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CARS Late Model Stock Tour

Why Tommy Joe Martins is going CARS Tour racing

Daylon Barr Photography

January 18: Tommy Joe Martins teases that he’s going racing this year
January 25: Is that … that is … it’s Tommy Joe Martins at CARS Tour media and production day.

What in the world are you doing here?

“We’re having fun,” Martins said, then a pause. “Hopefully!”

“This has been something I’ve worked with Derek Peebles, who was a car chief with us on the Xfinity Series last year, on,” Martins said. “He’s run Late Model Stocks for a really long time and we had always kind of joked about putting something together.

“We did a couple of races last year with Jonathan Findley and some other drivers and it was labeled Alpha Prime Development but we really started to think about what we could really do with this.”

And as part of that conversation, Martins really got it in his mind that he wanted to drive regularly again.

He hasn’t run any NASCAR stuff since 2022, focused entirely on the team management side, and has only dabbled in a handful of Late Model starts since then. He’s got the itch in a bad way.

“So, we looked at the schedule, and Jonathan Findley said he planned to run five or six races in CARS Tour this year,” Martins said. “So, I talked to my dad, and I talked to Ken Gilreath, who sponsored me when I raced Xfinity and we figured we could divide it up. We could potentially put a full season together and it made sense.

“Like, CARS Tour has done a tremendous job with marketing and growth. It’s a cheaper place to run than Super Late Models, where you have to race all over the Southeast.

“All of these races are just a couple of hours away at most. I can reach out and touch these tracks. Our Late Model shop is going to be a couple of minutes away from our Xfinity shop so I can be involved with it.”

Martins said he kind of views this as the relaunch of Martins Motorsports and that CARS Tour was just a perfect fit for it from a branding, logistics and competition standpoint.

It checked all the boxes.

Martins did race the All American 400 in November but said he felt confident he was getting out of the Super Late Model business from a logistics and cost standpoint.  Really, the fact that all the CARS Tour races are the Carolinas and Virginia, and at most, could travel to Nashville Fairgrounds, where he spent his formative years, next year just made sense.

“Super Late Models, I don’t understand what their market is anymore with the costs,” Martins said. “Where here, you can get a competitive car for significantly less. The way they structure these races here, it just feels more approachable, right?

“We have the ability to test a lot more at the places we are going to go race, and again, they’re close to home. Like, if we wanted to shake a car down for me or get me a feel for a track I’ve never been to, there will be plenty of chances for me to feel as prepared as possible for any given race.”

Where does he plan on racing out of the 17-race schedule?

“I think my first race will be at Hickory, which is cool, because racing there has been a bucket list item for a long time with all the history there,” Martins said. “I want to race at South Boston for the same reason.

“Tri-County is actually the place I first tested a Stock Car of any kind, an ARCA car for Eddie Sharp in 2008, not a Legends Car or a Late Model but a full blown 900 horsepower ARCA car at Tri-County so being able to race there would be a cool full circle moment for me.”

Martins also has very little expectations beyond just wanting to see the program grow for Findley as much as himself.

“He’s one of the really good youngsters to come out of these cars and has a great relationship with Derek so i’m going to be able to learn from him a lot too,” Martins said. “I think we’re going to have test time throughout the week and to get better.

“Dale Jr.’s shop is right next to ours so that will be a good place for us to start learning too. And you see where Dale was able to test a good bit to his legs back under him in these cars, being able to run competitively in the top-10, which is not easy to do in this series.”

So, from standpoint, Martins is aiming for top-20s initially, with the hope that he can improve from there as he tests and races more.

“By the end of the year, I hope we’re a lot mor competitive,” he said. “I hope we can start talking about top-10s and top-5s.”

Matt Weaver is the owner and founder of Short Track Scene. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He also has extensive experience covering NASCAR, IndyCar and Dirt Sprint Cars.

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