It was an ugly 20th place finish last weekend for Mark Martin and the #14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet team. In his first race subbing for the injured Tony Stewart, Martin didn’t quite have the handle on the car for the finish many expected.
“We struggled at the beginning of the race hitting the racetrack really, really bad and then we had some tough luck and a few things that we could’ve done better, but we were pretty fast at the end. That’s why I went home feeling good about it because we were able to improve the car and get it competitive and that’s hard to do with the short pit stops that we get at Bristol. The guys did a good job. I think we’ll be better this week at Atlanta and as the next few weeks unfold. Our practice time was so short at Bristol and we had so much trouble, we just needed another day to be ready. The positive is the guys did a great job. We were way off in the beginning and at the end we were a top-10 car,” commented Martin.
Some, me included, believed that Martin could just jump into this car and get to the front. Martin is used to challenges and will not back down from this one.
“It certainly is hard and it’s challenging, but challenges are good for me. They push me hard. They drive me hard, and I will do everything I can to step up to the plate and dig in. But it is a new situation, and it’s not like you sign on with a new team in November and you have January and February to get to know each other before you go off racing. We were faced with racing together in just a few days. I felt like we did a pretty good job given the short amount of time we had together,” explained Martin.
The biggest thing Martin and his team need is to keep working together. Earlier in the week they were able to test at the Richmond International Raceway, which will help communication.
“I’ve just got to have some more time. Being familiar with all this stuff may be a little over-rated, but to be real honest with you, I was quite challenged in Bristol and I don’t feel like I was able to rise to the challenge. We learned so much and even if we just had one more day before last week’s race to work together a little bit, it would’ve helped us a ton. It’s just a matter of time,” said Martin.
The action gets underway for the AdvoCare 500 Sunday night at 7:30. All the action from the Atlanta Motor Speedway can be seen on ESPN.