Mark Martin believes his win at Phoenix last weekend justifies his decision to race full-time again in the Sprint Cup series with Hendrick Motorsports.
The 50-year-old broke a 97-race winless streak on Saturday night at Phoenix, which dated back to 2005. This year Martin returned to race full-time after running a part-time schedule during the past two seasons, first for Ginn Racing and then for Dale Earnhardt Inc.
Martin says that even if he was sure that returning full-time was right for him, he still needed to prove that he deserved that opportunity with Hendrick Motorsports. His Phoenix win, he says, has gone some way to proving that.
"You know, I do it for the passion of what I have, and I don't have anything else with that kind of passion," said Martin. "I haven't found anything to fill that void and drive me like racing and all those things.
"But there is a little voice in the back of my head, you know, asking if, are you sure you're worthy of this opportunity. And that's part of the reason I've been successful. And if you'll check with successful people, they are insanely driven, and so yeah, there's been a little voice in the back of my head saying, are you worthy of this opportunity.
"I know that they thought so. I know that Jeff (Gordon) did and I know that Rick (Hendrick) did. And I've still got to produce. This is not over. This is something like I think eight races. I've got to keep on; I can't just go out and start riding around now."
Martin feels proud to have been subject of so many gestures of respect by his rivals after his win at Phoenix, something he says he values even more than the trophy and the victory itself. His current and former teammates, as well as his former boss Jack Roush, were among many who walked to victory lane to salute him following the race.
"It's really special, It's even more special than the trophy," he said. "You know, you can't... that's just respect, and you can't... that, you earn, for sure. You just can't get it any other way. And you've got to give it to get it; I also believe that."
Next weekend Martin will compete for the first time in the last three years at Talladega, as he didn't race at the restrictor-plate track while running a limited schedule.