MARTINO TAKES A THRILL RIDE IN ATLANTA COMMERCE, Georgia, April 21, 1998 - The Atlanta Dragway is a challenging facility, with a coarse racing surface that hampers a team's attempt to post fast speeds. This situation was complicated further at...
MARTINO TAKES A THRILL RIDE IN ATLANTA
COMMERCE, Georgia, April 21, 1998 - The Atlanta Dragway is a challenging facility, with a coarse racing surface that hampers a team's attempt to post fast speeds. This situation was complicated further at this weekend's Fram Nationals by inclement weather which threatened qualifying and postponed final eliminations until Monday. After an excellent showing in qualifying, Tom Martino and the Six Flags Theme Parks Racing team were prepared to advance through eliminations. However, in the first round a treacherous left lane found Martino struggling to maintain control, which negated a two-hundredths of a second starting line advantage and allowed his opponent to edge by for the victory.
"Lane choice at this track is crucial," explained Martino afterwards. "The left side is normally a good two hundredths slower, and today I would say it's closer to five. We set our Six Flags Thrill Machine Firebird up based on the starting line conditions in the morning, which changed dramatically after the fuel cars ran and put down so much oil. I was able to leave on him, but our set-up package was a bit off and it shook the tires violently. When it shakes that hard, it prevents you from steering, so I had to back off the throttle to regain control. On top of that, there was something on the track which sent the car spinning even when I wasn't under power. With Mike (Thomas) making a great run in the other lane, whe would have been tough to beat from the left side."
Qualifying was a testament to the Six Flags Racing team's ability and dogged determination. They arrived in Georgia on Thursday with a combination that was virtually untested, from the new nose and suspension modifications to the rebuilt powerplants. Displaying steady improvement in each of the four qualifying sessions, the Martino crew cemented their place in Sunday's final eliminations. In fact, their 6.990-second elapsed time on
Saturday afternoon was the third quickest of the session, and came at a time when many were actually slowing down. This effort placed their Thrill Machine ninth, their best qualifying position of the season. This set the stage for a first-round match-up against Mike Thomas, who had captured the eighth spot (and the all-important lane choice) by virtue of being one-thousandth of a second quicker than Martino.
"This Six Flags Racing Team is pretty happy with our weekend," said Martino. "We made improvements on our Thrill Machine, and showed progress in qualifying. We made four runs - two runs that were pretty good, and two that weren't bad. We're starting to get a grip on fine-tuning our Pro Stock Firebird's performance. We're still not where we want to be, but we think we have something to build on next week in Richmond."
In the final, Mark Osborne defeated Bruce Allen to gain his first national event win in three years. The NHRA circuit will now move quickly to Virginia Motorsports Park for this weekend's Pennzoil Nationals April 23-26.
Note: ESPN2 will broadcast an hour of highlights from the Fram Nationals this Thursday, April 23 at 11 p.m. with a repeat airing on Friday, April 24 from 3-4 p.m. (EDT). Please check your local listings.
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