In preparation for the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500, the top 12 drivers took their turns in front of the media today at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, PA. One of the first up was Mark Martin, currently in the ninth position in the points standings.
Of the race for the championship chase, Martin said, it is "really close, really a dog fight." Martin continued, "Everyone in the running for a position is performing well."
Martin typically downplays his chances to not only get into the chase, but to get anywhere near championship contention. But he admits this weekend that, "We can't have anymore stubbed toes. If we don't stub our toe we should be fine."
Martin acknowledges that teammate Jimmie Johnson is certainly one of his biggest nemesis in the championship battle. Dubbing Johnson "Superman", Martin said that Johnson's team is one to beat due to "the results they get, the successes they have, and their comebacks."
Martin likes his chances at Pocono Raceway this weekend. He has been in the runner-up position six times, having been very close to the race win.
On Pocono, Martin said, "It's just been a good race track for me performance wise." Martin continued, "It's surprising we haven't won at Pocono because we've run so well."
According to Martin the reason that they have not sealed the deal is that they have had "a lot of really good cars, but only a very few dominating cars."
Martin advised that he has learned a great deal since the last Pocono race, especially using the different set ups from Michigan, Chicago and Indianapolis.
Martin seemed absolutely content, yet passionate and excited all at the same time. He shared, "This is the best moment. I am living it every day."
Martin continued, "I never imagined that I could have this much fun, or success, or be this happy out here racing every week."
As is his tradition, Martin credited crew chief Alan Gustafson and team for his success to date. He thinks the key is that "We are more and more comfortable together. We have been getting more out of our race cars."
Martin also admits that he has had to get to know the Hendrick tuning tools as well as the cars themselves better. When asked to sum up his feelings about his team, he simply said, "Our team is incredible."
In addition to Martin's team, his own nutrition, health and fitness have also played a key role in his success. "I am exploring every strength to the max and not focusing on my short comings," said Martin.
"This is the best place I've ever been," said Martin. "I'm willing to work as hard as it takes."
For Martin, he truly seems to be in the best place, emotionally, physically, and passionately. The hunger is still there in the eyes of this "mature" driver.
And this weekend, in Mark's own words, "There is no place I'd rather be than at Pocono."