yeah, this makes me feel like I have a place, a little bit of a place. But the thing about racing is when you step out, the hole closes behind you so fast, it's unbelievable, as a driver, as a crew chief, crew member, whatever. I'm sure even doing your job, you step out for very long, that hole closes, man. It ain't easy to get back inside. I stepped out, and the holes closed, and I just‑‑ I embrace this opportunity to represent the NASCAR Hall of Fame because it makes me very proud that we have this because of how important it is to me to know the full story about Raymond Parks. I knew who he was and whatnot, but I know the full story now.
So for a guy who's been here for so long to learn that through this process, just think what it's going to do 50 years from now, how important it's going to be. It's the only way that our grandkids are going to have any idea where this sport came from. It's an honor for me to help promote that to our fans today, how important it is to our fans.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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