ASA STARS National Tour
News and Notes From The All American 400 at Nashville
Nov 7, 2023
Tommy Joe Martins was frustrated by a fueling issue, which ruined a possible top-10 run in the All American 400. But he had fun, and is looking to run more local short track events in the near future.
Tommy Joe Martins, the co-owner and general manager for Alpha Prime Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, was a surprise entrant in this past weekend's ASA STARS National Tour All American 400 at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. Martins calls the All American 400 entry a passion project, and says that the effort came together really last minute.
"We kind of put this deal together a little more last minute, but it was kind of a pet project of my dad and the former Martin's Motorsports co-owner Rodney Reisen," Martins explained in an exclusive interview with Racing America. "They were kind of putting this thing together slowly over the course of time and going, 'hey, we really wanna try to run some late model races this year.' It was just a fun thing and we kind of jumped off in the deep end there at the All American."
While it was surprising to see Martins pop up on the entry list, the driver hopes to moonlight in some more regional short track events in the No. 44 entry in the near future.
"I wanna go run some CARS Tour stuff," Martins said. "We're really lucky. We've been able to partner with Derek Peebles and we kind of had Alpha Prime Development working down there, and we ran a car and the CARS Tour stuff a little bit this year. So I think there's an opportunity for that where I can maybe hop in that car and have some fun with it. Go run some of these really cool places around here, like Tri-County or, uh, you know, maybe even that Wilkesboro race over there."
Martins continued by saying, "I would say, a mix of some late model stock stuff here in the local area over in the Carolinas and Virginia and all that. With the Super races, you know, we're gonna cherry-pick it. We'll probably go down there to Pensacola, Mobile, and maybe to Cordele where they run the big race to kick off the year and the Winchester 400. Some of those bigger events, those are things that I wanna go do and I would see myself doing some stuff like that as we try to develop that car over the course of the year."
Martins ran a part-time schedule in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series for years, and in 2020, Martins finally elevated to being a full-time competitor in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. After a two-year full-time stint, where he finished 20th in points both seasons, Martins stepped aside to serve as the general manager for the rebranded Alpha Prime Racing in 2022.
Martins has driven in just a few select races since then.
While it's fun to think about races he wants to run, personally, Martins says that he feels ideally the Alpha Prime Late Model program will serve as a platform for the team's younger part-time NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers, like Leland Honeyman, to continue to gain real-world track experience while waiting on their next opportunity in the NASCAR National Series ranks with Alpha Prime.
Let's rewind back to Sunday's race.
Martins started off a little sluggish in the All American 400, as he suffered from an ill-handling race car, and he navigated knocking off the rust from behind the wheel.
"Obviously, that's one of the biggest late model races in the country racing against, you know, some of the best guys in the country. And I would tell you that at times we got our butt handed to us this weekend," Martins admitted.
"We were really struggling with handling for a long time in the race and, I really had my hands full and I was getting frustrated."
While his car lacked overall handling, and Martins was boiling over underneath his helmet, the driver was able to stay in the game, and when a massive crash erupted with around 100 laps remaining in the race, he was able to steer clear of a chaotic mess.
After avoiding the big one, Martins buckled down and began to get himself back in the groove, and as the race was drawing to a close, the 36-year-old found himself inside the top 10 in the running order of the prestigious Super Late Model event.
Then, Martins would heartbreakingly run out of fuel, which would relegate the driver of the No. 44 entry to a 15th-place finish. Days after the event, Martins was able to laugh about the fueling error, but when it transpired, he admits he was furious.
I wasn't laughing at the moment [it happened]. I was mad. You can ask the guys, I was about as mad as I've ever been.
Any driver would obviously be frustrated if an issue like the one that derailed Martins' race ended their solid run in one of the most prestigious short track events of the year. But for Martins, the pain was even more immense.
Martins, a native of Como, Mississippi, cut his racing teeth at the Nashville Fairgrounds, and he takes great pride in being able to race there.
"I looked around and with 50-75 laps to go, I'm racing around some pretty good cars and I was running the kind of the high line there around Nashville and it's just such a historic place, man," Martins said. "I kinda had to recalibrate myself a little bit there and go, 'you know what? I don't care if we're a few laps down right now. How cool is this? I'm getting to do this. This is so neat.'
"And then you look up and you run 10th with 10 [laps] to go and you go, 'well, man, we're about to have to get a finish out of this thing,' and then to have it fall short like that, yeah, it was pretty frustrating. But I think that's just me being competitive man. And that part of me is never gonna go away. I think if you wanna compete at the level that we're at here in NASCAR and you wanna make this a living, You gotta have a fire in your belly to really wanna go compete and, and be willing to compete without the best of the best stuff."
While Martins runs a competitive team on a shoe-string budget, he knows that the more that Alpha Prime runs in the Late Model and Super Late Model divisions, the closer they'll continue to get to the competition.
"We know we don't have top-of-the-line affiliate [equipment] everything else, but we wanna be a team full of really competitive people that are just always trying to overachieve. And that late model deal was the same thing. We ran into a buzz saw, we learned a lot and I know the next time we go out there, we're gonna be more competitive and we're gonna be better and I'm gonna be better," Martins explained.
Photo Credit: Will Bellamy, Racing America