SONOMA, Calif. – Alpha Prime Racing owner Tommy Joe Martins smiles. He can. His Xfinity Series cars are all here at Sonoma Raceway.
At some point last week, it was not certain if his team’s cars would make it to Portland International Raceway.
“It was probably the toughest professional week I’ve had in my NASCAR career,” Martins told NBC Sports in Sonoma on Friday.
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The Alpha Prime Racing team had a breakdown with both trucks last week, and one of the haulers had mechanical problems en route to the Pacific Northwest.
“We actually sent out four devices and three of them broke,” Martins said.
The car that Sage Karam is driving this weekend in Sonoma was left in a Kansas City truck for a time because there was no room in the dual-steer Martins. There was only room for the car needed in Portland and other equipment. Karam’s car, which was supposed to be a backup in Portland, was left behind.
“It’s a very helpless feeling when you feel like your stuff is stuck on the side of the road,” said Martins.
He still has a truck in St. Louis and another in Oregon. Martins estimates the mechanical issues will cost his team about $50,000 when it all adds up.
The problems started long before the team left its Mooresville, North Carolina, race shop for Portland.
The Xfinity Series race at Charlotte was scheduled to take place on May 27. Due to the rain, that event had to be moved to May 29. Martins said the team planned to send its trucks to Portland on May 28. schedule tightened.
It got worse.
After the Xfinity race started, rain came. With the Coca-Cola 600 scheduled for 3 p.m. ET that day — after being delayed by rain from Sunday — the rest of the Xfinity race was postponed until after the 600. That reduced Xfinity teams’ chances of making it to Portland.
The Xfinity race ended around 11:30pm ET on May 29. The Alpha Prime Racing haulers left the shop around 6 a.m. ET on May 30.
The two trucks drove together into trouble in St. Louis.
The truck carrying the Nos. 44 and 45 cars had engine problems in St. Louis. The other truck continued to drive until it developed mechanical problems with its Kansas City transporter. The airbags on the transporter did not work.
So Alpha Prime Racing had a truck that worked in Kansas City with a carrier that didn’t and a truck that didn’t work in St. Louis with a carrier that did.
The Kansas City truck headed back to St. Louis to hook up to the hauler and take those cars and equipment to Portland. Martins then had to find something to transport the stranded equipment in Kansas City and a driver. He eventually did. A double left North Carolina for Kansas City. Once there, what fit in the dually was taken to Portland and what didn’t fit, including Karam’s Sonoma car, was left behind.
Still, more problems came for Martins and his team.
The truck that had gone back to St. Louis from Kansas City to carry the hauler that was working broke down about 200 miles from Portland.
“It makes me laugh knowing we’re on the other side,” Martins said on Friday of all the problems his team had with transporting cars and equipment across the country.
“We have started making plans and corrections to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he said.
That transporter that was left behind in Kansas City? It was repaired and transported to Sonoma, arriving earlier this week.
“Our guys are troopers,” Martins said. “Both of our (truck) drivers were just great about the whole thing. … They’ve been through a hellish week until driving somewhere, flying back and picking something up, driving again and now they’ll have to do the same thing to get back.
When the garage opened at Sonoma on Friday, Alpha Prime Racing already had its cars.
“I don’t think we had any major problems here, so that was good,” said Martins.
The focus is back on the track. Karam was 24th on the speed chart during Friday practice and led Alpha Prime Racing’s effort. Dylan Lupton was 32nd. Jeffrey Earnhardt was the last of the 41 cars.
After Saturday night’s race, the team heads back to North Carolina for a well-deserved weekend off.
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Alpha Prime Racing’s road troubles won’t stop team from competing, originally appeared on NBCSports.com