PR - Martins Moves to MBM, Ends 3 Year Run With BJMM by Thomas Martins

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July, 23 – NASCAR veteran Tommy Joe Martins has run his final race for BJ McLeod Motorsports. At a press conference at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Martins announced he would be moving to the #66 car for Motorsports Business Management for a six race schedule beginning next week at Watkins Glen.

“This is a bittersweet day for me,” Martins said at the press conference. “As a driver for a small team, I feel like I’ve found an identity with BJ. He’s created a lot of opportunities for me, & I just want to say thank you to him and the whole team. I feel like I’ve been the face of the team for a few years. To make the move, it’s tough, it’s really tough to say goodbye to everybody.”

Over the last three years, Martins made 37 starts for BJMM, more than any other driver. During that time, Martins’ average finish with the team improved over each season. Even after early season troubles at Atlanta & ISM Raceway, Martins averaged a top-25 finish in the #99 car in 2019, with three top-20’s & a season best 18th place finish at Michigan International Speedway.

“I feel like this move is going to create new opportunities for me,” Martins said. “Like opportunities for more races; Carl [Long – owner of MBM] has 4 cars, so there’s more flexibility when a funded driver comes in for a race. As you know I’ve been very part time this year, and I’d like to be at the track more often.”

Martins also hinted at a move up the NASCAR ladder in his near future.

“Carl has a Cup car. We’ve talked about it. I’m 32. I’m not getting any younger. I’d like to make that move to the Cup level at some point and he can make that happen,” Martins said. “We both know it’s a bottom 5 car at that level, but at the same time I’ve seen guys impress on small teams and get opportunities. I feel like I can do that.”

Martins’ announced schedule included all four NASCAR Xfinity Series road course races (Mid-Ohio, Watkins Glen, Road America, & the ROVAL at Charlotte Motor Speedway), as well as Bristol Motor Speedway & Texas Motor Speedway in the fall. But, Martins did leave the door open for additional races to be added.

Martins also announced that his long time sponsor, Diamond Gusset Jeans, would be the primary sponsor on the #66 for his races this season. That prompted a quick question from the bullpen on whether or not sponsorship was the primary reason for the departure from BJMM.

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“Absolutely not,” Martins said. “Diamond Gusset has been a long time personal sponsor of mine, but that’s not the reason for the move. Carl just wants me to be a part of his team. Nobody in this garage is recruiting me for my money.”

So why the mid-season move?

“I had an 8 race agreement with BJ to start the year, and that turned into a 9 race deal this weekend,” Martins said. “He’s filled the #99 car out for a while, and I really wasn't sure when my next opportunity would be. Carl’s got an opportunity for me right now.”

Martins finished 25th in the ROXOR 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to close out his career at BJMM. His best career NASCAR finish, 11th, was with the team at iowa Speedway in 2017. 

“The last thing BJ said to me before I left was ‘never say never’,” Martins said with a smile post race. “He told me I’m just moving a few haulers down. It’s not goodbye. But I’m really excited for what’s next in my career.”

PR - TJ & Diamond Gusset Pair Up Again by Thomas Martins

Tommy Joe Martins & longtime partner Diamond Gusset Jeans are pairing back up for the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the Rinnai 250. It will be the first sponsorship for Diamond Gusset Jeans in NASCAR since Martins began driving for his current team, BJ McLeod Motorsports.

Diamond Gusset has sponsored Martins since 2014, during his family team’s first run in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. They more famously came aboard during Martins Motorsports tumultuous 2016 campaign in the NASCAR Truck Series.

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Since that season, the 32-year-old Como, MS native has garnered a reputation for being a vocal underdog at the highest levels of the sport, but as 2018 proved, NASCAR sponsorship is a tough thing to come by.

“I ran 19 races last year, man, and only 3 of them had a sponsor on the side of the car,” Martins said. “That’s tough. I mean, I’m blessed I have owners like BJ & Jessica who trusted me to drive even when I couldn’t bring a lot financially to the table – but to have a sponsor, especially a long time supporter like David Hall & Diamond Gusset – it just means so much.”

BJ McLeod Motorsports announced last week that Vinnie Miller & Matt Mills will be full time drivers for the team, while Martins will retain a partial season ride in the new, full time, 99 car. When asked about the plans for the year, Martins couldn’t help but reminisce.

“This is going to be the biggest year ever for BJ McLeod Motorsports,” Martins continued. “Seeing where we’ve come from at this team, knowing how long Diamond Gusset has supported me…there have just been so many more downs than ups.” Martins paused & smiled. “It feels like this is all coming full circle, you know? Just really excited to see it all come together.”

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Diamond Gusset Jean, Co. is an American made clothing company based in Bon Aqua, Tennessee. Diamond Gusset was founded in 1987 to develop an entirely new jean concept utilizing a gusset for extra durability and enhanced comfort. All Diamond Gusset products are truly American made on the foundations of comfort, craftsmanship, & continual improvement. More information about Diamond Gusset products, as well as sales & pricing can be found at gusset.com.

The Hidden Battle - jeffgluck.com by Thomas Martins

In each NASCAR Xfinity Series event, you get two races in one: a race for the win and a season-long race for the top 30 in the owners point standings.

Both races matter.

On any given weekend, there are roughly 20 Cup-affiliated teams in an Xfinity Series event. Over the course of a 33-race season, those teams are basically guaranteed a top 30 position in the points. The other teams are left scrapping over the remaining 10 spots.

The importance of those spots lies in a $6,000 bonus guaranteed to any team in the top 30 that attempts every race, runs half the race and doesn’t put a Cup driver in its car.

Now, $6,000 on a single weekend doesn’t change much for a race team — but $6,000 for 33 races is close to $200,000. That’s 25 percent of a projected prize money budget for an Xfinity team.

Despite the general perception that you want to run as well as possible in any given race, the truth is where you finish in one race doesn’t matter that much from a money standpoint. The difference between 35th-place purse money and 10th-place money is usually around $2,000.

So is it really worth it to try to chase after 10th place? Think of the money it takes to run 10th against Cup teams! A full allotment of tires at Auto Club Speedway this season would have cost more than $18,000 — and the race paid an average of $23,000 through the field.

The main gain from a good finish is points. They are the most valuable currency in NASCAR.

What makes this tough to follow is points are relative to who you’re racing. It’s why my team can be excited about a 22nd-place finish while JR Motorsports can be mad at finishing 10th.

For example: I could finish 22nd and beat everyone that WE race against. A small team could be 26th in the owner’s standings — like my team, BJ McLeod Motorsports — and basically guarantee itself into every race because it’s ahead of the majority of the other smaller teams. Teams at the back of the standings find themselves in danger of missing races when the field is over 40 cars.

Owning a race team with limited funds is a balancing act. It’s a season-long grinder made up of short and long-term choices. One race weekend won’t ruin your season, but each weekend shapes course of the year.

Take MBM Motorsports, for example. They’ve had a ton of bad luck to begin this 2018 season. They’re near the bottom of the standings of the full-time teams. They’re missing the bonus each race. They just crashed a car last weekend at Texas (it wasn’t Chad Finchum’s fault, it was just a bad deal). And they’re not guaranteed into any race, so they have to qualify into each event on time (top-33) or they might go home.

That’s incredibly difficult to recover from. How do you get any extra funds needed to gain positions in the standings? You never get the bonus. Drivers who bring money want to take their funds to teams with guaranteed spots. Sponsors want teams with guaranteed spots. It’s an uphill slope.

Plus, it’s incredibly difficult to gain points on your direct competition. At Texas, the No. 8 car finished 22nd, four laps down. The No. 45 car finished seven laps down — in 24th! Three extra laps on the racetrack only gained you two extra
points.

So the only chance you really have to gain points is when your competitors run into bad luck. A finish of 36th or worse only gets 1 point.

That said, there are two primary options when it comes to setting out the strategy for your season:

— Outspend the prize money and guarantee yourself a higher position in the points while relying on sponsorship to balance the budget.

— Budget-race as cheaply as possible while putting yourself at risk to miss races.

But at each race, that strategy can come into question.

Do you spend more money on tires to try for a better points day? No guarantees there.

Do you take money from a lesser-skilled, paying driver? It’ll help balance the budget, but could hurt your points position in the long term.

If you struggle in practice, do you start-and-park to preserve the car for another day?

If it’s a high tire wear track and there aren’t any scuff tires available, do you start-and-park to save money?

Do you risk gaining spots on a restart, or drop your driver back to preserve the car for the next race?

Upgrading your motor costs money. Upgrading your car costs money. Upgrading your personnel costs money.

And every choice is about survival.

That’s why I find the race in the midfield so compelling. Each team is doing what it has to do on any given weekend while balancing how each choice affects its position in the bigger picture of the season.

I think my team owner, BJ McLeod, has found a terrific balance between being as competitive as possible without breaking the budget. It’s the only thing that’s allowed me to have the opportunity I have to drive his race cars.

When Bayley Currey stepped into the No. 8 car at Texas and finished 22nd, that was huge a huge boost to our team. With a rookie driver in the seat, that could have been a very rough weekend. Instead, he did a fantastic job surviving a difficult race.

My role at BJMM is to win our race. So far, I feel like I’ve done my job. There are a few racetracks each season that can provide a major shakeup in the standings for small teams — superspeedways, road courses and short tracks. And the next three races on our schedule are Bristol, Richmond and Talladega.

I just received the news I’ll be in the No. 8 car for all three of them. I couldn’t be more excited to get back in the seat and keep building on what’s already been a terrific start to our season.

Chances by Thomas Martins

Until last year, I had only driven for one person – my father.

I’ve been a professional racecar driver since 2009, but when your dad owns the team, it’s easy to sense the skepticism from the other folks in the garage. That changed for me at Daytona in 2017, when Shane Huffman gave me a chance to take our speedway truck over to MDM Motorsports. It was exciting. I knew for the first time in my NASCAR career I was going to the track with an opportunity to win.

But on the second lap of the race, I was involved in a crash. For the second year in a row, I finished dead last at Daytona. It was the only last place finish MDM had during the entire 2017 season.

I finally got my big break, and it was over in less than two minutes.

It’s amazing I got any break at all. In 2016, I had the most DNF’s in the NCTWS. I blogged repetitively about our team’s struggles, my family’s finances, & my desire for recognition in our sport (if you want to get the full effect, you can read all the posts here). I felt like we had a tremendous amount of bad luck, but there’s no denying the reputation I had in the garage was a 30 year old, back of the pack guy with a knack for tearing up equipment – I was better known for writing than driving.

I drove the second race of the year for Martins Motorsports – we finished 20 something at Atlanta. Brandon Brown, who DNQ’d at Daytona for us, qualified well but struggled through a spin in the third race at Martinsville. My dad and I weren’t sure how the team was going to make it through the year.

Instead of shutting down, we decided to sell our trucks & take a chance on a partial schedule in the Xfinity Series, our first attempt in the series since a horribly failed season in 2014. With the higher payout, we figured we could make the same amount of money with a lesser schedule. Of course, we didn’t qualify in our first attempt at Richmond - a $20,000 whiff. Leaving the track that day, my father and I didn’t speak. It was yet another disappointment in a career filled with them. I broke down crying when I finally got back to my apartment.

I was ready to walk away from the sport.

I was off a few days that week. I slept late. I didn’t eat much. I don’t think I was watching anything on tv. I might’ve been scrolling through twitter on my phone when it rang. It was my dad. He asked me if I wanted to drive the Pocono Xfinity Series race for BJ McLeod.

I knew BJ from early 2016. We purchased a couple SB2 engines from him when we started our truck team. We raced against each other a couple times. He was a nice guy that looked like a walking affliction ad. I knew he bought cars & points from Roush at the end of 2015, and tried to run 2 teams in 2016. I didn’t remember them having a ton of success. Then again, neither did we.

 “What’s the catch,” I asked him. There’s always a catch – usually cash. I’ve been offered cup rides, truck rides, late model rides, and every offer ends with how much money it’s going to cost for me to hop in the seat. I’m always flattered, but I can’t ever afford it. We ran our own team because when things went well (which was rare, admittedly) we came closer to breaking even than we ever could throwing money to another team. At that point, you’re just a revenue stream, not a driver.

There was no catch with BJ – he was just nervous.

His #78 car had underperformed over the course of the year, and now had slipped so far down the owner point standings that it was in danger of missing races to provisional-backed teams. It had already missed a couple of events.

BJ needed a driver. He had been behind the wheel of the #8 car, and his regular teammate, Jeff Green, was now running with Ryan Sieg. When my name was suggested as a replacement, he hesitated. He called around to a few other owners & managers. They immediately brought up my history for crashes. They thought he was crazy. Wrecked equipment on a small team like BJ’s is a death-blow. There are no backup cars. No shop crew. There was a huge risk.

Luckily for me, BJ McLeod is a guy that likes to take chances. I think he liked the idea of picking a guy that no one else wanted. He was convinced some of my struggles were tied to my father – not because of parental pressure, but because of our management of the team. I knew how much things cost when we had a bad break. I put that pressure on myself.

How good could I be if all I had to worry about was driving the racecar?

I found out later that BJ looked up my results from 2016. Not just the finishes - nothing spectacular there. Two top-15’s in 20 races didn’t jump off the stat sheet. He looked up practice times from every race. He told me I consistently outperformed my equipment on the time sheets. For him, that was key. He needed someone that could outperform a few of the cars that could knock him out of the race, and someone that was willing to stick their neck out for a team that could get sent home at anytime.

Most drivers won’t.

Guaranteed starting spots are golden tickets. They allow teams to sell rides & sponsorship with promises – not hopes. No matter how fast a team is, anything can happen in qualifying. Parker Kligerman – who won the race at Talladega this past year – didn’t qualify for the race the year earlier. Our truck team shut down in part because I couldn’t guarantee a starting spot at Daytona to potential drivers. No one was willing to sign a deal with us on the hope we’d bring a truck fast enough to qualify on speed alone.

For me though, the decision was easy – BJ McLeod believed in me. If he was willing to take a chance on me, I was willing to take a chance on him.

BJ made it clear who our competition was: Johnny Davis, SS Greenlight, Jimmy Means, Carl Long, & Mario Gosselin. In the nine races I drove for BJMM, I scored the second most points of anyone from those teams – tied with BJ himself. I only had 1 DNF, when a left front lower control arm broke at Bristol.I also finished 11th at Iowa, which is my highest career NASCAR finish.

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Hopefully I helped BJ McLeod Motorsports out of a rut. BJ finished 11th at Daytona. Josh Bilicki finished 11th at Road America. I know BJ McLeod Motorsports helped me. I had owners & drivers in the garage congratulating me on a weekly basis. I had a reporters speaking to me that had never known my name.

For the first time in my life, I feel like I truly belong in a NASCAR garage. I have three people to thank for that: my parents and BJ McLeod.

He’s going to let me drive for him again in 2018. I’ll be a spectator at Daytona, but I’m sure I’ll be in the seat plenty this season. I’m not sure what my schedule will be this year, or what number I’m going to run, but BJ & his team have given me something I’ve always longed for in our sport: respect. And for that, I’ll never be able to thank him enough.