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Tommy Joe Martins providing unique perspective in blog

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What started out as race recaps have become a must-read blog by Tommy Joe Martins.

Driver of the Martins Motorsports No. 44 Chevrolet in the Camping World Truck Series, Martins posted an entry June 17 after the Texas race that took off on social media. Titled Relevance, Martins revealed his mindset each weekend and how hard the sport is for an underfunded team.

Reaction to his blog has been mostly positive. Fans on social media have expressed an interest in reading, and Martins hopes he’s giving them what they want. Some drivers have expressed their support.

“Especially from guys kind of in the same situation as me, or maybe who are driving for smaller underfunded teams,” Martins told NBC Sports. “Maybe I’m equipped to kind of speak for us as a group in that sense because I’ve kind of been a knockaround guy out here for a little while now. I’ve never really driven for a team that had the capability of running up front.

“So guys like me or Ryan Ellis, or a few of those other guys in the back, maybe I’m equipped a little better to tell those stories. I think it’s resonated with a lot of the mechanics and drivers in my same situation.”

The idea behind the entries was born from a disdain for press releases.

“I think press releases are the most useless, terrible writing in the history of the world, and that’s what all the teams are doing, especially the big ones,” Martins said. “That’s no fault of the PR person; there’s just a format to it. They write about, ‘Well, this is what happened,’ and ‘On Lap 72, we changed tires,’ and there just wasn’t much to it, and every one of them seems like it’s the exact same thing.

“You have a quote from the driver that’s probably made up, or they probably didn’t say it, and writing the thing in third person is just not very good to me. It’s not very entertaining.”

With a degree in journalism from Ole Miss, Martins always has enjoyed writing. Blogging has been an easy venture, though Martins has an extra set of eyes look over each article.

“I’ve got an editor that’s a friend of mine from college named Alex McDaniel, and she works for Gridiron Now, and she’s done a lot of stuff with Parade magazine,” Martins said. “I have her look over the article before I post it, and I basically write whatever I want to write.”

There are some things Martins will not get into.

Well-spoken and passionate about the sport, as well as his place in it, do not expect Martins to take any shots at NASCAR. There are areas he would like to see changed, and he would like to see NASCAR handle some things differently, but as a competitor, Martins will play it smart.

“Quite frankly, we’re poor, and we can’t really afford for me to get fined, so I can’t do some things that maybe I’d like to do,” he said. “But those are minor things. For the most part has it been tough? No, it really hasn’t been. It hasn’t been difficult. The first blog was the easiest one just because I think it flowed. I wrote that whole article in 30 minutes, and that was a pretty long one.”

But there have been those he unintentionally rubbed the wrong way.

“That first article I talked about a really kind of taboo thing, the money involved in the sport, and I think that’s something that people don’t really like to talk about, which I don’t really know why,” Martins said. “I think it’s pretty obvious nobody poor is going to make it in this sport anymore. We don’t really have to dance around that, and I called some people out because I feel like they generally tried to make themselves out a lot [poorer] than they really are.”

Jordan Anderson was one driver who took offense, leading to a conversation between the two.

“He said, ‘Hey man, I don’t know if I like you anymore because you wrote that article and said basically we’re spending more money than you and we’re not spending much money at all,’ ” Martins said. “Jordan is a nice guy, and I love Jordan. Basically, I’m racing with him every week we’re side by side a lot, so I’m not trying to rub anybody the wrong way. I just said what I thought was the truth and how I perceived everything, and especially how the guys in the garage perceived it. So I wasn’t trying to rub anybody the wrong way.”

With the fun he’s been having, Martins has no plans to stop his blog.

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Sam Bass, famed paint scheme and race program designer, dies

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Sam Bass, the artist known for designing many iconic NASCAR paint schemes and race programs, died Saturday.

His wife Denise confirmed Bass’ passing on Twitter. He was 57.

Bass, who designed Jeff Gordon’s striking “Rainbow Warriors” paint scheme, had spent the last few years looking for a new kidney. That was a result of a sepsis infection that originated in a blister on his left foot in 2005 and led to a below-the-knee amputation in 2008. Bass also had Type 1 diabetes, which he was diagnosed with at the age of 29.

Bass was inspired to become a NASCAR artist when he was 7 after attending his first race at Southside Speedway in suburban Richmond, Virginia.

“I was so amazed that night not only by the excitement and watching those cars run around and beat and bang on each other, but also the color – how all the cars were painted so many different colors,” Bass told NBC Sports in 2017. “I was like, ‘How cool is this?’ I couldn’t wait to get home to pull out my markers.”

The first car Bass designed was Bobby Allison’s Miller High Life car in 1988. That car went on to win the Daytona 500.

He went on to design the first Cup schemes for Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Bass first designed a race program for the 1985 World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He designed programs for it and other Speedway Motorsports, Inc. tracks through 2018.

Marcus Smith, the CEO and President of SMI, issued the following statement.

“Our deepest sympathies are with Denise and her family today. Sam Bass has been a significant part of NASCAR’s history. He poured his heart, soul and talent into producing souvenir program covers at many speedways including Charlotte for more than 30 years. His work provided our fans a keepsake to treasure, and that was so appropriate, because Sam was always such a fan of our sport and he was such a treasure to the entire NASCAR family. His body of work will be a legacy that lives forever. We will miss Sam’s smile and positivity.”

NASCAR issued the following statement.

“Though he may have never turned a lap or a wrench, few captured the essence of our sport through his work more than Sam Bass. He was a consistent presence in the NASCAR garage, and his ever-present smile and endearing personality welcomed all. Though we have lost a member of the NASCAR family, his legend will continue in his art – all of which illustrated the greatness of our sport and the talent of a true friend.”

Michael McDowell leads final Daytona 500 practice

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Front Row Motorsport’s Michael McDowell was fastest in the final practice session for Sunday’s Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on Fox).

McDowell and his No. 34 Ford recorded nine laps and a top speed of 191.440 mph.

The top five was completed by Ty Dillon (191.432 mph), pole-sitter William Byron (191.339), Alex Bowman (191.278) and Daniel Hemric (190.921).

Only 20 cars made at least one lap in the session.

Kurt Busch recorded the most laps in the session with 16 and was 11th on the speed chart at 189.741 mph.

Of four drivers to make a 10-lap run, Bowman had the best average at 190.334 mph.

There were no incidents in the session.

Click here for the practice report.

Jeffrey Earnhardt honors grandfather Dale Earnhardt with helmet design

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Xfinity Series driver Jeffrey Earnhardt is honoring the “GOAT” in his family with a helmet he’s debuting this weekend at Daytona International Speedway.

The “GOAT” – or “Greatest of All-Time” – is his grandfather, NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt.

The helmet, which you can see below, bears an image of the seven-time Cup champion riding a horse while shirtless and wearing a cowboy hat.

Next to the image is the text, “Just a goat on his horse!”

Earnhardt will have the helmet today as he starts on the front row of the Xfinity Series season opener (2:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1).

It is the first of nine Xfinity races he’ll start for Joe Gibbs Racing this season.

MORE: Jeffrey Earnhardt ready for challenge of winning in Xfinity

Today’s Xfinity race at Daytona: Start time, lineup and more

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The NASCAR Xfinity Series kicks off the 2019 season today with the NASCAR Racing Experience 300 at Daytona International Speedway.

The 38-car field will feature defending series champion Tyler Reddick, who seeks to become the first driver to defend his Xfinity championship since Ricky Stenhouse Jr., won in 2011 and repeated in 2012.

Here’s how today’s pre-race schedule looks:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given by Drew Patey, VIP Partner of the NASCAR Racing Experience, at 2:37 p.m. The green flag is scheduled for 2:49 p.m.

PRERACE CEREMONIES: Driver introductions begin at 2:10 p.m. The invocation will be given at 2:30 p.m. by Sonny Gallman, Pastor of Central Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Florida. The National Anthem will be at 2:31 p.m. and sung by Gina Marie Incandela.

DISTANCE: The race is 120 laps (300 miles) around the 2.5-mile track.

TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race. Coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 2 p.m. and also can be heard at MRN.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for cloudy skies with a high of 74 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain for the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Tyler Reddick won last year’s season-opening race. He started 11th and led 11 laps en route to the victory.

TO THE REAR: Pole-sitter Tyler Reddick will start from the rear after changing a tire with an air leak. Max Tullman also will start from the rear for a tire change. Jeremy Clements, unapproved adjustments.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.