MARTINO EDGED OUT IN READING Reading, Pennsylvania, September 21, 1998 - The National Hot Rod Association's Pro Stock division is arguably the most competitive in all of motorsports. At each event, an average of thirty-four entrants vies for...
MARTINO EDGED OUT IN READING
Reading, Pennsylvania, September 21, 1998 - The National Hot Rod Association's Pro Stock division is arguably the most competitive in all of motorsports. At each event, an average of thirty-four entrants vies for one of sixteen spots on the final eliminations ladder. The difference between being the top qualifier and heading home on Saturday is often separated by mere hundredths of a second. At this weekend's Pioneer Keystone Nationals in Reading, Pennsylvania, Tom Martino and the Six Flags Theme Parks Racing team were reminded of just how tight the times are packed. Even though they were able to improve their elapsed time by five hundredths of a second throughout qualifying, on Saturday night their best effort of 7.003 seconds would find them outside of the top sixteen by a virtually imperceptible four thousandths of a second.
"We made progress throughout the weekend," explained Martino, "but were never able to hit on the perfect combination that would put our Six Flags Thrill Machine Firebird safely in the field. As close as the competition is in Pro Stock, you need to be firing on all eight cylinders on every run. We were off by a hair here and unfortunately it bit us."
The Six Flags team faced a different challenge upon arrival at this scenic facility nestled in Pennsylvania's Green Hills. Since their last visit a year ago, the concrete launch pad had been extended to 500 feet, with a new layer of asphalt put down the rest of the quarter-mile. Therefore all notes from previous years would prove of little use to the Martino crew as they prepared for their runs. Compounding the situation, as usual, was the weather. Although the temperatures in the two critical sessions on Friday night and Saturday morning stayed relatively low and favored the normally-aspirated "doorslammers", the humidity wreaked havoc on vital clutch and carburetor adjustments. Some were able to find the proper power settings, and as a result, all sixteen qualifiers eclipsed the seven second mark, with four hundredths of a second separating the field. It was late in the final session on Saturday afternoon that last of these six-second passes was made, sealing Martino's fate. After missing eliminations by the narrowest of margins, a disappointed Martino reaffirmed his competitive resolve at the conclusion of qualifying.
"This Six Flags Racing team is determined to prevent a repeat of this past weekend, so we'll stay in Reading to test," detailed Martino. "We've already shown the car has the potential to run well - it's up to us to get it to do so consistently. The track here at Maple Grove Raceway is fairly similar to what we will encounter for the rest of the season, so we'll take some time to try several clutch, chassis and engine combinations to see what works best. I guarantee that things will be different and better in Topeka!"
In Sunday's final, Kurt Johnson edged Mike Edwards for his second win of the season. The NHRA now heads to Topeka, Kansas for the Parts America Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka October 1-4.