Drag Racing Online: The Magazine

Volume VIII, Issue 3, Page

You must be encouraged, though, to see a young African-American like J.R. Todd get a competitive NHRA Top Fuel ride.

Martin: Absolutely. I always thought that he was a great driver with great potential and I just thought he was an opportunity waiting to happen. He has the skills to win races and even a

championship someday. I hope that program stays together and stays supportive because I really believe that he’s a winner. Hopefully they can run the entire schedule and have the parts to support it because if they do there’s going to be some huge historical things happening there.

It’s interesting that you and J.R. both come across as fairly serious-minded and business-like, which is not necessarily the pop culture portrayal of many young African-American men. Do you think that clean-cut image is important for success in professional racing?

Martin: Well, there are a couple of thoughts there. First off, that’s true, part of our job is to appeal to the corporate image, but on the other hand, I think that as we look outward and the industry becomes wiser about attracting a broader audience of more diversity and more African-Americans, you know you’re going to say, ‘Okay, maybe the hairstyle doesn’t have to look like ours, maybe you’re going to have to loosen up to better appeal to that crowd.’ And so be it. The Top Fuel haircut certainly didn’t look the same way 30 years ago. So I think we’re going to have to open up a little bit as we appeal to this market and really become serious about doing that.

Despite NASCAR’s initiative, at least here in the south I still see more African-Americans in the stands at a drag race than at a stock car race. Why do you think that is?

Well, I think it’s more available to them, and they can see synergies and their own in drag racing. They can see a Harold Martin and maybe they’ve even heard of Harold Martin and can aspire in some ways to being that. They like hearing the connections of those levels and they like knowing there’s empowerment there and accountability as well.
I think that’s really important to talk about, the accountability, where they’re saying, ‘Is this just an operation where he’s just the driver or does he have a voice and influence over what’s taking place?’ whereby there’s respect and appreciation for the intellect. That intellect is feeding into other things and that can be very inspirational to people.

Finally, how do you want to be remembered whenever retirement finally arrives?

Martin: Well, as racers we want to have numerous wins under our belt; we want to have world championships under our belt; we want to be remembered for historical technological evolutions that we brought into motorsports; we want to be recognized for being the first to have won with those technological advancements; and we also want to expand our horizons to have made technological contributions to all forms of motorsports, from drag racing to NASCAR to marine to performance vehicles on the street.