I've always wanted to race.
I once heard Darrell Waltrip talking about a go-kart he saw in front of a department store. He had never raced before, but he knew if he could ever get in a seat, that he'd be good at it. I don't come from a family of racers. I don't come from a family with a lot of money. I've always tried to race as hard as I could with what I had, and I've been fortunate to be able to do it for a long time.
While I was in high school (a very late start for most racers nowadays) I raced dirt track go-karts regionally around my hometown of Como, MS. After a good bit of success, I moved up to racing part time in the WKA Speedway dirt and pavement series and got my first taste of racing on a national scale.
From there, things took a weird turn. I laid off racing for over 3 years while I graduated high school and began attending Ole Miss pursuing a Journalism degree. But, in 2008, I got a chance to race a 350Z in the SCCA T2 division. It started off as a hobby, a fun thing to do with my father, but we found out pretty quickly that I had some talent.
All in all we won five national events and six more regional events, setting three track records along the way. At the end of the year, we began to reevaluate racing's place in my life and had to decide whether or not I should pursue it as a career. I knew I wanted to race in NASCAR. It was what I had dreamed of as a child. Luckily for me, it also fit my driving style.
I signed a driver development deal with Nashville based Baker Curb Racing in late 2008. Unfortunately, because of a lack of sponsorship, the deal fell through.
Thankfully, my family was able to pick up the slack and keep me racing late models locally at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, and eventually in the ASA Challenge Series in 2009. We came so close to race wins at Salem, Nashville & Memphis, but still managed to record a couple top fives and a pole with very limited experience.
I started my NASCAR career in 2009. We ran 4 races with our own truck, running in the top 25 and gaining experience along the way. In 2010 I discovered my love for super speedway racing when we ran the ARCA race at Daytona and finished 8th. We'd always been such an underfunded team, and to take an effort that spent 1/10th of the money of some of the larger teams and still post a top 10 finish really was a proud moment. We went back in 2011 and finished 14th.
Then, because of a lack of funding, I had to hang up my helmet again. I went back to Ole Miss and finished my degree, then started to work in the journalism field before Martins Motorsports return to NASCAR in 2014.
We ran nearly half the year in the NASCAR Nationwide series and had a season best 14th place finish at Talladega. There were more downs than ups - we had to start and park a lot of the races because of lack of sponsorship, but it was still a tremendous experience both behind the wheel & as part of a business.
I put my driving skills to use in a different way in 2015, working as a racing instructor at Ron Fellows Performance Driving School at Spring Mountain, right outside Las Vegas, NV - a place I still work part time. For three years I've been able to pass on my love of racing at the official driving school of Corvette. Pretty neat.
In 2016, we re-opened our family team for a full time effort in my favorite series of all, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. It was another tough, emotional year for myself, my family, and Martins Motorsports. I chronicled the entire experience in my BLOG if you want to catch up.
2017 was a year full of new opportunities. I drove for MDM Motorsports at Daytona, then Martins Motorsports shifted from Trucks to the Xfinity Series after our race at Atlanta. Then I got an offer to drive for BJ McLeod's Xfinity Team on a partial schedule, while our team focused back on the truck series with Austin Wayne Self.
It was a great move for everyone involved. With BJMM I posted my best ever career NASCAR finish at Iowa Speedway - 11th place. It was a milestone for me & the whole team. Also, Martins Motorsports finished off the season with multiple top-15 runs.
We've since shut the team down, and I'm focusing completely on another partial season with BJMM. I'm so lucky to have people that believe in me like BJ, his team, & my family. I want this to be the best season of my career.
I've always had to do more with less in racing, and I'm so thankful for all of your support.
See you at the track,
Tommy Joe Martins