OXFORD – Shawn Martin could finally relax.
The Turner driver was the first to qualify for Sunday night’s TD Banknorth 250, and it was clear when he returned to the pits that a 10-ton weight had been taken off his shoulders.
“I barely even ate this week, I had a hard time to sleep,” Martin said outside his trailer right next to the oval’s entrance. “Finally I came into it today and I said ‘Listen, it’s just a race. I finally got it in my head, it’s just a race. Then when we went out to qualify, I got pretty nervous again.”
Martin was still on edge even though he drew the outside spot on the first row in the first qualifying heat. The 2004 Late Model champion at OPS was having a 2007 to forget up until Sunday.
“We’ve been struggling this year and we struggled (Saturday),” Martin said. “It took us about nine hours of practice, but we dialed it in and the car was perfect.”
“I got a good draw and I think I’ve got one of the best crews out here,” he added.
Martin took control after pole-sitter Travis Stearns of Gray was knocked to the back of the pack for leaking fluid onto the track, sending the caution flag out and causing a lengthy delay.
Dave MacDonald of New Gloucester was among those to make a run at him, but Martin led through a second caution then held off Dale Shaw and Trampas Demers to earn the coveted pole.
Martin was coming off his best 250 performance last year, finishing 25th after starting 35th in the final Pro Stock edition of the race, but earning the pole in what has been a difficult season lapped that, he said.
“Being on the pole, being in, that’s winning to me,” he said. “We’ll take what we get today. If we bring the car home in one piece and finish this thing, that’s a victory.”
So what was he going to do to celebrate, er, prepare for his return to prime time, he was asked?
“Puke,” he laughed. “Nah, just kidding. I’m going to relax, watch a little bit of racing, gonna eat for once and hang out with my buddies.”