Over the course of the rain-abbreviated qualifying sessions for the Auto Zone Nationals, Tom Martino found himself in the very tricky left lane twice. The first time came late on Saturday evening, and as the third car down the "green" track...
Over the course of the rain-abbreviated qualifying sessions for the Auto Zone Nationals, Tom Martino found himself in the very tricky left lane twice. The first time came late on Saturday evening, and as the third car down the "green" track after an extensive rain delay, Martino fought to keep his CENTURY 21( Pro Stock Firebird under control, and eventually clicked off and coasted over the finish line. The next morning, Martino was able to produce a solid pass when he needed to, posting an elapsed time of 6.975 seconds with a top speed of 198.09 miles-per-hour on his last attempt to gain entry into final eliminations. Slotted 13th, Martino was matched against fourth qualifier Steve Schmidt in the first round, with the all-important lane choice going to the higher seeded driver. After watching the initial competitors struggle to get down the left side, Schmidt opted to compete in the right lane.
Although the final time trial had been held under overcast skies, sunshine, high heat and humidity prevailed for the start of eliminations, totally changing the track's performance characteristics and the tune-up necessary to tame it. Running in the less-preferred lane, Martino knew he would need every advantage he could get in order to advance. As expected, Martino grabbed the lead at the starting line, leaving ahead of his opponent by over two hundredths of a second. Almost immediately after launching, Martino's mount headed directly towards the centerline, forcing him to correct. After several attempts to regain control, Martino realized he could not overtake his opponent and shut off.
"We were very light on the clutch in this morning's final qualifying session. So as we prepared for eliminations, I moved a bunch of weight to the front of the car and put a lot of clutch in it. Unfortunately, we did not compensate the set-up enough for the sun beating down on the track and how drastically it would change the racing surface. Basically, we tried to run a 6.90 on a 6.97 track. If we had just left the car alone, it probably would have gone 6.98 or .99, and given us a shot at the win. But we didn't and it didn't.
"We're going to test tomorrow to check our set-ups. I thought we would have run faster than we did this morning. We'll go out tomorrow set up the same way, maybe just changing the starting line tune-up a little bit and see how it acts. If it doesn't respond the way I think it should, I'll change the suspension to try and improve it.
"It's all part of learning the intricacies of a new car. It's ironic, but since we debuted this car in Reading, we have raced in some of the most unusual weather conditions we've seen all year and that's tested our knowledge of both our car and the tracks. Hopefully, by the time we get to Dallas, we'll have a better handle on how to make those important adjustments on our CENTURY 21 Firebird."