RINGGOLD — Our interests are formed early on in life to what we enjoy doing. Most times, these interests are formed and developed through our families influence naturally become ours too.
This was the case for Mayport’s Joe Martin, and his early love of local racing. The 27-year driver has turned this affection into his own racing career and growing success by the season on the FASTRAK Northeast Late Model Touring Series.
“I have been going (to the races) since I was three or four years old,” explains Martin. “My parents took me to Marion Center (Speedway) on Saturday nights. My dad also started helping our friend (who races the same type of cars) Mike Blose so I would go along and help too.”
The early desire and love of racing did not dwindle but was put on hold while Martin went to college. He earned his bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Slippery Rock University which he uses as a personal trainer when not racing.
Four seasons ago, Joe Martin's racing career began and the JM2 Motorsports team dawned its inaugural campaign in the spring of 2009.
“I saved up to buy my own (racing) car,” said the budding racer. “My first car was $13,000. I am on my third car now and next year I am getting my fourth car, a brand new one built. Manufacturers change and you have to stay up on the latest technology as the 1/10th of a second a lap is big.”
Martin has now tested his mettle over the past four springs and summers as part of the FASTRAK Northeast Late Model Touring Series, which is run on dirt oval racing tracks mostly in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.
As Martin made a comparison, the Series is on a Major League Baseball AAA-level. The oval tracks can be in any shape and size with most being ¼-mile tracks but some are as big as 5/8-mile.
“I compete in 30 to 45 races each year,” noted Martin. “It all depends on weather, series schedule and what makes sense.”
At this level, most races give $2,000 for winning the race, $1,000 for the runner-up, $600 for third place and down from there.
“For you to make money, you have to win,” frankly said Martin. “You can work your way up from this level. I started in this level by helping my mentor, Mike Blose.”
The recently completed fourth-year driver made his mark right away on the FASTRAK Northeast Late Model Touring Series during his 2009 rookie campaign. A first season, in which, Joe learned how to win and started to make the money from winning.
After falling just shy in May, Martin made his introduction to what would be a regular stopping place for him, the top 10, in the June races. Early in the month, Joe took his number 55 car to his first top 10 for a ninth spot at Dog Hollow Speedway in Strongstown, Pa. and followed it up the next night with a sixth place at the McKean County Raceway in Smethport.
Martin made June a solid month with his best finish to that point of third back at Dog Hollow and a second sixth place at Tri-City Speedway in Franklin the last weekend.
The June momentum carried into a career first in August. On Aug. 22, Joe started in the ninth spot of the 20 lap 4 Your Car Connection race. He slipped past the leader on lap 18 to take away his first career win and $600 prize at the Mercer Raceway Park.
The inaugural career racing victory was a special one, one that Martin dedicated to who had been his biggest fan his whole life, his grandfather. Martin made the post race dedication to the grandfather who has never missed a baseball game or athletic event, who had passed away in December of 2008.
Over the rest of his rookie season, Martin posted 20 top 10 finishes in his 38 starts. Due to his outstanding first campaign, he was selected as the 2009 Western Pennsylvania Rookie of the Year.
The sophomore slump did not hit Martin. In 2010, he started a hot streak of racing on the last day of July. Starting fourth, Joe moved low on the track and built a sizeable lead to win for the first time at Hartford, Ohio’s Sharon Speedway to garner a $1,000 prize.
Martin took the momentum from the end of July into August. On Aug. 6, he recorded a dominating performance at Dog Hollow Raceway. In the 25-lap race, Joe took away his first career FASTRAK Northeast Late Model Touring Series victory and his biggest prize at the time of $1,200.
The winning run continued back at Dog Hollow on the following weekend.
The night started off with Martin winning his qualifying heat. Taking the white flag from the fourth spot, He ran hard to take the checkered flag and second-straight win and another $1,200 winnings amount.
The 2003 Punxsutawney Area High graduate started off his third year in 2011 in royal style. On April 9 to open the season at Hartford’s Sharon Speedway, Martin could not be stopped. He led every lap to take the race by a 1.682-second margin over multi-time touring series champion Max Blair and his mentor Mike Blose.
The beginning of the year continued two weeks later. Back at the Sharon Raceway, Joe went from sitting in sixth place to sneaking into the top of the field on a second lap restart on his way to victory lane over Blair by .737 seconds. The win made Martin the FASTRAK Late Model Division all-time winner at the Sharon Speedway with three wins.
For the rest of 2011, Martin won on back-to-back weekends in the middle of that June at Tri-City and Dog Hollow. He amassed a then career-best six wins and finished the year seventh in the final FASTRAK Northeast Touring standings.
After the 2011 season was well in the books, Martin was awarded his biggest career award of his first three campaigns. At the January series awards banquet, he was presented the inauguaral “Gary Knollinger Memorial Golden Award.” The new award is given to the driver for his sportsmanship and professionalism that he emulated at all times on and off the speedway.
“The award meant more to him than any other honor that he had ever had ever received,” stated Martin at the time.
After three seasons of building success, Martin did nothing less than continue more of the same this 2012 season that was completed a
few months ago.
Following a rocky first almost two months, Joe made his first two top five appearances of the season at the end of May. On back-to-back evenings, Martin raced to third and fourth places at the Sharon Speedway.
For what seems to have become his most successful track, Martin saw maybe a bit of divine intervention in the 35-car field at the Sharon Speedway. The night was marked as the second annual “Gary Knollinger Memorial” race whom Martin has won the former touring champion’s inaugural sportsmanship award six months prior.
After a hard crash the weekend before at the McKean County Raceway, Martin recorded a nearly perfect night by winning his qualifying heat and a runner-up placing in the K&N Dash to start his night. In the feature race, Joe ran off an impressive wire-to-wire performance to win the 30-lap event.
The $2,000 win was the biggest of the four-year racer’s career. He also earned the $100 Genesis Shocks “Top Dog of the Night” and the K&N $100 certificate for his runner-up finish along with the beautiful memorial racer statue trophy.
“It’s an honor to win this race,” announced the winning racer after the race. “I think Gary (Knollinger) and I have something going on here and he’s looking down on me. We won the award this winter and this is a special night to be in victory lane.”
The 2012 big pay day’s and victory lane visits did not stop in the middle of the summer.
After a pair of opening lap cautions, Martin took the lead and pulled away to his Roaring Knob’s “Big Kahuna” victory. The Sept. 29 win was Martin’s second $2,000 touring win of the year.
The Mayport resident would secure his biggest payday of his four years the next week at Beckley Motorsports Park in Prosperity, WV. The big milestone almost didn’t happen. Martin suffered a flat tire and a 13th-place finish Friday night but was still able to qualify for Saturday’s FASTRAK World Championship.
Although Max Blair claimed the World Championship top prize, Martin was right behind him for the runner-up spot. The second place finish earned Martin a $1,000 purse plus $10,000 in additional point fund money.
Joe also added a strong performance in the World Challenge where he finished fifth to earn race winnings and another $1,200 in point monies as well.
Despite the pay days and six wins, Martin finished the year only 12th in the final Northeast Tour driver standings. He earned six wins and placed in the top five in 26 of 35 races.
“It was my most successful year,” added Martin. “We lived in the top five and had another one time where I finished sixth to tenth.”
Along with the success on the track, the talented driver found a way to pay tribute in October to a family friend as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“Going to Grand Nationals in October, we were encouraged to put pink on your car,” explained Martin. “I put the outline of my number and a pink ribbon with Polly for Polly Farbo, my mom’s close friend, for my pink.”
The driver now nicknamed “Business” by the JM2 Motorsports team does have higher aspirations for his ascending racing career.
“Ultimately, I would like to make it to the ‘major league’ level as there are two national touring series,” said Martin. “I feel I can drive with them (at that level) but it is a big step money wise. The difference is the motors of their cars are $50,000 compared to mine that is $5,000.”
The difference and prospect of moving up is daunting but not one that gets Martin down.
“You just have to keep trying and catch a break,” adds Martin. “I show up and do the best I can.”
The best this FASTRAK racing driver has been able to produce has been nothing less than a yearly ascension up the northeast touring ranks. A continued ascension by the number 55 team to a World Champion title in the near future would surprise no one.
A true professional and class area driver, Martin wanted to thank his supporting sponsors of Allegheny Crane, Wylie Racecars, Ingram Engines, Martin Farms, Neese Trucking and Spartan Thru Tubing for making his racing possible.