Jason Martin Geared Up For His World of Outlaws Debut At Lawrenceburg Speedway Putnamville, IN -- April 20, 2006 -- For Jason Martin, the past 76 days have seemed like an eternity. He has been on the road with his NOS Energy Drink/Mafia ...
Jason Martin Geared Up For His World of Outlaws Debut At Lawrenceburg Speedway
Putnamville, IN -- April 20, 2006 -- For Jason Martin, the past 76 days have seemed like an eternity. He has been on the road with his NOS Energy Drink/Mafia Motorsports No. 36 Maxim on the World of Outlaws Sprint Series circuit. He has been turning wrenches and helping the crew set the car up. He's been at the car wash making sure the car sparkled for the next race. It's not the late nights or the countless miles on the road that have been tough for him.
Martin, a native of Liberal, Kan., has not been in the driver's seat since a violent accident on Feb. 3 at East Bay Raceway Park in Florida. After it was all said and done, Martin had broken bones in his neck, and the doctors told him it would be at least six weeks before he could get back into the car.
Making sure to be fully healed, Martin, 23, rehabbed by doing a variety of exercises that were based on using the head as gravity and utilizing different positions with the neck to help gain its range of motion and strength back.
All the patience and hard work came to fruition on a very warm and sunny afternoon yesterday in Western Indiana at Lincoln Park Speedway. On a nearly perfect day, Martin and his crew chief Lester Groves rolled their shiny red winged warrior off of the trailer. In fact, not only was Jason testing his body out for the first time since his accident, but the car was one that had never felt the clay of a track until it hit the sun-baked banked oval.
"It took me a little bit to get back in the swing of things in the car," Martin said of returning to the driver's seat. "I feel pretty comfortable right now, and feel like I can go as hard as I can. I think [the bumpy track at Putnamville] is exactly what I was looking for. It was rough and it got slick and I had to drive it a little more. I think we had a pretty good test today."
The test was not as much about sheer speed for Martin, as it was about getting the feel in the racecar, and making sure his body was healed and ready to race at the tight confines Friday night at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway, where everything happens in a hurry.
"I was really surprised," stated a relived Martin. "I was a little worried about my neck being weak, but I've been working on that pretty hard over the last two or three weeks. I feel pretty good. I'm not generally a nervous person, so usually it doesn't bother me. It's about comfort factor. You have to be comfortable and have your mind clear before you can go out there, and race with these guys at this level. I think I went a long way in that today [during the test]."
Martin was not the only one smiling on Wednesday at Lincoln Park Speedway. Groves was doing the routine maintenance on the car but had a little extra hop in his step. As Martin describes him, Groves, is like a father and brother to the young driver. No one is happier than Groves to see Martin back in the car.
"He's back exactly where he wants to be," Groves stated as he rolled a tire into the trailer after the test. "I'm just glad he's back in it. The first couple races it was hard to see the car going around, and look over there and see Jason standing off to the side. It was a little difficult."
Looking back at the accident, about 11 weeks ago, Martin doesn't remember much. In fact, he doesn't even remember being rolled out for the A-main that night. He sees that as a positive.
"It's kind of a good thing I don't remember it because now I won't have those flashbacks if that's what you want to call it," said a focused Martin. "When you get in that car and put the shield down, you don't see anything but what's in front of you. Whenever you start thinking about that other stuff, that's when you do stupid stuff, and things happen wrong."
Martin knows it might take him a race or two to get back in his groove and for him and the team to be clicking on all cylinders. He also acknowledges that it might take a few races for some of the other drivers who have not raced against him in the past to gain respect for him.
"It's tough, but you have to look at it in the big picture," Martin said. "There is a lot of the year left and I learned a lot looking at the car from the outside for awhile."
Right now the team sits 12th in owner points, after Brian Brown and Rob Chaney kept the seat warm for Martin with three top-10 finishes, including a third last week by Chaney at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Ind.
The goal for the rest of the year is to solidly get into the top-10 in points. Martin and Lester are both confident the team will show its full potential and battle for some wins as Martin gets more comfortable with the car week in and week out.
"I've never had to work so hard and not get to enjoy it before," Martin said with his trademark sly smile. "It's worth it. I think the rest of the year is going to prove it, and show it's worth what we had to go through. I just want to thank Rob and all my sponsors for sticking with me."
On top of this, Martin has stuck with himself and made sure that he was fully healed before climbing back into the racecar. There were many days he wanted to return to it, but he heeded the doctor's wishes and knew that the car would be waiting for him when he was ready.
Martin has been waiting his whole life to get a chance to race full-time with the World of Outlaws and the best sprint car drivers in the world, and after a little bit of a detour, that dream is ready to be fulfilled.