One of the most likeable underdog Xfinity Series teams in recent memory, Martins Motorsports, closed their doors upon the conclusion of the season finale in Phoenix this past weekend – in a strictly metaphorical sense that is. In his final race under the Martins Motorsports banner, and his final race as a full-time driver in the Xfinity Series, Tommy Joe Martins wheeled the AAN Adjusters #44 Camaro to a 24th place finish. All told, the race went fairly well for the small team, as they fought back from going a lap down early, ran inside the top-20 at times, and finished the race without incident on the lead lap.
It wrapped up what could otherwise be described as an up and down season for the team, and one that unfortunately ended with them just outside of the top-20 in owner points – a goal for the team all year, as a top-20 would have resulted in a significant (particularly for a small, family owned team) monetary award. While Tommy Joe Martins himself ended the season 20th in the driver standings, Martins Motorsports ended the year 22nd in owner points, just 16 points behind 20th place Our Motorsports. Adding salt to that wound, Martins finished 39th at the season’s penultimate race at Martinsville due to an early mechanical issue. On Twitter after the race, Martins himself said that he had a “really fast car”, and “we definitely could have gotten a top-10 tonight” in light of the chaos that enveloped the end of the race. A top-10, or even a top-20, in place of that 39th would have essentially guaranteed a top-20 in owner points. Nonetheless, the team now has their eyes to the future – and that future looks equal parts interesting, and bright.
Back in August it was announced that Tommy Joe Martins and Caesar Bacarella were teaming up to form a new Xfinity Series team called Alpha Prime Racing. Rather than fielding a full time driver, the team has opted to field a number of part time drivers, with drivers running at tracks that best suit their strengths. In addition to Martins and Bacarella themselves, the team will also field ARCA standout and NASCAR Drive for Diversity driver Rajah Caruth, road course expert Andy Lally, and Xfinity Series veteran Ryan Ellis. Martins will compete in 10 – 15 races, Bacarella will run in select races when his sports car racing schedule allows, Lally is expected to handle road courses (with the door being “left open” to add some oval tracks according to Martins), Ellis is expected to run 5 races, while Caruth will run four to six races, and maintain his rookie status going into 2023, where it has been hinted he will run for Xfinity Series Rookie of the Year with Alpha Prime. The team plans to run all races in 2022, and will certainly be gunning for the top-20 in owner points this time around.
Tommy Joe Martins, who has been competing in NASCAR since 2009, said in an interview with TobyChristie.com that Martins Motorsports as it has been was “maxed out with what we’re doing”, and that “I feel like to go to the next level, or even stay at the level we are at, it’s probably going to take more than I can offer as a driver. We’re going to need some other people to buy into what we’re building here.”
Bringing in talented drivers with existing sponsorship, and putting them on tracks that suit their strengths, is a path forward that should help the team continue to grow. Oftentimes it’s just a matter of execution – can you stay out of trouble and cross the line without incident? In 33 races this year, Martins recorded eight DNFs (five incidents, three mechanical), which was tied for the most of any driver in the Xfinity series. While in fairness DNFs are often as tied to random luck as anything else, that’s a result the team knows they need to improve upon next season. On the plus side, Martins also tallied 17 top-20 finishes, so the speed is there when the team avoids trouble.
Martins Motorsports has proven over the last two years since their return to full time competition that they are capable of building fast cars, and Tommy Joe Martins has proven his dedication to being successful in NASCAR. Time will tell if the team is able to take that next step forward, but either way – Alpha Prime Racing should prove to be a fun team to watch in 2022.
Featured photo from @TeamAlphaPrime on Twitter.