For many NASA members, a weekend at the track is all about the competition. For the Martins, it’s all about the family, with racing mixed in.
The Martin family is a fixture in the NASA Texas Region with the father John running Camaro-Mustang Challenge and their 16-year-old daughter, Amelia, starting her racing journey in HPDE. Angie, as the wife and mom, is the glue that keeps it fun.
It’s come full circle for John, who as a child traveled the country watching his father race a three-wheel Honda Odyssey (before it was a minivan) on dirt tracks.
“It’s funny because when I go by myself (to the track), I don’t have as much fun because I guess the support is not there,” said John, who started racing a Ford Mustang in CMC 10 years ago.
Now his weekends at the track consist of hanging out with family and friends, and watching Amelia improve her skills as a driver. The teenager has been going to the track since age 6, assisting Dad by checking tire pressures and cleaning the car.
When Amelia got her driver’s license, she was interested in doing track days, and her parents were happy to support her. “It teaches awareness, and if you’re familiar with racing your cars, you’re going to be much better and safer on the street,” John said.
Adds Angie, “I think for Amelia to want to race, it was a very natural thing because she grew up there. She grew up watching two days of nonstop racing, and I think that really gave her the enjoyment and the excitement around it.”
Amelia is running her street car, a 2017 Ford Mustang EcoBoost, currently in HPDE1 to learn road course driving. While Amelia had occasionally driven karts before earning her driver’s license, she still had an edge on her classmates.
“Since I was the paddock child, I was always aware of my surroundings,” Amelia said. “I knew where all the cars were, where they all go, what side of the road I should stay on, so I don’t get hit by a car. I feel like that made me more aware.”
To learn to about racing, Amelia needs to look no further than her pops. John is an accomplished racer in his own right, winning the Texas regional championship in the deep and competitive CMC class in 2021. He took most of the 2022 season off to build a new car for American Muscle Car Masters, but is returning this season to run eight events usually in the spring and fall.
John campaigns a 1995 Ford Mustang and does most of the work himself. He’s rebuilt engines and says he’s personally turned every nut and bolt on the car. Recently, they added an exhaust system to Amelia’s car as a Christmas present.
“When people ask if I’m a racecar driver, I tell them I may be a better mechanic,” he said.
For the Martins, who live in Houston, the weekend at the track is more about getting together with friends than winning championships. The Camaro-Mustang Challenge and American Iron groups typically park in the same area of the paddock, filled with racers bringing their spouses and children.
“We always jokingly say if we didn’t have a car running, we’d probably still go to hang out with our friends,” Angie said.
The groups create a compound with their RVs that includes everything from pack-and-play cribs to inflatable swimming pools in the hotter months. The children range from toddlers up to Amelia’s age.
“It’s a lot of kids coming in and out of your trailer,” Angie said. “It’s like a summer camp for the kids because they will go into a friend’s trailer, and they’ll watch a video over there or they have Battleship going in another trailer.”
While Angie calls herself one the “social chairs” for a race weekend, her goal is to create a fun and welcoming environment.
“We reach out to all of the new people, and we make friends with anybody who brought their wife or girlfriend to make sure they feel included,” Angie said. “We really encourage people to bring their families to the track and we’re demonstrating that it can be done. It’s a really great family experience.”
The drivers and families hang out beyond NASA events, meeting up at a circle track and even took a cruise to celebrate a fellow NASA racer’s 50th birthday.
“I think that is where it really starts, that we’re friends first, drivers second,” Angie said. “It might sound corny but it’s true.”
With John committed to campaigning the new car, Amelia will continue learning car skills in HPDE. Amelia learned firsthand about going onto the paint in a corner during the rain. When quizzed by her father why it happened, the teenager responded dryly, “My car decided to go into the grass because my tires do not like water.”
When asked what it’s like to watch two family members on track, Angie acknowledges it has caused her some nerves.
“Now it’s easier for me to watch Amelia, but again, I’m not as brave as her,” Angie said. “It takes some guts to get in a car and drive on a track. I don’t know that I’m cut out for it. I’m happy to just drive on the street.”
Amelia will be graduating from high school in 2024 and plans to attend college with a goal of becoming a middle school or high school science teacher. She wants to continue racing after earning her college degree.
Amelia’s goal is for father and daughter to eventually race against each other.
“It would be a lot of fun to race against my dad,” Amelia said. “That’s a goal of mine, to beat him.”
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