MARTINO PREPARES FOR HOUSTON TITLE DEFENSE BY "CROSS-TRAINING" PARSIPPANY, New Jersey, March 16, 1998 - For the first time in his brief professional career, Six Flags Theme Parks pilot Tom Martino will arrive at an NHRA national event as the ...
MARTINO PREPARES FOR HOUSTON TITLE DEFENSE BY "CROSS-TRAINING"
PARSIPPANY, New Jersey, March 16, 1998 - For the first time in his brief professional career, Six Flags Theme Parks pilot Tom Martino will arrive at an NHRA national event as the defending champion. Exactly one year ago at Houston Raceway Park, the Farmingdale, New Jersey native captured the Pro Stock title in thrilling fashion, using hole-shots to defeat Jim Yates and Kurt Johnson before sealing the win in the final round against hometown favorite Bruce Allen. With back-to-back Pennzoil Nationals victories a top priority, Martino turned to a training method popular with athletes in other sports - cross training.
Far from the traditional methods, however, Martino implemented a revolutionary form of "Six Flags Thrill Training". It is a three-part process, with the initial two held at Six Flags Astroworld in Houston, Texas. First, Martino was on hand for the debut of the "Taz's Texas Tornado" roller coaster, a 112-foot tall wonder which takes those who dare for an incredible ride through four loops at speeds reaching 60 mph. As the first person to officially ride the latest and the steepest of the Six Flags Astroworld's eleven coasters, Martino had quite an experience.
"That ride is as thrilling as driving my Six Flags Pro Stock Firebird, but a whole lot scarier," exclaimed Martino. "I kept finding myself reaching for my racecar's parachute lever, and of course it wasn't there!"
Next, Martino was the grand marshal at the inaugural "Six Flags Thrill of Racing for Kids" event. Over 175 children entered, competing in three age categories. They raced in miniature versions of the Six Flags Thrill Machine for prizes including a college scholarship and a trip to Pomona for the NHRA Winston Finals. In addition, there was a full-sized replica of Martino's racecar on hand, allowing many children their first opportunity to see a 200 mile-per-hour NHRA Pro Stock Firebird up close.
"I had a blast. We had a great turnout, and it was wonderful to talk to the kids and see them getting caught up in the thrill of drag racing," said Martino. "I watched them all, and I think we may have a couple of future NHRA stars here!"
His initial "training" complete, Martino now turns his attention to the ride that only he and his team can master - the Six Flags Pro Stock Firebird. The team will look to use their strong showing in the Gatornationals as a springboard to success in the Lone Star State, for Gainesville and Houston Raceway Park are similar in many respects. Both are favorite sites for winter testing, with HRP hosting the pre-season "Super Bowl of Pro Stock". Competitors will again be greeted by sea level elevation and cool spring temperatures, perfect for the normally aspirated doorslammers. When combined with HRP's smooth racing surface, NHRA records could again be in jeopardy.
With less than five days between events, however, crews will only have time for performing routine service on their racecars. A team's knowledge and experience at the facility will be vital. This bodes well for the Six Flags Racing team, for they have adapted well to the Houston quarter-mile in their previous two appearances. In addition, for the first time this season, the Martino crew will return to a track where they have run with their Thrill Machine - a real plus when deciding on crucial adjustments. Notes from their January session will be combined with the computer data gathered during the past few weeks, and carefully analyzed by Martino and his crew chief, Tom Kling. Qualifying will be even more challenging, for unlike the previous three events, the Pennzoil Nationals will feature a nighttime qualifying session, where many times Pro Stock fields are set. But, based on the strength of his team and racecar, Tom Martino is confident of this weekend's outcome.
"There's a lot of things in our favor this weekend," stated Martino. "We were fast here in January, and historically the track conditions have come to us during the race. Right now, this Six Flags Racing team is planning to leave here on Sunday as repeat winners of the Pennzoil Nationals!"