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August 22, 2009
KERRY THARP: We'll roll into our post race here for the Sharpie 500. Tonight's race runner-up, his one thousandth career NASCAR National Series start, Mark Martin, driver of the No. 5 Kellogg's Carquest Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Also joining him is our third-place finisher, Marcos Ambrose, with a career-best finish of third in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event.
First we'll go to Mark. Certainly had a very strong car tonight. You led a lot of laps. Moved up a couple spots in the standings. Your thoughts about how tonight's race unfolded.
MARK MARTIN: Well, you know, I'd first like to say that it was incredible what the fans did here tonight. In my opinion, a thousand starts ain't no big deal. But what they did made me cry. It's pretty cool. Almost get emotional thinking about it again.
I love this sport as much as they do. I'm so grateful to have a chance to do what I did tonight, which is drive a really fast racecar and finish where it was running. We've had so much trouble this year, not finishing like we ran. It was cool.
Yeah, we ran second, but I bet we had the fans on their feet those last few laps. You know, that's cool.
KERRY THARP: Thank you, Mark.
As I mentioned, Marcos Ambrose, an outstanding performance tonight. You were up there all evening long. Your thoughts about the race.
MARCOS AMBROSE: Just a wonderful night for me. My first year in the Cup Series. To be racing with Mark in his thousandth start, racing with Kyle Busch, who will probably go down in history as one of the best of all time, I just feel privileged to be out there and running with them.
Great day for me. Great night for my sponsors. Just really thrilled. First-year team, first-year driver. To be running up there like we did tonight is pretty special. Dale Jr. behind me, Greg Biffle beside me. I am good friends with Greg. If I was doing the wrong thing by Dale, I was going to get lynched by 50,000 people trying to get out here. I didn't want to mess him. I wanted to race him hard. I wanted to race him. You know you're in very special territory up there.
I'm just thrilled to be up there and thrilled to finish like we did with good car speed. Didn't have anything for Mark and Kyle, but just a great night.
KERRY THARP: We'll start with questions.
Q. Marcos, the last place people usually get good is on short tracks. You can win on road courses, you can finish near the front on a short track near Bristol. Where can't you do well?
MARCOS AMBROSE: I don't know why I've run so well here. Both races we've done really well. I just try to drive the racecar. I don't do anything but rely on my instincts, try to drive around the track as fast as I can. I just love Bristol. I love NASCAR. It's the best form of racing I've ever experienced. The cars are hard to drive, way too much power, not enough tire, not enough brakes. It's a real challenge to survive out there. We're doing it.
I don't think there's any track we can't do this. I've had trouble at places like Michigan and Atlanta, those tracks, but I'm not sure whether it's me, I'm not sure whether it's the way I'm trying to set them up. I'll work it out over time. I just want to be here for the long haul. I want to be here again and again and again because I just love NASCAR. I feel privileged to be in the sport. I just love every lap that I do.
Q. Mark, your philosophy on last laps. Quite clear you were not going to make contact. How do you not go back and wonder about all the races you could have won had you used your bumper?
MARK MARTIN: If you watched that race real close, I didn't need to use the bumper. Kyle gave me all the room in the world to make that pass, and I didn't make it. That's one thing.
If somebody abused me enough to really, really irritate me, I might use that bumper. But Kyle gave me all the room in the world. It's a good thing because I was over my head when I went in that corner and I got loose. If he'd have been crowding me, we both would have went up to the wall. I'm really grateful for that.
He raced me like a good sport. When he's behind me, I will be comfortable that he will race me the same way that I raced him. I can't say how he might race someone else on the racetrack because they may have different history. But I feel really, really good at night when I go to bed. I have managed to win a race or two, and none of 'em did I have to pull something dirty.
Q. Mark, on the restarts, the race leader can get on the gas well before the start/finish line. You're second. How much of a disadvantage is it that you can't pass him before you get to the start/finish line?
MARK MARTIN: Well, the double-file restart, I mean, you can't start picking that apart. No, I wasn't in the best line the whole second half of the race. I was always on the inside. So that was a disadvantage. Probably not as big a disadvantage as single file and lining up behind the leader. Maybe it was because there was one instance where I lost second place, you know, because I was on the inside. But that's the breaks.
We raced really hard. Anybody that thinks that I was soft out there on the racetrack tonight wasn't watching. I raced my guts out. And my team gave me an incredible car. We made a race out of it.
Q. Mark, not only did you get out of here unscathed, you nearly won the thing. You gained 48 points in the big picture tonight. What is that sense of relief tonight?
MARK MARTIN: It's not enough. But it's much better than last week (laughter). I really, really would be a lot more comfortable with 150. And we had that leaving Indy. Everything turned upside down. We will be fine if we finish how we run, absolutely.
But, you know, I don't have the greatest of confidence that, you know, the things we can't control are going to be kind to us because we haven't had an average year for those things. It hasn't been average.
Anyway, I'm sure that we'll run really good at Atlanta and I'm sure we'll run really good at Richmond. You know, if it comes down to just flat-out racing, and not a bunch of, you know, cautions and crashes and flat tires, people stay out, all that mess, rain comes, all that stuff that's happened to us this year, if we can just go out and race for it, it's going to be great.
I had a good time tonight. I had a really great racecar. I felt that that was a great battle right there at the end with Kyle. He didn't even attempt to pinch me, crowd me or anything else. He gave me more than enough racing room to pull it off, and I just couldn't get it done on the bottom that quick. We weren't that much better. We were just pretty equal. I got a good handful of wheel and managed to get beside him and get the fans on their feet.
Q. Marcos, when you first came over here, you had some struggles in the Nationwide Series. Tonight is further proof you've definitely made it. When did you realize this thing is going to work for me? What are your expectations moving forward now?
MARCOS AMBROSE: I don't feel like I'm comfortable. I don't feel like I'm safe in the sport, I don't. Consistency is an issue for me. I have good runs like this and then I'll back it up like last week and run 35th. I don't feel secure. I feel privileged to be driving for JT and Tad and Jody Scheckter. They have given me a chance of a lifetime and I want to pay them back as much as I can. We're just thrilled to be in the sport.
Like I said, I didn't ask anything from anybody. I didn't expect to be given any breaks. I didn't want any special treatment. I knew I had to learn from scratch, fight my way up through the categories. I've finished top 10 both years in the Nationwide Series with a limited budget against the big Cup teams. Really proud of what we've done. We've kept growing, kept moving forward.
We haven't finished. We announced a wonderful sponsor today in Kleenex. In a time where sponsorships are dropping and teams are reducing what they're doing, we're growing. It's just very exciting time for us.
Q. Marcos, next to last restart it looked like you bobbled a little bit. What did you learn from that to pick up on the last restart? I checked your car. It's very clean. How much does that play into making 500 laps here?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Well, I just got greedy on a couple restarts there. I wanted to win the race so bad. 850 horsepower, hot tires, a concrete track. I just got greedy on the right foot and spun the tires. Last restart I just tried to baby it to make sure I just solidified my position. Managed to get past Greg on the inside there. He was pinched down. That's all I needed to do.
I'm learning as I go. When you get an opportunity to run at the front like that with six laps to go, you can't learn that anywhere else but when you're out there doing it. You're up against the best. When you make a mistake, you're exposed. But really proud to have finished third tonight and had a good last restart.
I just tried always to keep my nose clean. I don't want to ruin anybody's race. I want to race as hard as I can. When my night is on, I'm going to race as hard as anyone and take those chances, try to do it clean. I did it at Watkins Glen on Kyle. I did it tonight. Hopefully I'll do it next week at Montr√É¬©al.
When I get my chance at the front, I try to do the right thing. I try to race 'em hard but fair.
Q. When you see Kyle Busch, looking at his record here, running third, what goes through your mind in terms of wondering what is he going to do, how is he going to do it?
MARK MARTIN: You know, all those guys out there are incredibly talented racecar drivers. Kyle's driving personality isn't that different than a number of others that I was racing with. We're racing, going for it, you know. I expect Kyle to race me hard. I expect him to race me clean. And he has. He can expect the same from me.
Q. Mark, why do you think the fans here loved you so much and hated Kyle so much? What was it like toward that end with those two things colliding?
MARK MARTIN: You know about Kyle. You don't need me to say anything about that. He has won a lot of races. I'll tell you, anybody that wins a whole lot gets booed. Jeff Gordon never did anything, in my opinion, to get booed. And he got booed a lot because he won a lot. That's part of the sport. Kyle's incredibly talented and he's won a lot. That's part of it.
The other part is he's kind of antagonized his detractors, as well, which doesn't help any either. I don't know why they were so kind to me tonight. Maybe they realize that the reason that I've been around for a thousand races is because I love it as much as they do.
Q. Marcos, you probably could have finished anywhere from first to 10th tonight. You talked about spinning the tires on one restart. How do you balance what you can and can't do in situations like this where you have to have patience?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Well, racing is about controlled aggression. If we all go out there full of testosterone, none of us will ever finish. There's a million ways not to finish a race.
I just try to control my aggression as best I can and keep a level head and to race fair. That's my goal. When I came into NASCAR, I promised myself that I'd be happy every day, just be happy that I'm here and racing. I want to go to bed and wake up the next morning, not regret anything I've done. I've learnt from experience. Sometimes gone out of my head and done things in retrospect you shouldn't.
Like I said, it's my first year. I've got to be very careful about the legends of the sport that I'm racing around and respect them. I think that's a big key component of it, is respecting who you're driving against. You're driving against the best in the business who have built this sport, who continue to grow it. I'm just happy to be part of the scene.
Q. (No microphone.)
MARK MARTIN: I didn't catch that completely. When you guys watch that race, you don't know how over my head I am to be there. You know, if it was so easy, I would have passed him. But I was over my head just being there.
Just like Marcos said, Dick Trickle told me in 1977, in order to finish first, first you must finish. And I almost didn't finish. I was so close to losing control of my car when I got on the inside of him. Y'all can't see that.
I guess you have a hard time grasping that if I could have, I would have passed him, but I couldn't. And I was also so out of control that if we'd have touched, I would have wrecked, too, because I didn't have control of my car. If I thought, Well, I'll just go up there and rub him out, well, I'd have wrecked.
I was already just about to wreck. You guys can't see that. But, man, I was right here. I was just about gone. And so was Kyle. I mean, he's doing everything he could.
So, man, I'm sorry, Dustin, that I didn't win, but I tried hard (smiling). I tried really hard. And I know it's points. And it's a trophy. And it's everything else. It's a win. But that's all I had in that little 16 seconds that I had. If you'd have gave me 20 laps, I might have, could have got it done. In that 16-second span that I had to get it done, that was all I had.
Q. (No microphone.)
MARCOS AMBROSE: Didn't impress my crew any, I'll tell you that (laughter). You know, you're in for a wild Saturday night. The night race at Bristol, I mean, as a fan in Australia watching it in 2000 whatever, you know, you just always look forward to Saturday night Bristol race because you knew there was going to be lots of crashes. I knew what I was getting myself into. I just wanted to finish if I could.
I guess I shouldn't have said it. Maybe I should have said I'll spray champagne in Victory Lane or something. I was being honest that I was worried about finishing the race.
Q. Mark, when you're out on the track, as a driver, is being in a really fast car going door-to-door with somebody who is equally as talented as you are, win, lose or draw for the last 20 laps, is that pretty much as much fun as you can have as a driver?
MARK MARTIN: It's a lot more fun than not going door-to-door and not being able to see anybody out there. Even though you have to take second sometimes, that grind and that grit, that push and that challenge, you know, is way more rewarding than running away easy.
You got to get your wins. And I've had enough. I like those run aways, easy ones, too, because I like to pile 'em up. But definitely a very gratifying race. I'm not disappointed that we ran second and I'm proud that we had the fans on their feet. And we'll get ours. We have already this year. And we'll get 'em again.
Q. When you're out there on the track, doing it, is it as much fun as when you were 18 or 20 on a dirt track, kind of going balls out?
MARK MARTIN: To be real honest with you, what I was explaining to Dustin, it's really only fun when you look back. At the time I don't know what Marcos would say, but it wasn't fun to me. It was really, really, really hard, you know. I have drove a racecar before and laughed, was laughing. I wasn't having any laughs out there. There was some serious business going on there, and I thought I was going to do something stupid and spin out and mess this up again.
So it's so hard at the time that I don't think you realize the fun in it as much as now that it's over with, yeah, that was fun and, yeah, it was really cool. I'm sure the fans were on their feet. That's cool.
Q. Was it so much fun that it made you wonder if you could have had five more laps, might have been different?
MARK MARTIN: Well, it might have been different with five more laps. But we didn't have 'em. You know, we could have had a flat tire if there had been five more laps. I'm glad the thing's over with really, to be honest with you. We've had so much trouble this year, I really did want to make the pass. When I got completely beside him, I thought, This is going to be tough on the inside, but I'm completely beside him. Only problem was, my car was out of control, you know, for an instant there. It wasn't like I could mash the gas and accelerate and start finalizing the pass there. I got in there over my head (laughter).
I'll take it. It was a great race. It's not like we haven't won one this year. We might win some more if we keep running like that. We really gave it our all.
Q. You don't know what it's like up here when there's 10 laps to go and there's five minutes to get the story in, and we ask these stupid ass questions because we don't know what happened because we're doing five things at once. We have to ask you that so can you let us know how hard it was.
MARK MARTIN: Yeah, well that's cool (laughter). Thank you. It means a lot. Boy, I'm not sure that you guys realized how hard I was really trying. For a brief moment, Marcos was sitting pretty to win the race there.
MARCOS AMBROSE: I was watching.
MARK MARTIN: I don't know what it looked like to you, but I knew I was in trouble there for a second.
MARCOS AMBROSE: Yeah, you were in trouble (laughter).
KERRY THARP: Congratulations. Put on a great show for us tonight. Thank you.
MARK MARTIN: Thank you.
MARCOS AMBROSE: Thank you.
End of FastScripts