Tom Martino Pennzoil Nationals Review

MECHANICAL BUGS STING MARTINO IN HOUSTON BAYTOWN, Texas, March 22, 1998 - The National Hot Rod Association's Pro Stock division is arguably the most competitive in all of motorsports. At any given national event, fields of nearly forty racecars...

MECHANICAL BUGS STING MARTINO IN HOUSTON

BAYTOWN, Texas, March 22, 1998 - The National Hot Rod Association's Pro Stock division is arguably the most competitive in all of motorsports. At any given national event, fields of nearly forty racecars will vie for the sixteen spots I final eliminations, with each entrant having an equal opportunity of making the field. Contestants must therefore take full advantage of all four qualifying rounds allotted in order to record the absolute best elapsed time and enhance their chances of racing on Sunday. At this past weekend's Pennzoil Nationals at Houston Raceway Park, mechanical woes plagued Tom Martino and the Six Flags Racing Team on two of their runs, and as a result, their best elapsed time of 6.965 seconds found them on the outside of the top sixteen in the final standings.

"Each day we had an unforeseen problem in the early session which prevented us from getting the right set-up," explained Martino afterward. "For example, on Friday morning we broke the shifter, and we had no data for the night run. Then on Saturday, we had a transmission failure on our first pass, which gave us no information for our last attempt. Both days were completely different, and without the feedback from the earlier rounds, it was virtually impossible to dial our Firebird in. We made two good runs in our Six Flags Thrill Machine, with times that would have qualified virtually anywhere else. But here we needed to be perfect."

In fact, Tom Martino would have had top improve on his career best pass of 6.944 seconds in order to have made the field for the Pennzoil Nationals. Less than a week after the record-setting event in Gainesville, the Houston race proved even faster. Pro Stock participants got a preview of things to come when the top seventeen cars were under seven seconds after the first session on Friday. At the conclusion of qualifying, the number of six-second cars had swelled to twenty-eight. With competitors having to post a 6.940 second or better elapsed time to qualify, this became the quickest Pro Stock field in NHRA history. To put things in perspective, Warren Johnson's #1 qualifying time from 1997 would not have been enough to earn a spot in this year's eliminations.

"Naturally, we're disappointed, but this Six Flags Racing Team is more determined than ever," stated Martino. "We're much better than we've shown so far. It's just a matter of getting a handle on this race car. The power is there - we just have to get it to the ground without spinning the tires. We plan to go home, work on our Firebird, and test it at the end of the week. We have about two weeks before Rockingham, and I guarantee you this Thrill Machine will be flying there!"

In Sunday's final, Warren Johnson bested first-time finalist Mike Thomas to earn his third consecutive win of the season. The NHRA will take next weekend off before heading to Rockingham, North Carolina for the Winston Invitational, April 3-5.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Warren Johnson , Tom Martino