Parsippany, New Jersey, May 19, 1999 - Each year, when the new NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series schedule comes out, the first event that is immediately circled on Tom Martino's calendar is the Mopar Parts Nationals in Englishtown, New Jersey.
Parsippany, New Jersey, May 19, 1999 - Each year, when the new NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series schedule comes out, the first event that is immediately circled on Tom Martino's calendar is the Mopar Parts Nationals in Englishtown, New Jersey. Located just a few miles from his home in Farmingdale, Old Bridge Township Raceway Park is like an old friend to Martino. Throughout the course of a year, the CENTURY 21 Racing team will make countless runs down Vinny Napp's track, whether match racing or simply testing a new set-up on his Firebird.
But this weekend promises something different. For the first time in his Pro Stock Career, Tom Martino will be competing at "E-town" for more than a NHRA national event win, as he has earned a spot among the elite eight in Saturday's high-dollar Holley Pro Stock Dominator Duel. To claim victory in either race would be the fulfillment of a life-long dream for the New Jersey native.
"Every team and driver out here has a certain race that they would love to win more than any other," explained Martino. "For the CENTURY 21 Racing Team, that race is Englishtown. Not only is it one of the NHRA's biggest and most traditional events, but Raceway Park is our home. It's where I was first exposed to drag racing through my father, and where my own career began. I know there will be a lot of fans in the stands this weekend who witnessed my first competitive run and many of them have been behind us ever since.
In addition, CENTURY 21's corporate offices are located in nearby Parsippany. They're having a hospitality event on Friday, with people here throughout the weekend. The way I see it, putting our Pro Stock Firebird in the winner's circle would be the best way for us to show everyone our appreciation for their support, and we have two chances to do that this weekend."
But the Martino team realizes that the fierce competition among the "factory hot rods" leaves little room for sentiment. The venerable Garden State facility has long been acknowledged as one of fastest tracks on the circuit. The combination of near sea level elevation and a racing surface of smooth, tightly packed asphalt gives Raceway Park tremendous "teeth", which is how racers describe a track's ability to handle the tremendous power applied by the 1,200 horsepower Pro Stockers, translating into record elapsed times and speeds. With such tremendous potential, participants know they must once again be at their very best. One missed call or erroneous adjustment could be the difference between winning and not even qualifying.
Therefore, the CENTURY 21 crew has been working around the clock since returning from Atlanta. With only a few days to prepare, Martino and crew chief Tom Kling went over their primary powerplants, replacing worn parts and running them on the dynamometer to ensure they were operating at full power. Meanwhile, crew member Rick Trianna performed normal maintenance on the car, also checking for signs of wear and tear. Finally, the team made a quick trip to Budds Creek, Maryland to participate in an invitational Pro Stock race with many of their top rivals, which they saw as a pre-race test session. With the stiff challenge ahead this weekend, Martino knows any information could prove useful, and will use it whenever possible.
"No matter where we race, our goals are always the same," stated Martino. "First and foremost, we have to make each run down the track a good one, getting everything out of it that we can. After that, we'll look to qualify in the top half and win rounds on Sunday. Things will be a little different this weekend, because our third qualifying run will actually be the first round of the Pro Stock Duel where we'll face Warren (Johnson), giving us even more reasons to perform. But either way, we need to focus on getting our CENTURY 21 Firebird dialed in. There will be a lot of people at the track wanting us to do well, and we certainly don't want to disappoint them."
MARTINO MOMENTS: Tom Martino will be making a personal appearance at Freehold Pontiac Buick GMC in Freehold, New Jersey on Thursday, May 20 from 3:30 - 5:00 p.m. For directions, please call (732) 462-0847.... This will be Tom's fourth Pro Stock appearance at Raceway Park ..... Tom looks to score a win for his hometown fans.