Bad Breaks by Thomas Martins

It seems like we’ve had a couple weeks worth of bad luck to start out the 2016 season. Before I get into the weekend in Atlanta I want to be sure to thank our wonderful sponsors - Diamond Gusset Jeans, our NEW sponsor, RPM Trailer Sales, & Riessen Construction.

I think the Diamond Gusset Chevy might’ve been the best LOOKING car in the entire field. This was the first race we ran our silver paint scheme, and I think it really popped. Big thanks to Brett Frankovich from Diamond Gusset & Rick Gaskins from Frontline Designs for their work on the scheme.

Also, it was a dream come true for me to be able to race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. I saw my first NASCAR race ever at AMS in the early 90’s. My dad took me up to the turn four wall just as Darrell Waltrip was making a qualifying run in his Western Auto Chevy. He ran high off the corner, shooting tire rubber & dust up through the fence and all over my face. At that point, I was hooked. I wanted to be a NASCAR driver.

My dad and I attended more than a dozen races at Atlanta over the years. My grandmother lived in Atlanta, so we made a family trip out of the spring and fall races there. Through all my racing career, I’d never had the opportunity to race at Atlanta until this past weekend. My grandmother passed away this last year, and my mother and father were both sick with the flu, and were unable to attend the race. I hate that none of them were able to see it in person. But, this past weekend allowed me to check one of the final boxes off my racing bucket list.

It’s been rare in my NASCAR career that I’ve been able to hop in a really nice piece of equipment, but I can certainly say our Silverado was as nice of a race car as I’ve ever had the privilege to sit in. Kevin Eagle & Adam Deem did an awesome job prepping our truck for Atlanta, and it showed in how we unloaded.

We missed first practice because of a tech issue as well as a fifteen-minute time penalty we had to serve from Daytona. Being my first time at Atlanta, I was conservative the first few laps we ran in practice, which really hurt our chances of posting a GREAT lap time. With the tire fall off at Atlanta, your first two laps of a run are the best you’re going to get. We didn’t have another set of tires to make a mock qualifying run, so we just worked on race runs throughout the second and third practices. We wound up 23rd & 28th in practice times, which I didn't think was that bad given the fact that we never changed tires. I was expecting us to make a big pickup in qualifying.

We did…it just wasn't quite enough. We ran a 31.71 – only 8 tenths of a second off the pole speed – with our SB2 motor. I never lifted off the throttle the entire lap. Unfortunately, that was only good enough for us to finish 28th in qualifying. The reason that’s important is the top 27 trucks get locked into the race based on qualifying times. So, just like at Daytona, we “officially” made the race because of our position in the owner’s points standings. We need to somehow find a little more speed in qualifying, and that’s something Eagle and I talked about after the session ended. We’re really close! With our motor situation, it just becomes so important to maximize every other thing you can out of your setup & line in qualifying.

Disappointing. That’s the best way I know how to describe the race. I felt really good about our setup heading into the race, it was so consistent during practice, but as soon as the green dropped, we started getting really tight. It was also really tough for us to pass people. Every time I would pull up behind another truck, we would get even tighter because of the aero push.

To make things even worse, we had ANOTHER tire issue. About 25 laps into the race, we had just gone a lap down. As our spotter, Toby, called out 5 minutes left on the clock, I started feeling a vibration. This is where I made a terrible mistake as a driver. Instead of bringing it up, and letting the crew chief make a call, I kept my mouth shut thinking we’d be able to fix it at the caution.

Only a few laps later, the tire gave way in turn 4. I managed to keep the truck off the wall, but couldn’t get down to the inside quick enough to make it into pit lane. Instead, I had to get going back up to semi-speed and make an ENTIRE lap back around. It wound up costing us two laps. So, 35 laps into the race we were already 3 laps down.

From that point on, we made some pretty conservative calls and just focused on bringing the truck home in one piece. I felt another vibration around lap 70 or 80, and we decided to change tires under green just in case. That cost us another two laps.

Realistically, we should’ve finished one or two laps down. We didn’t have the speed to stay with the lead lap trucks. But, we were definitely faster than some of the trucks that finished in front of us, which is really frustrating. One of our biggest goals as a small team is to beat some of the other small budget teams. Two races into the year, we haven’t achieved that goal yet.

I’m encouraged by the communication Eagle and I are developing. He’s sharp. We’ll get better each race. I’ve been encouraged by all of our friends and supporters telling me to keep my head up through our struggles. We’ll bounce back. It’s a long season. And I’m looking forward to having a solid run at Martinsville.

Tommy Joe

Rough Start by Thomas Martins

Well, that sucked.

First things first, I have to say thank you to my awesome team & wonderful sponsors for all of their help & support this past weekend. We deserved a much better end to the weekend than what we actually got.

Practice went well. We went out and drafted a couple times & the Diamond Gusset Jeans Chevy handled really well. The only problem was that it didn't quite suck up to the other trucks bumpers the way that I wanted. Kevin Eagle, our crew chief, made a few changes to help lower the front end of the truck, which we felt would help us with overall speed. We made a few single car runs to prepare for qualifying, but we never made a full blown mock run, so we weren't totally sure how the thing would run.

I was disappointed in qualifying - we finished up 33rd out of 43 trucks - but I really don't know why. We're running SB2 motors (the old style compared to the new Chevrolet R07's) and that is obviously going to hurt us on single truck qualifying time at a track like Daytona. There were a couple things we learned that we could've done differently that would've picked us up a couple tenths, but as a whole, running a 51.84 - less than 2 seconds off the pole time - with an old style motor is a pretty solid effort.

We wound up starting 28th, but we didn't stay there for long. The truck was a BULLET. I was trying to play it safe for the first couple laps, but we were just so fast in the draft that I had to make some moves. I think we were the first truck to make the field three wide, but it was just so stable and easy to pass people that I never felt like we were really putting ourselves in harms way. We had made our way up near the top 20 by the fourth lap when our troubles started...

I'm still not totally sure what happened. Judging by the pictures, it looks like a tire went down or something broke in the right front of the truck. I did everything I could do to try to keep it off the wall in turn 4, but the thing just went straight up the racetrack. I'm just glad we didn't collect anyone else in the incident so early in the race.

At the time (and right after the race) I was pretty sure that Scott Lagasse in the 14 truck had bump drafted us in the center of the corner, sending us into the wall. Upon review, that definitely wasn't true. Scott is a veteran, and it was silly of me to think he would do something that dumb on the fourth lap of the race. So, I want to make sure I apologize to him and his team.

I brought the truck down for repairs, and the pit crew did a nice job getting all the sheet metal off the tire as efficiently as they could; we didn't even lose a lap! On the restart, the truck felt okay - not great, but okay. That didn't last long. We passed a few people, and while running on the high side going through turn 4, the truck made another sharp right and headed into the wall again. Kevin made the smart move and decided to just pull the truck into the garage, ending our night in last place - 32nd.

I think that's what I'm the most upset about, finishing last. It's a race, and we finished last in it. As a small team, there are some places that we won't have a chance to WIN the race, but Daytona levels that playing field & gives everyone a chance to get a great finish. We didn't capitalize on that opportunity, and some of our direct competitors in the standings were able to get top 10's out of the night. I knew that racing in Daytona could mean us having a torn up race truck, that's just part of it, but the competitor in me HATED our final finishing position.

I hate that we're starting off the season battling uphill in points, but we'll make the best of it. I'll be looking to make up of those points we lost at Atlanta, and I know Kevin and the crew will have another great truck for us there.

Tommy Joe

We're Back... by Thomas Martins

I'm so excited to announce I'll be competing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series full time in 2016 for our family team, Martins Motorsports. With a technical partnership with Gallagher Motorsports, I truly believe this is the best opportunity I've ever had in my NASCAR career.

As far as equipment goes, we'll be running Chevrolets with SB2 motors, to be maintained by Mark Smith and his team at Pro Motors. Our shop will be based out of Mooresville, NC, the NASCAR home base, offering our small team a convenience our previous effort out of Nashville in 2014 never had.

Kevin Eagle will be our Crew Chief. He's served as a Crew Chief on several cars in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and most recently worked as both Car Chief & Crew Chief for the #98 car in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for Phil Parsons Racing & then Premium Motorsports.

We've already gotten some great partners for the upcoming year. I'm excited to announce Diamond Gusset Jeans as our sponsor for Daytona, and would like to say a very special thank you to David Hall at DG for his support of my racing career. Also would like to say thank you to our good friends Rodney and Lynn Riessen at Riessen Construction, & RPM Trailer Sales for their associate sponsorship. I can't tell you how thankful we are to have your support this year.

It'll be the first time I've raced in NASCAR since 2014 in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and I couldn't be more excited about it. I'm even getting to run my favorite racing number, and the first number I ever ran in NASCAR - the 44. I'll still be working at Ron Fellows Performance Driving School part time throughout the season, and I'm thankful for Rick Malone and the entire staff of instructors for their support of my career.

See you at Daytona!

Tommy Joe