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Willmar man aims for a pure stock division title

Joe Martin, the 2019 points champion, aims for the ‘21 championship

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Joe Martin stands in front of his No. 2 car that is the current points leader in the pure stock division at KRA Raceway in Willmar. Photo courtesy of Joe Martin.

WILLMAR — Racing has always been in Joe Martin’s blood.

From a child watching the stands to now being the top racer in the pure stock division at the KRA Speedway in Willmar at 26-years-old, the passion has been there.

It seems Martin knows two things very well: how to race, and how to win.

Martin ended the 2019 stock car season in the top spot at the KRA Speedway with 532 points before taking off the 2020 season.

Now, after returning for the 2021 season, Martin holds the top spot with 328 points, 23 points above second, and has won back-to-back races at the speedway heading into Thursday’s competition.

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“It’s just been a pretty good year so far,” Martin said. “Just kind of been pretty lucky so far.”

Martin explained why his team took off the 2020 season, and why it has helped him in the current season.

“I felt pretty good coming into this season because I had to take last year off to get my car built up,” he said. “I had a lot of extra time to get things prepared and everything gone through, just trying to get the car as flawless as we could.”

After being away from the competition for over a year, Martin was ready to rev up his engines with all gears shifted towards re-claiming the points title.

“I knew I wanted to run for some track points again, wouldn’t want to miss any shows or anything,” he said. “I got my car dialed in pretty good and had a few tips from another couple drivers. Just been watching a lot of other people and how they’ve been getting successful doing stuff.

“My main goal is to just do the best I can as far as the track points go,” he added. “I mean, each week my goal is to go out there and win. But, I get what I get. The main goal would be to finish in the top spot for points.

“Just going out there and trying my best … we just set a goal and that’s what I wanted to do. We’ve made sure we made that happen so far.”

While Martin personally feels he does not have a special driving ability, or style, he does have a history of being at the race track with his father. As a result, his knowledge of the sport grew with each lap and each race he witnessed from an adolescent to an adult.

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“Ever since I was little tiny we mainly went to Willmar and watched races and then we’d go up to Alexandria and watch racing,” Martin said. “Just growing up watching it, I just thought it was something that I really wanted to do.

“When I grew up a little bit, I started helping on other people’s race cars, cleaning them off and cleaning off tires and stuff. I just kept wanting to drive one for myself more and more.

“When I got an opportunity to start, I took it.”

Martin explained what he personally loves about being behind a race car in the midst of an intense, and exhilarating, race.

“It feels like being out of control and in control at the same time when you’re racing and that’s what I like about it the most,” he said. “To look like you can be totally out of control and be in control of it is just the fun part about it for me.”

While the local racer has tallied a decent amount of success within his time as a pure stock racer, some may speculate that pressure may be added to the hands of the driver.

Martin, however, looks at it like bugs on a windshield.

“I don’t really feel under pressure or anything. I don’t watch it super close,” he said. “I just make sure that I finish my races. You’ve got to finish races to do good in your points and everything.

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“First it’s just staying calm about everything and don’t get caught up in wrecks and what not and that’s just what I focus on.”

He’s confident he can extend his winning streak to three

Martin will be looking to extend his streak of first-place finishes following Thursday’s race at KRA Speedway.

“I like to have a challenge and race for something. That’s always been a thing with me,” he said. “It’s fun going out there and just racing, but I like to feel like I’m accomplishing something. I like to go for the points.”

Martin credited his sponsors and his father for helping him become the successful racer he is today.
“I just want to make sure I thank all the people that helped me get as far as I did this year. It costs a lot of money to be ready each week and everything,” he said. “I really couldn’t do it without them guys.”

The next event is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at KRA Speedway.

Related Topics: LOCAL SPORTSWILLMAR
Matthew Curry is a sports reporter and photographer for the West Central Tribune.
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