Orchestrating the time warp will be crew chief Ryan Pemberton, who must blend Martin’s vast experience with Smith’s lack of it.
“Your game plans will change as you go and your expectations and what’s going to happen," Pemberton said. “How you address going to the race track will be slightly different with Mark than it will be with Regan."
His first juggling act is happening this week at Daytona International Speedway, where Martin and Smith are participating in the second of two annual NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series preseason tests. But there’s a twist: Martin’s move to Ginn after 19 years at Roush Racing reunites him with Pemberton, whose first NASCAR job came on Martin’s first Roush team.
The year was 1988, the crew chief Robin Pemberton, Ryan’s older brother and now NASCAR Vice President of Competition.
A fresh high-school graduate, Ryan Pemberton remembers his first tasks amounted to, “just helping them push stuff around."
Pemberton joined the crew chief ranks in 1997 with Ginn Racing. But he always remembered lessons learned.
“My learning curve was really steep at a very young age, but those years are priceless," Pemberton said of working with Martin. “I probably wouldn’t be here without that opportunity, however it came about back then. It’s kind of come full circle."
To the point where, when news of Martin’s signing circulated last fall, it took a telephone call to convince Pemberton the improbable would become reality.
“You know when you hear something like that it’s kind of like saying, ‘Nah, this isn’t really going to happen.’ “ Pemberton said. “You want to say ‘That’s a nice effort by everybody.’ Then he calls and you go ‘Wow man, this is really going to happen.’ “
“I’ve actually had my eye on him from time to time," Martin said of the younger Pemberton. “This is just the first scenario where it worked out that I was able to work with him again. Having a guy like Ryan is one of the reasons that I’m so excited about this opportunity with the U.S. Army and Ginn Racing and I am looking forward to working with him over the course of the season."