Tommy Joe Martins is looking to turn around a tough start to the NASCAR Xfinity Series season, and bounce back from a heartbreaking finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway, in the upcoming races starting on Monday at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Martins was on his way to what could have been the first top 10 in his Xfinity Series career when he was swept up in an accident with three laps to go this past Monday at Charlotte. Martins made hard impact with the inside wall, resulting in a 24th-place finish and damaging the best car in the family team’s small fleet.
"We were all just so disheartened and I specifically took it really hard to be that close to get my first ever top 10 in this sport," Martins said. "All the time and effort that’s gone into it. Obviously doing it for my family’s team and all that we’ve done to kind of stick around and the sponsors that we’ve gotten and everyone that has supported me for so long."
The car that Martins was driving at Charlotte was one the team acquired from GMS Racing and was the primary for mile-and-a-half tracks.
"We just love how that thing has taken off this year the few times we’ve been able to run it," Martins said. "It’s been a top 15 car the times we’ve taken it out and that was our best piece instead to have it wrecked. Right now we know it’s a front and rear clip. We know the best case turnaround for that is going to be six weeks and should get it going again. When you’ve only got really three cars that are a mile-and-a-half, short-track kind of cars in your shop. When you lose one of those three for that period of time it’s just going to be tough. We are going to have to kind of adapt and kind of work around the fact that we’re down one here for a little bit."
Thanks to the composite body that Xfinity teams use, parts of Martin’s car that slammed the SAFER barrier at Charlotte will be able to be used again in upcoming races.
"It looked like my car was basically three feet inside the SAFER barrier and hit so hard and literally flung it in the air all four tires," Martins said. "We’re going to be able to use the hood again for the next race. That’s how durable that this body is. This is really an incredible thing and it’s a cost-saving thing for the team."
Martins is looking forward to the next batch of races scheduled, particularly the 1.5-mile tracks – Atlanta Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"I think it’s a really good stretch for us," Martins said. "I think our mile-and-a-half program at Martins Motorsports has been really good. The worn-out mile-and-a-halves I think they tend to favor a team like mine where yeah, maybe we aren’t a top-10 equipment team, but I’ve been around here enough and I kind of know these tracks that maybe I can elevate us a little bit. Any track that’s going to involve tire strategy and tire saving is going to be good for us."
In five starts this season Martins has posted a 25.6 average finish, but if not for incidents like Charlotte the average should be lower. Bad luck also struck Martins at Las Vegas when he was running 13th in the same car used at Charlotte when an oil line issue took him out of the race.
"We’re really just kind of looking forward to getting the monkey off our back," Martins said. "It’s been a tough start to the year."