MARTINO TEACHES "THE KID" A LESSON AND GOES TO SCHOOL WITH "THE PROFESSOR" Kent, Washington, August 3, 1998 - When competitors arrived at Seattle International Raceway for the NHRA's Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals, they were ...
MARTINO TEACHES "THE KID" A LESSON AND GOES TO SCHOOL WITH "THE PROFESSOR"
Kent, Washington, August 3, 1998 - When competitors arrived at Seattle International Raceway for the NHRA's Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals, they were presented with a challenge. Gone was the old racing surface with treacherous bumps and disparate lanes, replaced by a billiard table smooth dragstrip with the potential for high speeds. However, due to the lack of traction-producing rubber on the "green" track, race crews found themselves searching for the proper balance to harness their racecar's tremendous horsepower and avoid the wasted effort of spinning the tires. Tom Martino and the Six Flags Theme Parks Racing team were able to find some answers and produce their share of successes throughout the weekend. First, they were first able to qualify in the top half of the field for Sunday's final eliminations, and then dispose of Richie Stevens in the first round. Martino's next opponent was current Winston points leader and top qualifier Warren Johnson. Needing a perfect run to unseat "the Professor", Martino's Thrill Machine launched hard, digging at the track for every ounce of speed. But Martino's hopes for victory were cut short when a combination of an unfavorable right lane and tooth-jarring tire shake slowed his run and allowed "W.J." to capture the win.
"Warren Johnson has been the man to beat this season, and that was our goal" stated Martino. "Even after running a 6.99 in the first round, we made some changes to our Six Flags Thrill Machine Firebird to try and improve its performance. Unfortunately, we did not have the luxury of lane choice, and that didn't help. The right lane was definitely rougher, and we didn't get the run we were looking for. It shook and spun so hard that I eventually shut it off."
Qualifying proved to be an even more daunting task than normal for the Pro Stock contingent, as cooler than normal temperatures ensured conditions would be perfect throughout all four time trials. Although this would ease the normal tension of having only one chance to post a time quick enough to make the sixteen-car field during the Friday night session, it also meant that virtually no time could be considered safe enough to guarantee a spot on Sunday. In each stanza, all teams did an outstanding job of fine-tuning their mounts, and, as a result, the time required to qualify dropped with each attempt. This threatened to break the record for the fastest field in Pro Stock history, but fell just short when temperatures raised slightly on Saturday afternoon. Tom Martino added some drama of his own on Friday night when a broken spring in his shifting mechanism prevented him from making an attempt, leaving him on the outside looking in. Undaunted, the Six Flags crew responded by fixing the problem and posting a lightning-quick 6.943-second elapsed time, with a top speed of 197.41 miles per hour in Saturday's morning session. This cemented Martino and his Thrill Machine in the top of the elimination ladder, and set the stage for his first-round match-up against the 19 year-old Stevens.
"We're pleased with our qualifying performance here this weekend," said Martino. "But we won't be satisfied with our Sunday showings until we reach the winner's circle. We were able to adapt well to the fast track here, and moved up a spot in the points, but needed just a little more to challenge for the win. We have a few weeks before our next event, and we're going to take advantage of the time to go over our Thrill Machine from nose-to-tail. It's an on-going process to learn our car and how to consistently make it go faster, and this Six Flags Racing team is committed to getting the job done. That win isn't far off!"
In Sunday's final, Warren Johnson defeated his son Kurt for his seventh win of the season, further expanding his massive points lead for the Winston Championship. The NHRA will now take a well-deserved break for the next two weekends before resuming the 1998 season at the Visionaire NorthStar Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway in Brainerd, Minnesota August 20-23.