Parsippany, New Jersey, September 1, 1999 - By his own account, the 1999 NHRA Winston Drag Racing season has not worked out the way Tom Martino planned it. But, just as his CENTURY 21( Pro Stock Firebird has no rearview mirror, Martino refuses to...
Parsippany, New Jersey, September 1, 1999 - By his own account, the 1999 NHRA Winston Drag Racing season has not worked out the way Tom Martino planned it. But, just as his CENTURY 21( Pro Stock Firebird has no rearview mirror, Martino refuses to look back on the first fifteen races, preferring instead to focus his energies on returning to form in the remaining seven events.
This weekend, however, offers the Farmingdale, New Jersey native a unique opportunity, for this is not just any race. The U.S. Nationals is without a doubt the crown jewel of drag racing, the one race every competitor wants to win. Those who achieve victory at Indianapolis Raceway Park have their names inscribed among the legends of the sport. Although Tom Martino realizes that winning this weekend would cure many ills, he is careful to keep things in their proper perspective.
"Winning the U.S. Nationals is a dream of every competitor," explained Martino. "But we have to be realistic, and take things one step at a time. Our first goal this weekend is to make a solid run every time down the track. After all, before you can think about making it to the winner's circle, you have to qualify. As we've seen this year in Pro Stock, no one can take that for granted."
However, despite its legendary status, preparations for Indianapolis were no different from any other stop on the schedule. As always, the Martino crew spent long hours working on their equipment, including a total reworking of their race motors. The only change in their routine was the inclusion of several test sessions in Indiana and New Jersey, as the crew wrestled to determine which of the three chassis at their disposal would be best suited for this weekend. After much discussion and analysis of their notes, they settled on the car that had carried them to the final round earlier this year in Englishtown, New Jersey. After that, one last test in Columbus was inserted during their trip out to Indianapolis. With temperatures expected in the 90's this weekend, a premium will be placed on handling, so any additional data on adjusting their mount to the conditions could prove important.
Once at Indianapolis Raceway Park, the CENTURY 21( crew will face a schedule slightly different from the norm. There will be five qualifying sessions instead of the normal four, with one on Friday and two each on Saturday and Sunday. In addition, the NHRA will take advantage of the Labor Day holiday to host final eliminations on Monday. After all, this is their biggest event of the season, and as such, merits special treatment.
"Naturally, we enter every event to win, whether it's a mid-week match race or the U.S. Nationals," stated Martino. "However, even if we fall short of the ultimate goal, this CENTURY 21( Racing team will leave Indianapolis satisfied if we're able to make our Firebird run the way it's supposed. But don't get me wrong - we are going to do everything we can to put ourselves in a position to win. After all, this is Indy!"
MARTINO MOMENTS: As part of the CENTURY 21( "Drive It Home" Sweepstakes Tour, Tom Martino will be making a personal appearance at the Lafayette Square Mall, 1272 Highway 210 West, Brainerd, MN on Thursday, September 2 from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. For directions, please call (218) 828-1668.... Tom's best qualifying performance at this event is 4th, which he accomplished in 1997....This will be Tom's fourth Pro Stock appearance at Indianapolis Raceway Park, where he looks to improve on his quarter-final finish from 1997.
WHAT: 45th Annual U.S. Nationals, the sixteenth event of the 22-race 1999 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series Schedule.
WHEN: September 1 - 6, 1999
WHERE: Indianapolis Raceway Park, Clermont, Indiana
SCHEDULE: Professional qualifying sessions start on Friday, September 3 with one sessions at 7:30 p.m., followed by two sessions on Saturday, September 4 at 11:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. and concludes with two rounds on Sunday, September 5 at 11:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11:00 a.m. on Monday, September 6.
TV: TNN will air two hours of final-round coverage from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. on Monday, September 6, two hours of first-round coverage from noon - 2:00 p.m. on Monday, September 6. (All times are Eastern). As always, please check your local listings.