TOM MARTINO WINS THE VISIONAIRE NORTHSTAR NATIONALS IN THRILLING FASHION Brainerd, Minnesota, August 23, 1998 - Tom Martino, 40, of Farmingdale, New Jersey today captured the third NHRA national event victory of his career by claiming the Pro...
TOM MARTINO WINS THE VISIONAIRE NORTHSTAR NATIONALS IN THRILLING FASHION
Brainerd, Minnesota, August 23, 1998 - Tom Martino, 40, of Farmingdale, New Jersey today captured the third NHRA national event victory of his career by claiming the Pro Stock title at this weekend's Visionaire NorthStar Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway in Brainerd, Minnesota. Martino's road to triumph, however, was far from routine. Entering the final round without the benefit of lane choice, the Six Flags Theme Parks pilot knew he would need a stellar effort to get by his opponent, Mark Osborne. Martino responded by using his trademark lightning-fast reaction time to gain almost seven hundredths of second advantage at the start and held off a hard-charging Osborne for the win. His performance moved Martino into seventh in the Winston points standings, and made him the first official qualifier for next year's inaugural Winston Showdown.
"When Mark (Osborne) went 7.09 in the semi-finals, we thought that with the improved conditions, he would probably run a 7.08 in the final," detailed Martino. "We were a bit off in the semis, but thought we could fix the problems and improve from a 7.13 to a 7.11. I never thought I could put that much on the tree on Mark, since he's such a good driver, so we looked to pick up a little more. We changed the transmission, the rear end, and moved some weight around to try and get through the middle of the track. We didn't get the run we wanted, because it shook from 3 feet out to 1340. In fact, I didn't shut if off until twenty feet after the line just trying to straighten it out. But as it turns out, we were pretty lucky, things turned out for the best, and the Six Flags Thrill Machine ended the day in the winner's circle."
From the moment they arrived at the Minnesota quarter-mile, the Six Flags crew showed they would be a force to contend with. After using the first qualifying session to establish a baseline performance, they did an outstanding job of adjusting their Thrill Machine Firebird for the conditions, which varied from bright sunshine on Friday to cooler temperatures with intermittent showers on Saturday. Through the remaining three timed rounds, they never ran outside the top six (in a field of thirty). As a result, their Friday night run of 7.061 seconds, with a top speed of 194.72 miles-per-hour gained them the fourth spot on Sunday's eliminations ladder, matching their best qualifying effort of the season. What made this achievement even more remarkable is that the Six Flags team was able to gain this position using their spare motor, nicknamed "Bad Bubba" after Martino's eldest son, Tom Jr.
"This is actually our third string motor," explained Martino. "Of the two primary motors we race on the circuit, one was damaged during the West Coast swing and we were unable to get it back together in time for this event. We then had a problem with our number one powerplant, T-Rex. This brought us down to our last strike, and we weren't comfortable with its performance. In fact, my son for whom it is named did not even want to come to the race if we used it. But we put it on the dyno, did some work to it, and found some power. We're extremely happy that we could come here and qualify our Six Flags Thrill Machine fourth using our third motor."
The Six Flags team's performance during Sunday's final eliminations was a showcase of their considerable skills and provided thrills worthy of their sponsor. In the first round against Steve Schmidt, Martino advanced by leading from wire to wire, getting the jump at the start, and posting a 7.096 second elapsed time, which was one of the day's best. Racing Richie Stevens in the next stanza, Martino flexed some of his Thrill Machine's horsepower to overcome a slight starting line advantage and take the round by four-thousandths of a second. Incredibly, things got even tighter in the semi-finals when he faced Kurt Johnson. In the first of his two "holeshot" victories on the day, Martino used almost all of the two hundredths of a second he grabbed off the tree in edging KJ by a virtually imperceptible thousandth of a second. This set the stage for Martino's final round match-up with Osborne.
"Coming here this weekend, we never thought we were going to win with the motor we had in the car," stated Martino. "But our Six Flags Thrill Machine Firebird ran well right from the get-go. Throughout the weekend we made a lot of good calls on set-ups and got the car down the track. We were just a tick off in the final, but fortunately my driving skills stepped up, and we were lucky enough to win."
Finally, Tom Martino wanted to acknowledge those who helped him gain this exciting win.
"First, I would like to thank my sponsor, Six Flags Theme Parks. They came on board with us this year, and we are positively ecstatic to get them into the winner's circle," said Martino. "I would also like acknowledge Jesel Valve Train Innovation, and Dan Jesel. He has been behind us from the start, and without his support, we couldn't even have thought of our own engine program. This is our third Pro Stock win, and each one has come in a Pontiac Firebird - it's one heck of a race car. But I absolutely could not be standing here without my crew. I'm very fortunate to have Tommy Kling, not only as my partner and crew chief, but also as one of my best friends. I'll tell you, we've spent a lot of long nights together in the dyno room this year. To Glen Pierciey, who came on board a few races ago, I'm glad you're here with us. My wife Robin is not only a vital member of this team, but takes care of everything at home to allow me to work those crazy hours. I share this win with all of them. But I would like to dedicate this win to my daughter Jessica, who wasn't able to come to the race with us. She's only 9, but she's really into her figure skating, so she can really appreciate what it's like to win. I can't wait to bring the trophy home to her!"
The NHRA will now take next weekend off before heading to Indianapolis for the biggest race of the season, the prestigious U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park September 2-7.