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.

 

Then & Now by Thomas Martins

Homestead broke my heart.

It was our first DNQ of the season. Unfortunately, DNQs are a part of my NASCAR career. I’ve had several. When we went through our struggles in the Xfinity Series in 2014, it was commonplace. I’d dealt with the disappointment of it several times before. But, when we stood in the garage alongside the other two trucks that missed the race at Homestead, the #10 of Jennifer Jo Cobb & the #63 of Norm Benning, all I could think was, “my guys don’t deserve this.” 

I deserved it. I wrecked our Homestead truck at Texas a couple weeks prior. Then, I scraped the wall with it in practice during our mock run. Then, I overdrove it in qualifying and nearly wrecked. I’m not sure if we would’ve made the race even if I ran a clean lap, we had struggled with the truck all day, but I robbed us of any chance we might’ve had. I was embarrassed. I should’ve been.

Kevin, Steven, Danny, & David had nothing to be embarrassed about. They thrashed their asses off all year long. They rode in a pickup truck to every single race on our schedule – over 50,000 miles total. Then, to top it off, they worked for a team and a driver that had the most DNFs in the entire series. They had to scramble nearly every single week to not only repair a truck, but also to prepare it to qualify into the event on speed. They were worn down. They needed a break.

They never complained.

They were underpaid, overworked, understaffed, overstressed, and had no job security at all for the better part of a year and not one single time did they ever tell my dad or me it was too much. In fact, most of the time, they were the ones trying to cheer us up! They believed in the team they were a part of – a team with my name on it. It was humbling. They had a crappy job, a job that most people would’ve quit, but yet they treated it like it was the best opportunity they’d ever had. To an entire garage full of people, they transformed Martins Motorsports into the friendliest, most dedicated, most honest, most loyal, & hardest working team in all of NASCAR. They’re the finest group of men I’ve ever had the privilege of working with or driving for, and we were so blessed to have them.

My dad didn’t deserve the disappointment, either. He dealt with the emotional & financial weight of every single problem that popped up during our roller coaster season. It hurt him. He spent twice as much money as he’d planned on spending this year just because he loved me & believed in our team. He knew this was going to be our final foray into NASCAR, and he wanted to do everything he could possibly do to give us all the best chance to succeed. He honored every agreement he made, no matter the circumstances that were facing us. He’s the best man I’ve ever known, and I’m blessed to be able to call him my father.

Yet, we all stood there, leaned against our truck after we had pushed it back to the garage. We hugged. We shook hands. There weren’t many words spoken. I cried. We all did. People came by to ask what had happened, and we repeated to every one of them that we had missed the race. It was like we had to talk ourselves into the reality of it. Our pit crew manager came by to give his sympathies, and also collect their pay that we didn’t have. Team owners and representatives came by and lowballed us on offers for our qualifying tires. My dad got in an argument with Norm Benning over his use of our motor – a motor he agreed to start and park at Phoenix, but yet ran the entire length of the race, and now had tried to qualify for another.

It was our lowest point. The whole thing was a public slap in the face to all of us.

Kevin even had to explain to a few NASCAR officials that we had missed the race. They didn’t understand how. Neither do I.

Oh, I get the rules. That’s not the issue. I know that the top-27 fastest trucks in qualifying are locked into the race on speed, no matter their points position. I know that the next four spots are provisionals, given to teams with the most Owner’s Points that haven’t already qualified in the top-27. And I also know that the last position is reserved for a past champion, if there’s one in the field that hasn’t already qualified. So, I understand the rules. But, I don’t understand the rules.

You shouldn’t get rewarded for bringing a slow truck to the racetrack. So, I’m not that torn up about us missing the race. We qualified 31st in a 35 truck field. That’s not something I’m proud of. But I’m still trying to figure out how the trucks that qualified 33rd & 34th, both over three full seconds off the pace, got in when we didn’t. To me, that’s embarrassing. I don’t care what points position you’re in, if you bring a truck to the track that’s nearly four seconds off the pace, you shouldn’t be allowed to race. And that’s no disrespect to either Spencer or Travis. They’re both talented drivers. They weren’t the problem. I’m sure they hated every minute of it.

It’s called qualifying for a reason. Everyone should have to qualify for the event. That shouldn’t be a given. It’s not fair for 1/3 of the field to have to have the pressure to make it in on speed. We all should feel it! I want all those drivers on big teams to feel the same pressure that I feel week in and week out - if you make a mistake, you go home. That’s how it works at literally every level of stock car racing except for NASCAR. It doesn’t make any sense for the Truck Series (or Xfinity Series for that matter) to have provisional starting spots. We should take the fastest 32 trucks every time. I don’t care what your points are coming into the race. I don’t care if you’re a past champion. If you’re not one of the fastest 32 trucks, then you should go home.

If nothing else, we should reduce the amount of provisionals in the field, or place a limit to the number times you can use a provisional over the course of a year. The same teams shouldn’t be able to use one every single week to get bad trucks into races ahead of more competitive teams. There’s no way that the #63 of Mittler Bros should’ve missed the race at Bristol. There’s no reason the #45 of Casey Smith should’ve missed the race at Martinsville. Jordan Anderson should’ve been able to race at Atlanta this year. It’s a disgrace.

I didn’t write anything after our race at Homestead. I was too disappointed. Which, coincidentally, is a good way to describe our entire year. Disappointing. At times, we were a very competitive race team. Other times, we weren’t even close. We were inconsistent. We had a lot of really bad luck. Some of that we created, a lot of it we didn’t. But our guys never gave up. They worked so hard week in and week out. I hate they never got rewarded for it. We never got that one finish we were working towards…just a lot of maybes and almosts.

Admittedly, I live in the moment a little too much. I live and die with every weekend it seems. Martins Motorsports was a first year full time NASCAR truck series team. On top of that, we were a very small, underfunded team. There were going to be struggles. We had them. We learned from them. I think we’ve got a chance to make major improvements to our program next year, but right now I’m not completely sure we’re going to get the opportunity to do so.

We had some amazing partners this year; Diamond Gusset Jeans (special thanks to David Hall and everything you do for us) gave us way more than they should have. They overextended themselves for us, and I hope that we gave their awesome company & products some solid exposure this past season. BootDaddy took a chance on our team at Talladega, and we hope to have them back with us next year. RPM Trailer Sales helped us out with a great trailer that got us through an entire Camping World Truck Series season. Rodney & Lynn Riessen did more for our team than any other people besides my own mom and dad. They’re basically family at this point. 

The NASCAR offseason is an uncertain time for a lot of people. Martins Motorsports and our crew are in that same position. We’re not certain of our plans for next year. We know we can’t do it on our own. We’re going to have to get a major sponsor to help us run a full schedule again. We’ve got a few great prospects, but we’re not going to know anything for sure until later in January – not exactly an ideal position to be able to get your equipment, personnel, & gameplan in place for 2017.

I wish I had better news to share, but we’re in limbo. I’m pretty sure Tommy Joe Martins is going to race at least a few events next season, but I don’t know who it’s going to be with. I want it to be Martins Motorsports. I love our team. I know that’s the best situation for me. I want to keep us all together and keep this thing growing. I want to be involved with this sport for a very long time, but that starts with a few phone calls in January.

I can’t thank all of you enough for all your support. I know I’ve been a tough guy to root for. I don't want to be controversial; I want to be respected. Each one of your messages makes me feel like there are better times ahead for both me and our team. I look forward to sharing it all with you all again next year.

- Tommy Joe

Zeros by Thomas Martins

There are seven columns next to driver names on the NASCAR point standings page. 

The first is points. I have 171, only good enough for 22nd position. The next is starts. I have 18, with my only two skips being at Martinsville (crashed in qualifying) and Eldora (JR Heffner ran with us). The next four are poles, wins, top-5’s, & top-10’s. For me, those columns are zeroed out. The last column is DNF’s (Did Not Finish). I have six, more than any other driver.

Racing is a selfish sport. Even though preparing and racing a truck every week takes a team effort, there's only one name listed on that results page. The responsibility for success and failure in stock car racing ultimately falls on the driver. So far this year, I haven't had much.

I’ve tried to have a different outlook on things during the final stretch of our season. I know how lucky I am to get to live my dream to be a NASCAR driver. It’s been a tumultuous season to say the least, but it’ll be something I look back on with pride and fond memories.

At the same time, when I look at those empty columns I’m frustrated by missed opportunities. I see a cut tire at Daytona. I see a brake failure at Martinsville. I see a bad restart at Michigan. I see a motor issue at Kansas. I see a wreck at Chicagoland. After these last two races at Talladega and Martinsville, it’s hard not to be disappointed again. I knew they would be my best remaining chances at getting something I’ve been chasing for a very long time now – a NASCAR top-10 finish.

Our Talladega truck had a brand new body, brakes, and a brand new RO7 motor. We had a new sponsor, Bootdaddy.com, on the hood and quarter panels. Our truck looked great. I was excited. 

Then we got to the track.

We had trouble getting through templates. We missed the first practice. When we got out on track in second practice, we didn’t have the single car speed that we wanted. We knew that with the field size we’d probably need to qualify in the top-27 on speed to make it into the race, and at the end of second practice it was too close for comfort.

Kevin tried to max out everything he could on the truck to find some more straight-line speed – so much so we got a 15-minute practice penalty at Martinsville for failing qualifying tech three times. Because of our struggles in practice, we were the second truck to qualify.

As soon as I took the green flag, I knew we would be in trouble. We were only pulling 7400 RPM at the start/finish line – 400 RPM less than we had in our practice runs. And sure enough, our time slowed down by half a second. It wouldn’t be good enough for the top-27. We had to make the race on points.

We stood on pit road with Randy Little, the owner of Bootdaddy.com, & David Hall, the owner of Diamond Gusset Jeans, and tried to explain to them exactly how we needed the cards to fall for us to make the race. Believe me, that’s a really crappy feeling. Randy had paid for commercials to pair with his advertising on our truck, and we were breaking the news that he might not even make the race.

Only a few trucks really mattered to the outcome: the go-or-go-home trucks lower in the owner’s point standings. The two main concerns were Parker Kligerman in the #75 and the #10 of Clay Greenfield. We beat Clay by six thousandths of a second. Parker had a brake issue that slowed down his run. That was the difference. If either of them had qualified in the top-27, we would’ve gone home.

Of course, once the race started, qualifying speed got thrown out the window. Talladega was my first real restrictor plate race in a truck (Daytona got cut short because of a blown right front tire). I was really surprised at just how much you had to be out of the throttle. In the bottom lane, I was basically 75% throttle down the backstretch in order to stay off the truck in front of me. 

We moved up quickly from our starting position into the top-20, and for the most part, we stayed around the top-15 all day. There were a couple of bad wrecks right on front of us that we had to weave through. I got into Rico Abreu a couple times while trying to weave through them. In one incident through the tri-oval, I was certain I wrecked him. After watching the replay of the angle he was aimed towards the wall, I still have no idea how he saved it. The second time, we went door to door as I sliced my way through the big one in turn 1. That was a bad wreck that took out a lot of trucks. It’s the most safety vehicles I have ever seen on a track in my life. Just glad everyone was okay. 

The race played out in our favor. We made it through the wrecks. We got ourselves in a good position for a top-10 finish. We were 12th & 10th during the final few restarts. 

Down the backstretch on the white flag lap, Matt Tift gave a bump to William Byron right in front of me in the top lane. I don’t think he centered him up because William got a little crossed up and got into Rico in the bottom lane. I had to make a really quick decision to either check-up and stay behind William as he gathered it up, or go behind Matt as he made it three wide on the high side. 

I went with Matt. 

It wasn’t the right call. But on the last lap down the backstretch at Talladega, I was NOT going to lift. As we got into turn 3, I couldn’t clear William and get back down to the second lane. It was so close. I’ve watched the replay several times. If I was clear, it was by an eyelash. When I hesitated, he got a good pull and we got hung up on the outside three-wide. When I came off turn four, I was in 10th. By the time I got to the line, I got shuffled back to 16th.

It was really, really disheartening. That one decision defined our whole day. But, our sponsors had a great time & we made it through Talladega with minimal damage to our race truck. Those are very positive things. We also got some solid television coverage for the right reasons. I have to give a big thanks to Michael Waltrip & Phil Parsons for their encouragement throughout our season.

Our hopes were high heading into Martinsville. In the spring race, we were 8th fastest in the first round of qualifying before our brakes failed. Now, we didn’t get to bring the same truck (it was still at the body shop because of our crash at Chicagoland) but Kevin put the exact same setup on it that we had in the spring.

Unfortunately, it didn’t have the same speed.

Martinsville was a good example of just how important tires are. Goodyear allows you to bring a practice set of tires to the racetrack. So, we brought a set of warehouse tires for practice. They’re available for most races, and cost around $600 - $1,600 less than a new set. The problem is that they aren’t EXACTLY the same tire you’re running on that weekend (they were manufactured at a different time, and have been sitting in a warehouse aging for a lot longer than a new tire), and they can give you bad feedback on how your truck is handling. 

That happened to us this past weekend.

Our truck was extremely tight in first practice, so we loosened it up quite a bit. Then it was far too loose. Our tires weren’t wearing consistently during practice. I hated how the truck was handling, but we couldn’t be sure if it was setup or just a tire issue. When we left the track, we weren’t totally sure of exactly what we had. And, just like at Dega, we knew qualifying would mean everything when it came to getting into the race.

It’s hard to describe the mindset of a driver going into a qualifying session when you know that it’s a go or go home situation. You’re the guy an entire team is relying on to provide their paycheck for the week. No matter how bad the truck is driving, and regardless what anyone says before or afterwards, all the pressure/blame is squarely on your shoulders.

I’ve missed races in my career. I should’ve missed a few more this year. At Bristol I totally overdrove the truck in qualifying and we only got in because the #63 truck got bumped by less than one hundredth of a second. I was determined not to make the same mistake at Martinsville.

My dad told me afterwards that he nearly gave up after our first lap. It was only a 21.20 – more than a second off the pace we needed to make the race. Our second lap was a 20.40. And as I came across the line for our third lap, we hit the rev limiter – a sign that we were really getting a good run off the corner. We lit up a 20.11 on the stopwatch, good enough for 13th at the time, and our spotter Toby Whealdon called me off down the backstretch. I felt like our best lap was going to be the fourth lap, but at the time, it was 100% the correct call. All we had to do to make the second round of qualifying was be 24th.

Of course, we dropped to 25th. 

I went back out right before the end of the first round to see if we could bump our way into the second round, but we just missed. When I pulled out for my second run, I accidentally got out in front of the #62 truck, who was still trying hard to make the race. It was my fault. They were mad afterwards, and had good reason to be. Now, they were still over a second off the time they needed to make the show, but it still wasn’t a courteous thing to do to another small team.

When the race started, our truck felt okay. We picked up a few spots and fell in line on the bottom with a big pack of trucks. But about 15 laps into the run, our truck got very loose. There was no rear grip in the center of the corner, and no forward bite off the corner at all. We fell a lap down, and made a big track bar change on the first pit stop.

It didn’t help. By the end of the day, we had dropped the bar 12 rounds, and our left rear tire pressure was down to seven pounds. We were still loose. To make things worse, I had no brakes. Tire rubber blocked off our brake ducts, and our brakes had no way of cooling down. By lap 75, the pedal was basically to the floorboard.

I spun out by myself one time trying simply because I couldn’t get the thing to slow down. It was a frustrating race. I played defense all day. Matt Crafton knocked me out of the way one time because I got hung up passing a lapped truck. Much like Talladega, the best thing that happened at Martinsville was leaving with a truck in one piece.

Even through all our struggles the last few weeks, there have been positives. Bootdaddy got a great response from their sponsorship at Talladega, and decided to come on board with us again as a hood sponsor at Texas this weekend. Diamond Gusset extended their sponsorship with me into the 2017 season. I can’t say enough about David Hall, his company, and their belief in me as a driver and an ambassador for their brand. While their sponsorship isn’t a big money deal in the NASCAR world, it’s a big deal to us, and we’re extremely thankful.

The last time we ran our Texas truck with an R07 motor in it, we ran in the top-15 before a crash at Chicagoland. I’m hoping we can have the same type of speed this weekend, and gain some positive momentum heading into the last few weeks of the year. Our guys & our sponsors deserve a great finish.

Oh, and I’d like one, too.