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MARTINO HOPES TO KEEP WINSTON TOP 10 STREAK ALIVE WITH BRAINERD WIN BRAINERD, Minn. - Tom Martino's victory last season at The Colonel's Brainerd International Raceway couldn't have happened at a better time. If lightning does indeed strike...

MARTINO HOPES TO KEEP WINSTON TOP 10 STREAK ALIVE WITH BRAINERD WIN

BRAINERD, Minn. - Tom Martino's victory last season at The Colonel's Brainerd International Raceway couldn't have happened at a better time.

If lightning does indeed strike twice in the same spot, one NHRA Pro Stock driver is hoping it will happen in northern Minnesota in mid-August.

Martino, 41, from Farmingdale, N.J., has spent most of the 1999 season figuring out the tune-up for his Pontiac Firebird. If Martino, currently 16th in Pro Stock points, is to keep alive his streak of Winston top 10 finishes this season, he'll need to mount a winning late season charge. He started his professional career in 1996, and has posted a points finish no worse than eighth during that span.

Martino hopes a victory at the 18th annual Colonel's Truck Accessories NHRA Nationals, Aug. 19-22, at The Colonel's Brainerd International Raceway, will move him closer to his goal of a fourth-straight top 10 finish. Martino is the defending Pro Stock winner of the $1.6 million race, the 15th of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

"Our goal is to finish in the Winston top 10 for the fourth straight year," Martino said. "There's only been a few drivers who have been able to do it in the last three years (Warren Johnson, Kurt Johnson, Jim Yates). It's definitely a streak we want to see continue. With a win at Brainerd, we'll be moving in that direction."

It's a direction that Martino's Century 21 Firebird team welcomes. The direction the team headed to start the season is one he'd just as soon forget.

Following a couple of DNQs in the first two events, Martino slowly rebounded. He posted five straight first round losses before nearly pulling off the victory of his career at his hometown track in Englishtown, N.J. He lost there in a heartbreaking final to Richie Stevens and it took him two more events to regroup. At St. Louis he posted his next best effort, a semi-final appearance.

"We're looking for a good repeatable level of performance," Martino added. "We're always looking to qualify well and win. That's always the goal. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to do that consistently this year. Right now our backs are against the wall and I think we actually perform better when the odds are stacked against us. The bottom line is to focus on doing whatever it takes to win. We want to get the car ready to qualify in the top half of the order and win some rounds on Sunday."

Back in form: Jim Yates, driver of the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird, moved to third in the NHRA Winston point standings with his recent victory at Sonoma, Calif. and runner-up finish at Seattle. The former two-time Winston Pro Stock champion says his team is on the verge of getting back to the winning form it displayed during title runs in 1996 and '97. "I'm a little disappointed that we haven't maximized the potential of our new engine, but we're working on it," said 22-time winner Yates, who claimed his first NHRA Pro Stock national event win at Brainerd in 1994. "Our program is heading in the right direction, and with a few tweaks, we'll be contending every week."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Tom Martino