[media-credit name=”Photo Credit: halmartinracing.com” align=”alignright” width=”225″][/media-credit]Hal Martin has lived his entire racing life following the motto of his beloved hometown football team, the New Orleans Saints. So for this driver, known as the ‘Ragin Cajun’, there will only be one acceptable outcome to his Nationwide Series debut in Kansas this weekend, to ‘Finish Strong.’
Martin will be taking the wheel of a TriStar Motorsports Toyota Camry for the first time this weekend at Kansas Speedway and then will complete in three races for the remainder of this year. Martin intends to run a full season next year and to compete for the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Rookie of the Years honors.
“I’m very excited to be here in Kansas,” Martin said. “It’s been a lot of work getting here.”
“But finally, this is the weekend for my debut so all the hard work has paid off,” Martin continued. “This is what I’ve been working for all my life since I was a kid playing with cars in my back yard.”
“And now I’m competing against these drivers in the Nationwide Series, which is a huge step for me,” Martin said. “And I’m really looking forward to it.”
Martin has had an interesting racing journey, bringing him to his first Nationwide run. And, at the age of 26 years, it has been an unusual road to the say least.
“I don’t come from a racing family,” Martin said. “My dad was a fan of the sport but he never drove a race car.”
“I’ve always been a competitive person from the time when I was a kid growing up,” Martin continued. “I was the one who wanted to finish first, even it was just a race on the play ground. I’ve always been that competitive.”
“And I’ve always been a hard core race fan since I was five years old,” Martin said. “I used to be able to name every driver in the Cup Series, their car number and their sponsor right down the line.”
“It’s something I really followed as a kid as a fan and I grew that into a career,” Martin continued. “That’s something I tell everyone – that I know what it’s like to be a fan on the other side of the fence and I appreciate every single fan we have because I was once one of them.”
Even Martin’s first race experience, at age 15 years, was far different than the norm. While it was a competitive race, it was a charity event for which Martin had to meet with local businesses to raise money for the charity in order to even enter the competition.
“We finished fourth and I’ll never forget the first time I suited up and put that helmet on,” Martin said. “The feeling I had was indescribable.”
“That’s something I’ve carried on and that I still remember.”
From that memorable moment of his first time behind the wheel, Martin was hooked and went on to compete in multiple series after that. And he even took on racing and college at the same time to further his goals.
“I won a lot of races and the championship,” Martin said. “I progressed from there and moved on to asphalt late models and won a track championship in Mobile.”
“While I was doing that, I was also attending college full-time at the University of New Orleans and obtained a degree in mechanical engineering,” Martin continued. “It was a tough road to do both simultaneously but we were able to do it with great support from family and friends helping me out through the whole deal.”
“In 2009, I stepped up and raced multiple series across the country, including ASA, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the ARCA Series,” Martin said. “I finished third in my second race in the ARCA Series in Chicagoland and that’s what propelled my career forward tenfold.”
“And now we’re doing the Nationwide deal, three races this year and looks like we will anticipate a full season next year, with the goal of winning the Rookie of the Year.”
While Martin is excited about the new opportunities, he has also set realistic goals for himself, his crew chief John Quinn, with whom he worked in the ARCA Series, and his TriStar Motorsports team.
“We’re building for next year is basically what we are doing,” Martin said. “We are building that relationship with our team and my crew chief John Quinn.”
“I worked with him last year in the ARCA Series for a few races and we had really good chemistry right off the bat,” Martin continued. “We have been reunited at TriStar Motorsports and we’ve been moving forward ever since.”
“Us racers want to win every race but the competition is fierce in this Series and this is a new team and my first time in the car,” Martin said. “I’ve always been known as a calculated driver, which I credit to my engineering degree.”
“So, I’m realistic with our goals and starting out this year, our goal is to finish every lap we can,” Martin continued. “That would be a win in our books.”
“We’re not going to overstep and I want to earn the respect of the drivers who race in the Nationwide Series.”
Martin also expressed gratitude for his sponsors, American Custom Yachts and US Forensics, both of whom are helping make his step up to the Nationwide Series possible.
“I hail from South Louisiana and am a Cajun born and bred,” Martin said. “And I’m proud of my heritage and where I come from and we have a lot of support from there.”
“This year, we have as a sponsor American Custom Yachts, which is a full construction and repair company with ties to Louisiana,” Martin continued. “They’re our primary sponsor for the three races this year and also into next year for select races.”
“We also have US Forensics, a forensic engineering company, which is the company that gave me my first job out of college,” Martin said. “They’ve come on board as my sponsor for this year and next.”
Martin also acknowledged that in his Nationwide debut that he will be following the lead of one of his racing idols, one with a very similar last name.
“I’ve always really looked up to Mark Martin,” Martin said. “We had common last names and he was to me a driver that was well-respected, competitive and family-oriented.”
“Mark Martin was the guy I pulled for growing up and the one I want to be most like.”
But most of all, Hal Martin will be following the credo that he has lived by for all of his life as he settles in behind the wheel for the first time in a Nationwide car in the Kansas Lottery 300.
“One of the things that I’ve always followed, which I stole from my New Orleans Saints foot ball team is their motto when they won the Super Bowl, ‘Finish Strong’,” Martin said. “That’s the motto I follow too, especially in racing.”
“You can start out strong but you have to finish strong too,” Martin said passionately. “That’s what I intend to do.”