NEW YORK - Once Mark Martin revealed Gucci Mane as his current favorite rap artist, there was a frenzy of activity in the control room at Forbes magazine's video studio as various people tried to figure out who (or what?) that was.
There was more confusion beyond that. Mark Martin likes rap? That was an odd image for most people.
Martin, 50, likes rap - gangsta rap, to be exact - and he's not afraid to say it anymore. There was a time when his affinity for the genre embarrassed him.
"I wear it like a badge of honor now," Martin told me as we left the studio.
As the day progressed, word began spreading about Martin's favorite artist. Carl Edwards suggested Martin get into a Gucci Mane video and wear a gold No. 5 in his teeth for it. Edwards had other ideas, too, which he shared with Martin when the drivers in NASCAR's Chase for the Championship converged for a media day in New York City on Thursday.
Black SUVs bearing flags with car numbers on them escorted points leader Martin and the 11 other qualifying drivers through the city for the annual event. This weekend in New Hampshire they'll start the 10-race chase for the Sprint Cup, with Martin having perhaps his best shot ever.
Martin's and my day began at 6:45 a.m., when we headed toward the Fox News studio where he and Jeff Gordon were scheduled to appear on Fox and Friends.
At 7 a.m., Martin sat with his hands clasped the green room. He wore a black suit over a navy blue striped polo shirt and throwback striped adidas tennis shoes.
The conversation had turned to the storing and disposal of junk in people's houses, what people kept and what they didn't.
"I've probably thrown out some things I shouldn't have," Martin said.
His ASA trophies, for example. Martin doesn't have one left. During his first few years of marriage, Martin moved so many times, eventually he got tired of lugging around his trophies and just threw them away.
He isn't a man who likes clutter in his life. Those trophies, he didn't need.
He wore those blue striped tennis shoes all day despite multiple wardrobe changes.
And when he had downtime, the 50-year-old who grew up in Arkansas and now lives in Daytona Beach went back to his room rather than explore or eat somewhere nearby.
Martin filmed spots at the London Hotel, home base for all Chase Media Day activities, after his Fox and Friends appearance.
One network wanted Martin to film some spots with attitude and brag about how his opponents could never catch him, but Martin refused.
When an ESPN producer asked Martin what it would be like to win a championship, he wouldn't answer.
Then he finished up and went back to his room to change out of his firesuit.
Martin's next stop was at the Forbes studio at 10:30 a.m.
"Do you like New York?" I asked.
"They treat you here like you're lucky to be here," Martin said, sitting inside the car in Midtown.
A few years ago after a rehearsal for the year-end banquet, Martin and some others got stranded outside the banquet hall. They couldn't find a cab and had to find a nearby hotel to get them one.
"I don't feel like I have any freedom," Martin said. "Here you're always at somebody's mercy."
Martin's face brightened at the Forbes studio when his interviewer mentioned they would discuss rap music.
Martin first knew he'd like rap when he heard Run DMC and Aerosmith's version of "Walk This Way."
"I really, really, really like Eminem," Martin said. "I don't approve of his language or some of his content, but I think he's a genius with lyrics. I like Dre, how he can really put the music together. . . . I like a good strong beat that moves really fast and makes me feel like I had a cup of coffee."
AC/DC used to do that for him, but there's only so much AC/DC one can listen to.
The car stopped in front of the Hard Rock Cafe and a NASCAR public-relations representative hopped out of the front seat ready to enter the restaurant. Martin stayed right where he was. He wasn't finished making his point.
I had asked about that ESPN spot, his refusal to talk about how winning a championship would feel.
People think winning a championship would change or somehow complete the 50-year-old's life, that that's the only reason he returned to full-time Sprint Cup racing.
"It doesn't clear up my mistakes and failures," Martin said. "It doesn't pave my future with gold bricks. You know, it doesn't change the man. The trophy doesn't make the man."