A Lesson / by Thomas Martins

Have you ever been so mad, so frustrated that you aren’t even angry? You’re just calm. That was my mindset after we retired from Friday’s race at Kansas Speedway.

I felt exhausted. My father felt the same way. I’ll give our Crew Chief Kevin Eagle credit, he just went right back to work. Even though a motor issue ended our day, he and our crew kept working tirelessly to find the issues with our Diamond Gusset Chevrolet. Their effort is especially commendable given the damage we sustained in practice had them busting their tails all day Thursday to prepare the truck for race day.

I guess that’s my takeaway from Kansas. Our team doesn't quit. They never get their heads down. Even in the face of tremendous, unwarranted adversity, they just keep digging. They've taught me something about my approach to not just racing, but my outlook on any struggle life presents. I’ve been so blessed to have the opportunity to work with them this year, and I know that success HAS to be on the horizon for our team.

The weekend started out okay. It was my first time ever at Kansas Speedway, and my takeaway is it’s FAST. Per usual, Kevin and our team unloaded a solid truck for us to work on during practice. We skipped first practice because the conditions were going to be so different than qualifying or race time. When we went out for second practice, we did a shakedown run & two mock qualifying runs, which went fine. We wound up 23rd in P2, which we felt solid about going into final practice.

That’s where things went bad. When we first started out with our race runs, we actually picked up two tenths! Our truck was flying, and handling great. When I went into turn 3 on about our 4th lap of practice, the right front tire went down, sending us into the wall. I tried to pedal it as best as I could, eventually surrendering to the fact we were going to make contact. Luckily I was able to square the wall up, resulting in SOME damage to our Diamond Gusset Chevy, but Kevin and the guys stayed upbeat and were able to get the truck mostly repaired before the garage closed.

I can’t say enough about their effort on that fact. We don't have a backup truck. For us, if we didn’t get the truck fixed enough to make it through tech inspection, we would’ve been forced to retire from the event. Not only did they get it fixed enough to make it through tech, we had our second best qualifying effort of the year, 19th! I actually think I gave up a little during our qualifying run, but the guys told me to take it easy and feel it out after the damage in practice. Needless to say, we were excited for the race.

When the green flag dropped, it was obvious it was going to be an exciting race. Guys were all over the place. We got put 4 wide twice. We got put 3 wide 2 or 3 separate times. The aggression level in our series is at an all time high. If someone has a problem in front of you and you cut them a break, immediately the guys behind you are making it 3 wide. It’s crazy. That’s why you’re seeing so many accidents this year. Smart racing has gone completely out the window.

I got a bad initial start of the race, but was able to get back up around the top 20 before I felt us having another tire issue. I brought the truck down pit lane, and sure enough, it was another flat right front tire. The stop ended up costing us 3 laps, but we got back out on track right behind the leaders. Toby, our spotter, was encouraging me to stay focused and try to get one of our laps back; we were actually 2 tenths of a second faster than the leader when we got back out on track.

Unfortunately, 4 laps into that run, our motor started to sputter. Immediately I shut the motor down, hoping to keep from damaging it any further. When I brought the truck to pit lane, eventually we rolled it behind the wall and retired from the race.

The initial impressions are that we didn’t blow it up; it’s just a small leak we’ll be able to fix. It was and still is a very scary time for our small team since we only own two motors. Damaging one this early in the season could basically cost us the opportunity to race the rest of the year. We’re still waiting to hear from Mark Smith at Pro Motors to give us the final verdict.

As frustrated as I was when I left the race track, I’m more encouraged this Monday than I have been all year. We have speed. We are good. That’s more than a lot of the teams we’ve been racing against can say. Yeah, they might be finishing races ahead of us, and yeah we’ve had some awful luck this year, but it’s more and more obvious that this team and I can compete at this level, and our expectations are continuing to rise as the season goes along.

I’m ready to get to Dover.