Martin in a part time role at Michael Waltrip Racing was called on to fill in for the injured Tony Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing. Stewart is out for the rest of the season with a broken leg caused by a crash while racing sprint cars in Iowa last month. The team needed an experienced driver to fill in for Stewart and the attention turned to veteran Martin. It wasn’t an easy task, however. Martin had obligations with sponsors at MWR and was racing Toyota’s. After some no doubt extensive negotiations behind the scenes, Martin headed to Bristol and his first start for Stewart-Haas.
The night didn’t go as well as hoped. After starting 11th, Martin began to fade falling back as far as 32nd at one point.
“We missed the setup really bad at the beginning of the race,” Martin told Examiner. “We struggled with the car in trying to get it better, and then I pitted wrong and cost us a lap, and that was the beginning of the end.”
Martin and his crew led by crew chief Steve Addington tried to work on improving the car and even took a chance on pit strategy to get back on the lead lap.
“We took a gamble and lost a couple more laps by pitting under the green, and then having a caution come out on the lap where we came back out,” Martin said. “We had some tough luck and a few things that we could’ve done better, but we were pretty fast at the end.”
The speed at the end didn’t happen soon enough and Martin could only manage a 20th place finish.
“I go home feeling good about it because we were able to improve the car and get it competitive,” Martin said. “That’s hard to do with the short pit stops that we get here.”
On a more optimistic note Martin has the rest of the season to adjust to the role he has been thrust into.
“The positive is the guys did a great job,” Martin said. It was just a short day yesterday, and we didn’t have a chance to get it right. This one is behind us, and we’ll move ahead from here.”
BREAKING NEWS: Kurt Busch heading to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014