Archive for August, 2010

Off Weekend

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Hi Everyone,

I hope everybody had a good weekend. I enjoyed mine and chose not to visit a race track since it was our final weekend off until NASCAR’s season finale in Homestead, Fla., on November 21. Sherry and I traveled with our dog Lexi along with my best friend Adam (a.k.a. Dupree) and his girlfriend to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It’s a little over 350 miles away from Charlotte. It’s a beautiful place!

We spent our first day relaxing and lounging at the beach. Dupree called a buddy of his to give us some suggestions on all the hot spots and he hooked us up with a charter on our second day of vacation. Our captain was Aaron Kelly. He’s a native of Kitty Hawk and has fished and surfed the area all of his life. He took us out on the Rock Solid — a 27′ center console with a tower. Captain Kelly recommended us to chase some amberjacks because I have never caught one before. They are big fish and can weigh up to 40 lbs. As soon as my first bait hit the water, I had one on the line and man, did it put up a fight! It took over 10 minutes to reel it in. In total we caught three more before heading inshore to try our hand at cobia. Cobia is an even bigger fish than the large amberjacks we caught. Sometimes they are even mistaken for a small shark. Unfortunately we didn’t have any luck catching cobia so Captain Kelly put us on some redfish. I did well and caught a 25 incher! I’ve got a photo of that one for you too!

If you’re ever find yourself on the Outer Banks and want to go inshore fishing, give Capt. Aaron a call. Tell him Martin and Dupree sent you! He’s a great guide and he’ll have you laughing all day! Visit: www.rocksolidfishing.com

On our third day, Dupree and I went out on his boat. The fish weren’t biting so Dupree decided he wanted to go spearfishing for our dinner. We went out in about 30 feet of water. He saw a bunch of sheepsheads and even connected on one. He bagged about 10 total so we didn’t go hungry.

Now it’s back to reality. I’ve got my weekly radio segment on Sirius Speedway along with several radio call-ins to do to help promote the race for Atlanta Motor Speedway. The track has really been good to NAPA so hopefully, we can help sell tickets because they’ve got special ticket packages and plenty of events planned for fans so it will be a fun Labor Day race weekend. Come out and join us if you can. Plus, I’ll be signing autographs at the MWR souvenir rig on Sunday from 4:15 p.m. to 4:35 p.m. You’ll need to stop by the rig early because they’ll be handing out tickets for the session. The first 75 people who get tickets are guaranteed my autograph.

If you need race tickets, call the track (877-9-AMS-TIX) or go online at www.atlantamotorspeedway.com. Hope to see you there!

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BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Hi Everyone,

On Friday, Michael and I ran into Ron Capps at Bristol Motor Speedway. It was a lot of fun to catch up with him as I haven’t seen him since NAPA’s Employee Appreciation Day back in March. Capps flew in to help the NHRA promote its Countdown to 1 playoffs and the upcoming race at the zMax Dragway. It’s a shame we won’t be able to see him race in our own backyard as we’ll be up in New Hampshire for the Cup race. He’s really wants Michael and I to suit up and take a ride in his NAPA Funny car. Maybe someday …

Our Bristol weekend was a disappointment. We practiced really well and our lap times on the long runs were impressive. There was no doubt about it. We had a fast car. Qualifying was no different. We got an early draw which was not in our favor. I laid down a qualifying lap that was over two-tenths quicker than practice and in the end, only eight cars were faster than us. I was really proud of that effort and it was my best starting spot for a Bristol Sprint Cup race.

I went to sleep on Friday night thinking this race could be it for us.

I woke up on Saturday and despite the rain washing all the rubber off the track, I still felt like the possible change in track conditions would still be OK for us. I went to hospitality and met our Honorary Pit Crew Member Chuck Bowles. He had no idea that his name was decaled on our car. His expression was priceless. He had one message for me – don’t get the car wrecked.

For the first-third of the race, we were really good. I really liked our chances. By lap 150, we were running down the leaders and the NAPA Toyota was the fastest car on the track. I thought we were maybe two or three small adjustments away from being able to take the lead. But around 250, we somehow lost the handle on it. Our car wouldn’t turn and was really loose. We were never able to catch up with the track. Knowing what we had at the start and then see it all go away was frustrating as well as confusing.

Also, Goodyear brought a new tire for this race so what we learned from the spring race was pretty much thrown out the window. The new tire caused the track to get rubbered up. You could see it happening because the track’s concrete kept getting black. I think the more rubber that was put down changed the conditions and who could adapt to it best was going to do well. Our teammate David Reutimann and his crew did a great job adapting all night. He went door-to-door with Kyle Busch for the win. That’s pretty impressive considering he was recovering from food poisoning.

Our night at Bristol is just one of those live and learn situations. Our NAPA team continues to show some serious speed. Pat and I are still building our notebook for this year. It was impressive to see this new team contend for a Chase spot. Unfortunately we hit a rough patch of bad luck and realistically, our chances to make it are pretty slim. Our focus now is winning trophies for NAPA and preparing for next season. We have a good grasp on everything and plan to do more testing. We’ve added North Wilkesboro and Gresham to our schedule in September.

This week has been quiet on the competition front since it’s our final off weekend of the season. I played in Larry McReynolds 9th Annual Celebrity golf tournament in Mooresville with some other NASCAR drivers like Kyle Petty, Scott Speed, Ron Hornaday and Regan Smith. You should have seen what Kyle Petty was wearing – he’s hysterical. All the money raised is going to some great charities, including SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now). It’s fun to have some time with those guys away from the track.

Now, Sherry and I are packing our bags for a last-minute trip to the coast of North Carolina. We’re going with a friend of mine and his girlfriend. We’re also bringing our dog Lexi. She likes to go swimming. Our plans are to kick back, relax and of course, do some fishing. I have to hand it to Sherry; she’s pretty good about arranging vacations where I can fish. She even likes to fish a little bit too as long as the water doesn’t get too rough. Hopefully the waters will be calm and she’ll be out there with me. I’ll forward some pictures of our trip to include in next week’s blog.

Until next week

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Credit: NHRA

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Michigan International Speedway

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Hi Everyone,

Last week Sherry and I took a few days off and went to Traverse City, Mich., to visit friends and family. We did a bunch of small-mouth bass fishing and wore them out! We had a great week and it was a relaxing way to gear up to a good weekend on the track for both me and my brother Ryan.

Can I just tell you how proud I am of Ryan? He did a great job at Michigan. He never raced on a track that size before. Last Thursday he got up to speed quickly. He gave great feedback and pretty much went out there and took to the track with ease. I don’t think any of us expected him to go out and qualify like he did. He laid down a great lap and for quite awhile was on the pole until Brad Keselowski knocked him off the top spot. He started second and ran there for a long time. It was also the first time he ever had green-flag stops during a Nationwide Series race. He drove smart and despite the car losing some of its handling on the first two pit stops, it got better near the end of the race. He learned a lot racing around a lot of cars and finished 12th. Carl Edwards walked up to my dad and told him how much he enjoyed racing him.

A funny thing happened when I was signing autographs at one of the gates at this past weekend. This one girl said, “Thanks, Ryan.” I haven’t told him that story yet, but it isn’t going to be long until he’s got his own identity in NASCAR.

Our Michigan race was really interesting for the NAPA AUTO PARTS team. It reminded me of the Pocono race. The sun would go in and certain guys would be fast. The sun would come out and it made an impact on some of the guys. One minute they’re fast. The next minute they’re slow. I think it showed us how sensitive our cars are to change. We had a really good NAPA Toyota at the start of the race especially after the first pit stop. The car really took off. We were catching the leaders and were fourth when we pitted. We had a little trouble on our stop and then the adjustment we made didn’t work out so well. We really struggled during the third run of the race and I can only guess that the short rain shower caused our car to really get loose because we lost a bunch of track position. We went from fourth to 20th. Fortunately, our car was really good so we recovered and had a good day.

I was really proud of Pat. He called a good race. He made a few gutsy calls and it all worked out for us. On one of the cautions near the end, Pat kept me out on track because we only had a few laps on our tires and if we pitted for fuel, we still couldn’t make it to the end. I think a lot of those guys that pitted, hoped for a long caution and gamble on fuel mileage. It wasn’t an option for us so we stayed out. It allowed us to jump from 12th to second. We also led a few laps. In the end, the caution was thrown again and we all pitted for fuel and tires. Our car was good and we worked really hard to finish eighth.

Before I go, I launched a new Web site www.mtjauthentics.com. If you are a NASCAR fan and an outdoors enthusiast, please take a look at it and let me know what you think!

Pocono

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Hello Everyone –

We really worked hard for that ninth place finish this past weekend in Pocono. I guess you could say we overachieved a little bit which is good. We had a tough Friday. We struggled getting ready for qualifying. When it was time to lay down a lap it wasn’t very good. Then on Saturday, we made a lot of changes and actually got pretty happy with our NAPA Toyota. Starting 28th and in the back at Pocono wasn’t the ideal situation, obviously. To make it even harder, the weather kept changing. It also rained on Saturday night so the track was green. It was a real challenge for all of the drivers over the course of the 500 miles. At one point we saw Jimmie Johnson dominating and then at the end of the race, he was behind us and we drove away from him. It took us a long time to get where we wanted to be but with 70 or 80 laps to go, we were in the top 15 and started to pick off spots. The pit strategy that Pat Tryson put into play really worked to our benefit. We were decent and able to stay up near the front. For the NAPA team to get a top-10 finish was a real accomplishment. I am proud of everyone and Pat did a great job calling the race. Hopefully we are back on the right track. If we can continue to do what we did in Pocono and take advantage of having really good cars then this NAPA team will be in good shape.

Last week JTG-Daugherty made two announcements concerning their team for next season. Obviously MWR has a technical alliance with them so it will somewhat effect our organization. I am sorry to see Marcos Ambrose leave. He has been a great teammate and has really been an asset to MWR’s road course program. I wish him success in whatever he decides to do.

Replacing Marcos will be Bobby Labonte. I think JTG-Daugherty Racing is a really good move for him. He’s got a lot of experience and has been with big teams in the past. It will be fun to see him in our cars and I think he’ll be impressed with our Toyotas and the resources he will have access to. He’s a champion so we know he’ll be able to bring a lot to the table to and help us continue to build upon the momentum we have going.

I am really looking forward to going to Watkins Glen. It is a good track and I’ve had some great runs there in the past. Of the two road courses we go to, Watkins Glen has produced better results for me. Earlier this year, the NAPA team ran really well at Infineon Raceway. We had a top-three going until we got wrecked so we didn’t get the finish we wanted there. But we had a very strong car and I think Michael Waltrip Racing’s road course program is really strong and a lot of that credit goes to Marcos Ambrose. He’s done a lot of testing for us and the experience he has has really helped us with our setups. I think our NAPA Toyota will be really fast so hopefully it will be a great weekend. I think we have a good chance at being up front and challenging for the win.