Palmerton native keeps tires fresh for Martin
BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS Jeff Handwerk scrapes rubber off of tires used by Mark Martin during Sunday's Pocono 400 at Pocono International Raceway. The Palmerton native then checks the tire's temperature before shipping them back to the Goodyear hauler.
LONG POND - Jeff Handwerk had a vision nine years ago when he began working on Shelby Howard's ARCA car as a gas man. One day, he wanted to be part of a NASCAR Sprint Cup team.
After working up through the ranks thanks to friends he made along the way, Handwerk is one step closer to gaining a full-time spot on the tour.
The 1988 Palmerton High graduate was part of Mark Martin's No. 55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota as a tire man for Sunday's Pocono 400 at Pocono International Raceway.
Martin qualified sixth on Saturday and started on the third row next to Denny Hamlin for the 160-lap race.
The 53-year old came awful close to pulling off the victory, but finished second to Joey Logano, who took the checkered flag.
Martin has never won at Pocono and by the roar of the crowd, he seemed to be the favorite over the last couple of laps.
Logano pulled even near the start/finish line and passed Martin's Toyota through Turn 1 with four laps to go.
Martin thought there was contact between the cars and said the move was an accepted one, but not something he would do.
"Well, I'd call that a bump-and-run," he said afterwards. "It's been acceptable in this racing for a long time. It's not how I would have done it, but certainly, if I'd have had a fast enough car, he would have gotten a return (bump). But I couldn't quite keep up with him.
"It was great racing, and everybody does what they decide to do. It was a great race, and I'm very, very proud of my race team for putting me in something that would give me a shot. I'm having fun. Maybe next week we'll be the ones with the trophy."
Handwerk worked for A.J. Allmendinger with Richard Petty Motorsports for four years and the opportunity came to work with the Michael Waltrip team on Martin's crew.
"These guys are really good," Handwerk said about the Martin team. "I learn a lot every time I come to the track. I'll be interviewing here for a full-time position shortly so hopefully things will work out. The more times you're at the track, the better it is."
Handwerk does about 14 to 15 races a year up and down the East Coast.
Handwerk was given the nickname "Blister" after he was off running an errand and returned when all of the tire work was done and it has stuck through the races since then.
Dover, Loudon, Watkins Glen, Pocono, Richmond, Martinsville and other tracks wherever needed is where he can be found.
"This crew is the best that I've ever worked with," he lamented. "If something goes wrong, they don't yell at you, they pull together and keep everything going good."
During the race, Handwerk can be found doing the stop sign for when Martin pits, grabs the right front tire and do all of the wear on the tires after a pit stop and do air pressure on them and take them back to Goodyear.