Battling hard on a weekly basis amongst the best in the Knightworks Design OSCAAR Hot Rods, Dalen Martin admits that his 2019 rookie campaign did not go as he anticipated.
“It was a year of learning a lot of new things,” he told SHORT TRACK MUSINGS. “Each track we raced at was new to us each weekend. Some weekend were good, others were bad, majority weekends ending with a torn up race car; my inexperience cost us a lot of good finishes, so it just left more on the table for a possible future.”
Despite the opening weekend’s feature getting rained out at Sunset Speedway, Martin put together a solid debut by winning one of his qualifying heat races. The speed followed him to the half-mile Jukasa Motor Speedway a couple weeks later, as he battled inside the top-five through the first half of the event en route to finishing seventh. He kept the momentum going, battling up front through the feature to place fifth.
“(The) biggest surprise for myself this year would have to be the amount of speed we showed every weekend we showed up to a new track,” he reflected. “Being able to learn the racing groove and adapt the car right away with few changes everywhere we went really surprised us throughout the season with the consistency the car maintained.”
He started off strong at Peterborough Speedway with a heat victory, but ultimately was caught up in a mid-race accident, causing him to climb the wall and end his night early. The bad luck followed him to Sunset at the end of July, as he was caught up in a couple different accidents en route to finishing 10th.
Martin would take some time off to get his program back sorted together correctly, returning to the series at the end of August at Jukasa. The time off paid off as he ran inside the top-five, until he was one of several to suffer damage in the multi-car wreck midway through. He would rebound to finish ninth. The momentum followed him to Sunset as after a rough pair of heats to start the Fall Velocity at Sunset, Martin would score another top-10 finish with an eighth.
“(My) favourite moment throughout the year would have to be the Fall Velocity at Sunset Speedway, when qualifying heats didn’t get us a good starting spot in the feature,” he commented. “Driving from 17th up to passing for fifth but being cut short when we got turned into the wall. We showed a huge amount of speed that day working through the field to the front.”
He started off strong at Frostoberfest at Flamboro with a heat victory, though ultimately was caught up in some contact mid-race, fading back to finish 11th.
The success this year experienced is something that Martin does not take lightly, especially knowing the current level of competition he is up against.
“I think next year there will be a lot of big time hitters show up every week,” he commented. “With new competition coming into the series and guys working on getting faster for next year will surpass what we had this year. It’ll make for some of the best racing in Ontario for sure.
“I think this series is going to blow up and become one of the biggest followed racing series in Ontario. Having cool old school race cars traveling over Ontario to put on a great show. Its only going to get bigger and bigger. It’s bringing back the grassroots of short track racing.”
Martin is just like those other teams, spending time working on the car, and that includes “a few nights throughout the week” during the summer racing schedule.
“Unless we had major damage, then it took up a lot more time then we even had,” he added. “There’s a lot of hours that need spent going over the car, making sure it’s still good to go next weekend without having to spend time replacing parts, fixing body panels and scaling and setting the car up.”
From the experience that he was able to gain this year, his advice to the future rookies is to not be scared or worried about being in the way.
“Just race your own race,” he commented. “Don’t just move over and let someone with more experience go if you’re the same speed, race them let anyone else would.”