MARTINO DISAPPOINTED BY PENNSYLVANIA PERFORMANCE READING, PA, September 14, 1997 - As one of two races in close proximity to their Farmingdale, New Jersey home, Tom Martino and the MaMa Rosa's Pizza Racing team had looked forward with great ...
MARTINO DISAPPOINTED BY PENNSYLVANIA PERFORMANCE
READING, PA, September 14, 1997 - As one of two races in close proximity to their Farmingdale, New Jersey home, Tom Martino and the MaMa Rosa's Pizza Racing team had looked forward with great anticipation to the Keystone Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.
With the support of family and friends, they looked to capture their third national event win of the season, with Martino perhaps adding to his NHRA-leading total of five hole-shot wins. Unfortunately the opportunity never arose, as they struggled with the set-up in their racecar throughout the weekend, and just missed qualifying for Sunday's eliminations.
"This is a tremendous disappointment for the MaMa Rosa's Pizza Racing team," stated Martino. "Despite our best efforts, we never made what we would consider a good run all weekend. This is definitely not the way we wanted to thank our friends and family for coming out to see us!"
Even prior to their arrival in Pennsylvania, things had not gone as planned for the Martino Family team. A Pro Stock invitational race they had wanted to use as an extended test session was rained out the day before the Reading event. At the time, this postponement did not seem critical to their chances for the weekend. Once at the Reading track, pre-qualifying preparations went as normal, and the red, white and green Firebird was pushed to the line for its crucial first attempt, which is more valuable for the track information it provides than the time posted. But, strangely, the car would not start, victim of a failed starter solenoid. Although the problem was easily fixed, this meant the set up for the nighttime session would have to come from the ir notes, and not first-hand experience - a definite disadvantage. Following long discussions in the pits between rounds, the necessary adjustments were made. The decisions were obviously correct, as Martino powered the MaMa Rosa's Pizza Firebird to a 7.022-second elapsed time with a top speed of 195.14 miles-per-hour, good enough for 11th in the provisional standings. Although pleased by the effort, Martino was wary of his position.
"It wasn't a bad run, considering we set up the MaMa Rosa's Pizza Firebird without the benefit of the afternoon session," said Martino. "We'll work on improving it tomorrow - there are a lot of fast cars behind us, and tomorrow's conditions are supposed to be better. We'll need to step it up to secure a spot in the field."
Martino's words would prove prophetic. Saturday's temperatures proved cooler, with less humidity to slow the carbureted Pro Stock machines. When their first effort yielded no improvement, the Martino Family entry found themselves a precarious fifteenth heading into the final session. Realizing their participation in Sunday's final eliminations could hinge on this last pass, the MaMa Rosa's Pizza team concentrated on fine tuning their Firebird in search of maximum performance. Although their last run s howed a dramatic improvement over the morning's pass, and equaled their Friday night time, it was not enough to make the top sixteen, falling short by four thousandths of a second.
"We know this race car and team are better than we have shown here in Reading," explained Martino. "As competitive as these Pro Stock fields are, you have to have the total package, and we're a tick off. We need to isolate the problem and fix it, so our MaMa Rosa's Pizza Firebird will run the way we know it's capable of. In this sport, you make your own breaks, so we're going to work even harder to straighten things out. We're going to start by testing tomorrow. I'll tell you one thing - knowing this team, I wouldn't bet against us in Topeka!"
In Sunday's final round, first-time finalist Mike Bell's red light handed points leader Jim Yates his sixth win of the season. For its next event, the NHRA returns to Heartland Park Topeka for the Sears Craftsman Nationals, which will be held September 25-28. -30-