Twisted body panels, and a dangling deck-lid. It was a devastating end to what was a career-race for underdog racer Tommy Joe Martins in Monday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Alsco 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
In a wild 300-mile event (304.5 miles when you factor in the overtime finish), which saw 11 cautions, Martins did what he does best, he took care of his equipment from the 32nd starting spot.
As attrition began to set in and only around 15 drivers were left on the lead lap, with under 10 laps to go, Martins was in prime position to walk away with his first-career top-10 finish in his NASCAR National Series career (62 Xfinity Series starts and 28 Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series starts).
The 33-year old driver has toiled away for years trying to make a name for himself in the sport. Along the way, he has written several pieces from the perspective of an underdog team driver, which has opened the eyes to fans who didn’t understand that every team wasn’t working with an open checkbook and made him a cult icon to many who follow the mid-to-back half of the pack.
It was Martins’ night to finally shine, until it wasn’t.
On a restart with three laps left in regulation, a crash broke out near the front of the pack.
Noah Gragson went sliding into Brandon Jones. Gragson then chased his car down the track and slammed into Martins, who had nowhere to go. This sent Martins skidding hard into the inside retaining wall. It was a monstrous impact, which absolutely obliterated the No. 44 machine.
Huge trouble in Charlotte! pic.twitter.com/31VgPAk6P5
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) May 26, 2020
When the dust settled, Martins’ would-be top-10 finish turned into a disappointing 24th-place DNF (did not finish). Even more troubling, the car which nearly took him to said top-10 finish crashed so hard that Martins said on Twitter that the floorboard was bent in the crash.
Basically a throwaway. Bent the floorboard it hit so hard. Hardest hit of my life. Just wanna thank everyone up front for not being able to make it 2 laps under green. pic.twitter.com/FvVaVMzOVT
— Tommy Joe Martins (@TommyJoeMartins) May 26, 2020
Unfortunately, for the family-owned team it means the car will basically be going to the scrapyard. All of their hard work, the blood sweat and tears put in to dial in a fast race car, for naught.
When sponsorship dollars are hard to come by — Martins Motorsports has done a great job landing partners after the COVID-19 shutdown, such as Market Rebellion, who were on the car on Monday — and the lack of seemingly endless resources, which multi-million dollar organizations like Joe Gibbs Racing, who fielded race-winner Kyle Busch’s entry, have at their disposal, any loss of equipment is a massive blow.
Luckily, Martins was able to walk away from the vicious crash, a crash he called the hardest of his career. And despite the disappointing finish, he and his rag-tag group showed what they were truly capable of on Monday.
But damn, it would have been really something to see Martins put a tally on his career-stats sheet under the top-10 category on Monday night after all of the years of hard work.
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed NASCAR as a fan since 1993.