Martin ready to show what he can do with race car
You’ll have to excuse Mike Martin if he’s a little on edge this week.
That’s because for the first time since he left Yuma in 1999, he’s going to be performing in front of his hometown crowd, and he doesn’t want to disappoint. So, he’s a little nervous.
Martin will be one of the drivers entered in this weekend’s Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Series presented by MavTV, Canyon Region event for non-winged sprint cars at Cocopah Speedway.
“It’s exciting. It’s nervousing,” said Martin this week as he talked about doing what he loves to do best on what was once his home track.
“People don’t realize and understand, I could go out and run my butt off and run fifth, but they see you run fifth. They don’t maybe understand the caliber of what you’re up against or who you’re racing with. So for me to do well, to perform well, is pretty important.”
Martin actually raced at Cocopah Speedway earlier this year when he put together a last-minute entry for the ASCS National Tour event for winged sprint cars in March. It was so hastily arranged that he had to borrow a wing from another driver at the track.
Therefore, he doesn’t consider that effort an official, first-time appearance.
And for good reason. Since 1999 he’s been pursuing his dream of driving sprint cars – non-winged sprint cars. But never in all those years has he had the chance to show what he can do with one of these cars at home. His career has seen him race in countless events in Phoenix and Tucson, and as far away as the Los Angeles area, Las Vegas, New Mexico and Texas.
To date, Martin has six non-wing feature event wins to his credit. He’d like to add No. 7 to the list Saturday night.
“We’ve had a couple of good runs here lately, and going into this weekend I feel good because we had a good run last weekend, just as far as knowing we’re fast.”
In the Canyon Region event last weekend at Canyon Speedway Park, Martin ran 11th in the 20-car feature event after starting sixth and being sent to the back for stopping to avoid a car that had spun.
In the 2012 season opener, he ran seventh.
Martin cut his racing teeth at Cocopah Speedway, back when the track was known as Yuma Speedway. Having just turned 20, he brought out a Street Stock for the 1996 season, but the car broke after two events and Martin said he didn’t have the money to fix it.
This was after he had helped his friend’s father, Stan Simala, win the Street Stock title in 1994. In 1997 Martin chose to help Simala’s son Brett Simala win the Street Stock title, and in 1998 Martin bought Simala’s car and went back to driving.
Although he was winning that season, he said he wasn’t having any fun. Besides, Brett Simala and another friend, Kent Rosevear, had chosen to go sprint car racing, and Martin wanted to do the same.
So, before the 1998 season was over, he sold his car. He also sold a boat and a truck to put together $20,000 to buy a sprint car and one motor. He also financed a new truck and a trailer.
“Kent was doing it. Brett was doing it. And I wanted to do this,” said Martin. “I wanted to go sprint car racing. I didn’t care. I was going racing.”
In retrospect, however, Martin said the way he did it was a huge mistake.
“Being from Yuma there were no resources, there was nobody to talk to, to show me what I was doing, if I was doing something wrong or not right. So for the first six nights, I drove a car that the motor was 90 degrees out of timing.
“And then once that got fixed, the steering gear wasn’t right in it, but you don’t know this, because you don’t know how it’s supposed to feel.
“So I beat myself up for three years trying to learn all of this stuff on my own.”
In the meantime, Simala and Rosevear both gave up racing sprint cars.
Now, 13 years and thousands of laps later, Martin finally feels he’s arrived.
“Now I’m there. I have the equipment, I have the experience. Now I’m finally where I feel I need to be. It would have been nice to be there five years ago.”