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Ole Miss student Tommy Joe Martins takes to the racetrack

The University of Mississippi is home to a lot of past, current and future professional athletes in various sports.
Tommy Joe Martins, however, is one of a kind.
Over the last few years, Martins has driven in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, while also maintaining a student status at Ole Miss.
Martins began his racing career at the early age of 5 driving go-karts. He lasted one race, which he finished in last place, and didn’t pick up racing again until he was 13.
When his go-kart was stolen from the holding area for one of his races, Martins went on another hiatus that lasted until he was 16-years-old.
At 16, the Como native drove in a national go-kart touring series but was forced to stop due to financial reasons.
Once he finished high school at Magnolia Heights in Senatobia, he came to Ole Miss to pursue a journalism career.
“The whole reason I came to Ole Miss was to be a sports broadcaster,” Martins said. “I actually wanted to work for ESPN and cover NASCAR.”
While he was a sophomore, his dad offered him another opportunity to race again by purchasing a Nissan 350z. Martins began racing as an amateur in Sports Car Club of America road racing.
The SCCA is not NASCAR, but does feature a national series.
“Everywhere we went, I was setting the track record,” Martins said. “This guy came up to us one race and asked us how long we’ve been doing this. I said this was my fifth race.
“He was like, ‘Look man, you need to get out of this and go run stock car.’”
After breaking course records and showing dominance on the racetrack, Martins made the leap to stock car racing, where he joined Baker Curb Racing, based out of Nashville, Tenn. Martins put his college career on hold and moved to Nashville to focus on racing.
After briefly racing for Baker Curb Racing, Martins broke off from them and formed a family team with his dad named Martins Motor Racing.
“My dad never believed in taking the slow road,” Martins said. “He would never take me to local races just to get me wins. He was always like, ‘Let’s go to where the best guys are, and if you can run with them and not look bad, then you’ll be really good.’”
Martins has traveled all over the country to compete in races, including Indianapolis Motor Speedway earlier this year. The leap to NASCAR can be compared to the leap from college football to the National Football League.
“With the drop of the green flag, everything changes,” Martins said. “The speed picks up, aggression picks up way more so then that of the lower levels.”
After competing in 2009 and being in one race in 2011, Martins is seeking sponsorship to help with his team’s financial situation. The small team found that they could not compete with the competition with their low budget.
“Point blank, we were slow,” Martins said. “My dad pulled the plug and said we are not going back to a truck race unless we can go back with top-shelf stuff. I have to go out there, show up and get quality starts with quality equipment for me to go anywhere in the business.”
Martins will continue to race, but in a late model stock car and not in the truck series. Martins describes it as an amateur version of stock car racing.
“I’m not in this stuff to get famous,” Martins said. “The thing for me, that I always strive for, is I just want to have respect from the other competitors.”