MARTINO POWERS TO THE SECOND ROUND IN MADISON Madison, Illinois, June 28, 1998 - Mother Nature did her very best to slow the Pro Stock field at this past weekend's Sears Craftsman Nationals. First, she used sweltering heat to bake the Gateway...
MARTINO POWERS TO THE SECOND ROUND IN MADISON
Madison, Illinois, June 28, 1998 - Mother Nature did her very best to slow the Pro Stock field at this past weekend's Sears Craftsman Nationals. First, she used sweltering heat to bake the Gateway International Raceway surface, making it slippery, which reduced the traction available. To this she added oppressive humidity, which not only robbed the massive 500 cubic-inch, normally aspirated engines of valuable horsepower, but the added air density acted as an aerodynamic block on the full-bodied "doors lammers". These developments did little to bother Six Flags Theme Parks pilot Tom Martino, however, who had several countermeasures for the conditions. Tucked under the hood of his Thrill Machine Pro Stock Firebird was a freshly rebuilt "T-Rex", which i s the nickname Martino has given his potent primary powerplant. In addition, the Six Flags crew features the braintrust of Martino and Kling, whose ability to efficiently transfer the 1,200 horsepower to a slick track is well documented. After posting h is best starting position of the season, Martino had designs on his first 1998 win. However, his chances for victory were cut short in the second round when an unforeseen mechanical failure negated a good start and allowed Larry Morgan to ease by for the win.
"In the first round, we got the win, but we weren't able to keep lane choice," explained Martino. "So we adjusted our car between rounds, looking to make a strong run. I was able to get a hundredth on the tree, but thirty feet out, our throttle linkage broke, shutting our carburetors off. Ironically, Larry (Morgan) had problems of his own, and only went a 7.16. I'm not saying we definitely would have beaten him, but I'm pretty confident that our Six Flags Firebird could at least have run that fast."
From the moment they unloaded, Martino's purple and yellow mount was among the fastest in the field. In the initial time trial on Friday afternoon, Martino established a baseline performance with a 7.161-second effort which placed him 6th among the thirt y-eight competitors. Using data compiled during that run, the team adjusted their Firebird for the nighttime session. Their hard work was rewarded when Martino shaved a full tenth of a second off his time, momentarily placing the Six Flags Thrill Machin e in the top spot, and finally slotting fourth. On Saturday, Martino continued this trend of improvement, lowering his elapsed time and posting the second fastest run of the morning session. Although an electrical malfunction slowed his march in the aft ernoon, Martino's spot in the upper half of the final eliminations ladder was secure, with the luxury of lane choice for his first round encounter with Mark Thomas. Their task of preparing for Sunday was complicated by the NHRA's scraping excess rubber f rom the racing surface on Saturday night in an effort to equalize the two lanes. Undaunted, Martino was able to overcome starting-line wheelspin and used the third quickest and fastest back half of the round to defeat Thomas and advance to his meeting wi th Morgan.
"We're finally starting get the results that this team is capable of," stated Martino. "We've been working hard to produce good power from our engines all season, and with each event, we're getting a better handle on turning those horses into consistent, fast runs. Our performance here showed that the Six Flags Thrill Machine is a top-half car, and I think we're fast closing in on our first win of the season. We have another motor ready that is even better than T-Rex so we're pumped heading into Denver !"
In Sunday's final, Kurt Johnson overcame an uncharacteristically slow start to edge Jeg Coughlin, Jr. for his first win of the season. The NHRA now takes the next two weekends off before embarking on their annual "West Coast Swing", with three races in t hree weeks, starting with the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in Denver, CO, July 16-19.