Volume III, Issue 1, Page 5

: Was it disheartening for it to come to a lawsuit between NHRA and the Pro Stock Truck owners?

Martin: Oh yes, yes, you never want to get into a lawsuit because no one leaves happy in the end except for the attorneys.

: How have you got along with NHRA in general throughout your career?

Martin: Pretty well. I mean, there was a deal where we were very, very disappointed at the end of 1972 after of course we were fortunate enough to win three-fourths of the NHRA national events in 1971, but at the end of 1971 they put weight on the Hemi cars.

I was so disappointed that I flew out to California and sat down with Jack Carr and tried to explain that they were doing too much, too fast, that they were basically going to put the Chrysler cars out of business. Of course, his statement back to me was that if they could get Ford and Chevrolet to racing against each other he really didn’t care too much about what Chrysler did. So certainly, that wasn’t a very good trip home.

And it proved to be true because we won three-fourths of the races in ’70 and ’71 and in the next two years, after they put the weight on the Hemi cars, they won only one race.

: And now you’re getting involved with an SS/AH team again. What’s motivating you this time?

Martin: Well, I’m not one to do this on a regular basis anymore, but the ’68 Barracuda Hemi car was a very good car for us, we were very fortunate and won a lot of races with it, and secondly I just think they’re exciting cars. I’m sure I’m a little bit prejudiced, but I think if those cars ran at the same time as today’s Pro Stock cars run—instead of them, I mean—I really think they could draw just as much attention with their wheels up and doing all the things that they do.

The thing is, unfortunately, if you look around at the national events today you see more people over age-40 than you do under age-40.  And those people remember the ’68 cars, plus it’s a deal right now where there’s only a half dozen or so Hemi Shootout deals, so you’re not on a 23-race schedule. I would have no interest in doing a 23-race schedule whatsoever.

: What does it cost to build a race-ready 426 Hemi today, compared to what it cost you back in the ‘70s?

Martin: Well, the difference is basically what it costs to build a competitive ’68 car today is probably as much as our whole budget was in 1968, which was probably about $250 thousand. You’re probably going to have between $75,000 and $100,000 in the engine alone.

: Will your new car be a four-speed or an automatic?

Martin: It’ll be a four-speed. With the car being red, white and blue and having Sox and Martin on it, of course it had to be that way. Bobby, Panella, he’s a good manual transmission driver and so is Jeff Gracia, should he be in the car as well. It’s certainly going to be a lot of work to make sure you can get a transmission and clutch and everything to stand behind the horsepower that those cars are making now, but we just feel it’s a little bit more exciting.

: Will you be racing the car at all the big-dollar Hemi Shootouts?

Martin: That’s pretty much the plan right now. Monte Bailey is going to be the primary owner of the car, and of course Bob Panella Sr. will be involved, because they’re the owners of the Pro Stock car right now that’s red, white and blue.

: So what is your specific role with the team?

Martin: Just being there, primarily. Ronnie and I talked about this before he passed away. He was excited, as I was, that people like Panella and Bailey would want to do something like this because we knew what type of people they are and that they always want to do things right. We just felt it would be a good time to do it and we were both just tickled that they even wanted to do it and we felt they would represent the Sox and Martin name as best as they know how.

: Are there any rule changes you’d like to see for the SS/AH cars right now?

Martin: Not really. I think they’ve gone pretty far already. Now, the safety aspect of it, sure, anything that can be done to make the cars safer should be done. Possibly one thing would be that rack-and-pinion steering would help those cars. Beyond that I’d just like to see them staying as original looking as possible.

: Can you describe the foundation that you and Ronnie’s widow, Diane, established after he passed away?

Martin: It’s the Ronnie Sox Memorial Foundation. One of his wishes before he died was that someway, somehow he could do something to help kids. He thought it just didn’t seem right that he was able to make it to 67 when some kids don’t even make it through the first year or whatever, so we started the foundation to help kids in his name.

Of course, even before the foundation was started, Phil Painter, at his race out in Las Vegas a couple of years ago, he had a drawing of Ronnie and myself done by Kenny Youngblood, and he auctioned those things off and we presented a check at Indy a year ago for $50,000 to St. Jude’s Childrens Hospital. Since that time it’s up and total contributions to St. Jude’s right now is roughly $120,000 and certainly Dianne is doing an outstanding job to continue to push and work to make it happen. Of course, she and I have both been to some shows and races on behalf of the foundation and we both want to see it continue to grow.

: Do you have any stories about you and Ronnie that people may not have heard but tell what it was like for you guys back in the day?

Martin: (Laughs) You probably can’t print ‘em, but there are lots of stories, lots of stories. The battery would probably go dead on my phone before I’d be able to get through them all 

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