Tom Martino Houston Preview

MARTINO AIMS TO REPEAT HISTORY IN HOUSTON CENTURY 21( Pro Stock Pilot returns to site of his first national event victory Parsippany, New Jersey, March 30, 1999 - Every trip to Houston Raceway Park must seem like a get-together with an old...

MARTINO AIMS TO REPEAT HISTORY IN HOUSTON CENTURY 21( Pro Stock Pilot returns to site of his first national event victory

Parsippany, New Jersey, March 30, 1999 - Every trip to Houston Raceway Park must seem like a get-together with an old friend for Tom Martino. After all, many of the highlights of the New Jersey native's young Pro Stock career have occurred at the Baytown facility. Three times in the last two years, Martino has powered his way into the finals, with the most recent being this year's pre-season Pro Stock Superbowl in January. Along the way, Martino was able to include defeats of such stalwarts as Warren and Kurt Johnson and Jim Yates.

But the one moment that will be forever etched in the entire team's memory came on March 23, 1997 when Tom Martino captured his first Pro Stock national event title in a thrilling final round victory over hometown favorite Bruce Allen. This weekend, Martino hopes to display the same winning form as the CENTURY 21( Racing team competes in the 12th annual O'Reilly Nationals.

"We have been fortunate to run well in Houston over the last few years, and naturally, nothing will ever replace the feeling from that first win in 1997," stated Martino. "Our focus now, however, is to take what we've learned from those races and use it to duplicate that success this weekend with our CENTURY 21( Firebird."

Martino knows past accomplishments will have little bearing on his success in the Lone Star State this weekend. As at every stop on the NHRA circuit, this event will test the skills of every tuner and driver in the pit area. First, the smooth racing surface at Houston Raceway Park will combine with sea level elevation and cool spring temperatures to provide nearly perfect conditions for the normally aspirated doorslammers. Adding to the challenge will be the inclusion of the season's first evening qualifying sessions, which further elevates the potential for quick times and high speeds. Each of the nearly forty entrants in the Pro Stock division knows that these evening runs will be their best opportunity to make Sunday's final eliminations, magnifying the importance of doing well in each attempt.

As expected, the time between events was a whirlwind of activity for the Martino crew. First, even though they had their best showing of the season in Gainesville, they remained in Florida for an additional day to test set-ups. Without the pressure of qualifying, they could experiment with different combinations, searching for the key to fine-tuning their Firebird for maximum performance under any conditions. Crew chief Tom Kling, meanwhile, flew home to tend to the remainder of the race engine inventory. Upon the team's return to their New Jersey base, the racecar was given a thorough examination, followed by additional tests at nearby Raceway Park in Englishtown. Unfortunately, a match race against Warren Johnson was canceled, robbing the CENTURY 21( team of the opportunity to evaluate their handiwork under race conditions. Nevertheless, Martino remains quietly confident about his chances.

"I have to admit that we're pretty pumped about this weekend," exclaimed Martino. "It has been tough starting as we have, because we know we're better than we've shown. But our resolve has never faltered, and each week, we've shown improvement. We tried a few things in testing that seemed to have really helped straighten things out, so we're looking to have some fun with our CENTURY 21( Firebird in Houston. After all, I think a second O'Reilly Nationals winner's trophy would be the perfect complement to the one we received in 1997."

MARTINO MOMENTS: This will be Tom's seventh Pro Stock appearance at Houston Raceway Park .....If conditions are right, Tom and the rest of the Pro Stock contingent will look to join the Speed-Pro 200 mile-per-hour club, which added the fourth and currently last member here last year....Tom looks to duplicate his 1997 win at this event.

Fast Facts

WHAT: 12th annual O'Reilly Nationals, the fourth event on the 22-race 1999

NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series Schedule.

WHEN: April 8-11, 1999

WHERE: Houston Raceway Park, Baytown, Texas

SCHEDULE: Professional qualifying sessions start on Friday, April 9 with two sessions at 1:30 and 5:30 p.m., and conclude on Saturday, April 10 with two rounds at 11:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, April 11.

TV: TNN will provide ninety minutes of tape-delayed highlights on Sunday, April 18 from noon - 1:30 p.m. (All times Eastern) As always, please check your local listings.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino