There’s a very poignant moment in the 1992 film ‘A League of Their Own’ shared between the manager of the Rockford Peaches, played by Tom Hanks, and the best player in the All-American Girls’ Professional Baseball League, Geena Davis’ character Dottie Hinson. Hanks’ Jimmy Dugan confronts Hinson when he learns that she is planning to leave the team.
When questioned by Dugan about why she’s leaving, Hinson says, ‘It just got too hard’. To which Dugan replies, ‘It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.’
For 22 years, Martel has been chasing the same dream.
Sometimes the progress towards that dream is slow. Other times the progress is difficult to decipher at all.
“My goal is to do it full-time,” said Martel, a 26-year-old graduate of Cedar Crest High School. “For me to advance into the Nationwide (Truck) or Cup (Nascar) series. To have someone established pick me up as a developmental driver and put me in a car and give me a shot. It’s difficult because there are thousands of kids out there who have the same dream.
“It was my dream before I even remember,” continued Martel. “I started racing when I was four. But I definitely have the drive for it. My mom and dad gave me an opportunity to live the dream. I’ve very fortunate, very lucky to be able to do what I do. It’s a great team we have.”
Though he has over 200 smaller racing series victories to his credit, Martel only competes in bigger series races – ARCA stock car and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series – a handful of times each year. Since 2009, Martel has started 15 ARCA stock car races.
Pocono Raceway, the site of Saturday’s running of the ARCA 200, is where Martel is doing the majority of his bigger racing these days. On Friday, Martel and veteran local driver Bobby Gerhart will each attempt qualifying for the seventh event on ARCA’s 2014 schedule, which be televised live by Fox Sports 1 at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
“I just remember that luck has never necessarily fallen our way,” said Martel of his previous Pocono experiences. “Every year we go there, we have a car that should easily finish in the top ten. And this year we’ve upgraded our package. Our goal is a top-five or to win. And in August (during ARCA’s second visit to ‘The Tricky Triangle’), we want to put on an excellent show as well. We want to be able to run up front.
“Everybody gets frustrated or aggravated,” added Martel. “People who ever become something in life find ways around things. Life comes full circle. Every year we are challenged. It (racing) gets more competitive. It gets more expensive. My first race is at Pocono in June, and the race season started in February.”
Patient beyond his years both on and off the track, Martel has to make the most of every racing opportunity that comes his way. His best ARCA finishes at Pocono are a tenth and an eleventh.
“I love the track,” said Martel, who works full-time as the operations manager at father Bill’s Hanover Cold Storage. “A couple of guys I work with told me one of my strengths is to adjust to any race track’s surface. That gives me some confidence. I enjoy Pocono quite a bit.
“First of all, you’ve got to have a ton of horsepower because the straight-aways are so long,” Martel continued. “If you don’t you can lose track position or car lengths. You’ve got to be able to navigate the turns, especially the Tunnel Turn. It’s probably the most tricky turn on the Tricky Triangle. It’s definitely challenging. It’s difficult to balance all three turns.”
“It’s something we all wanted to do as a family,” said K. Martel. “Dad keeps expanding the business. Unfortunately for us, we don’t have that big sponsor to take us all the way. It’s definitely a ‘work hard, play hard’ situation.
“We’re definitely on the rise,” K. Martel continued. “We’re going to do some great things this year. I think I’m in a great spot in my career. Not everything is handed to you. You’ve got to work for it. You’ve got to learn. If I ever got that opportunity, it would make me even more grounded. It’s about having fun and enjoying what you do. You’ve got to appreciate it.”
“I’ve definitely learned a lot from the great people who surround me,” said Martel. “They teach me different life lessons. Patience does pay off in the end. Things will turn out the way they will. But until then, you never stop working hard and shooting for the stars.
“Most drivers would say they like to race every night,” Martel continued. “I would be extremely ecstatic to race at a high level and be competitive every weekend. I love to race, but I have other interests as well. You’ve always got to make time for family and friends. And just hanging out and having fun. People are in the process of teaching me about balance. It’s not always about working, but I’m having fun doing it.”