Martin ready for pre-season testing with new team

Mark Martin. Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
The next phase of Mark Martin’s career kicks into gear this week as he tests for his new team, Michael Waltrip Racing.

Starting today, Martin and his MWR teammates Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer will work together for the first time at two Sprint Cup test sessions over the next five days. First up is short-track testing today and Wednesday at New Smyrna Speedway, near New Smyrna Beach, Fla. Then the team switches gears to prepare for NASCAR’s biggest race, the Daytona 500, with testing Thursday through Saturday at Daytona International Speedway.

The 2012 season marks Martin’s 30th year competing in NASCAR’s top series. After spending the last three seasons with Hendrick Motorsports, Martin has pared down to a part-time schedule with Michael Waltrip Racing. Martin will drive the No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota for 25 races in 2012, starting at Daytona, and will pilot the same number of races in 2013.

As the No. 55 takes to the track this week, it will also be the first time Martin will be working with his new crew and crew chief Rodney Childers, who helmed the No. 00 team with David Reutimann from 2009 to 2011.

While the organization will use the data from the Daytona testing to refine their restrictor-plate program for the season-opening race, Martin also sees it as an opportunity to gel with his new team.

“These tests aren’t incredibly important from the car hardware side. It’s more important for us as a new group working together to work through the areas like communication, flow, learning everyone’s names, routines and things like that. That’s really the critical part of the test,” Martin said in a team press release.

“The biggest thing is starting to build more of a relationship between Mark and the entire team,” Childers said in the release. “Number one, he’ll need to get to know all of his guys and number two we have two or three guys who are new to us who we need to start working with to make sure we are on the same page.”

Martin will share the No. 55 Toyota with his team owner, Michael Waltrip, and other drivers yet to be determined.

In a partial 2012 schedule released Monday, Martin will pilot the entry at the Daytona 500 (Feb. 26), Phoenix (Match 4), Las Vegas (March 11), Auto Club Speedway (March 25), Texas (April 14), Kansas (April 22), Darlington (May 12), the All-Star Race at Charlotte (May 19), the Coca-Cola 600 (May 27), Dover (June 3) and Pocono (June 10).

Waltrip will take the reins of the No. 55 at the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona (Feb. 18) and Talladega (March 6). The remainder of the races, including Bristol (March 18) and Martinsville (April 1), are still being finalized.

Now a member of the Toyota Racing family, Martin will run the Nationwide race at Las Vegas for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Interstate Batteries Toyota. Martin is only slated to run one race for JGR, but the organization said it “is still working on opportunities for the veteran driver to secure additional races.”
Martin ready for pre-season testing with new team Martin ready for pre-season testing with new team Reviewed by Rebecca Kivak on Tuesday, January 10, 2012 Rating: 5