Tom Martino Pomona Preview

AFTER A BUSY OFFSEASON, MARTINO IS READY TO RACE IN POMONA CENTURY 21 Racing Team set to debut at the AutoZone Winternationals Farmingdale, New Jersey, January 27, 1999 -- One of the biggest misnomers in the world of motorsports is describing...

AFTER A BUSY OFFSEASON, MARTINO IS READY TO RACE IN POMONA CENTURY 21 Racing Team set to debut at the AutoZone Winternationals

Farmingdale, New Jersey, January 27, 1999 -- One of the biggest misnomers in the world of motorsports is describing the time between the end of one racing year and the beginning of the next as the "off" season. Although it is true that there is no on-track competition during this period, each team's workload actually increases as they try to get ready for the upcoming campaign. Just ask Tom Martino, owner and driver of the Century 21 Real Estate Corporation Pro Stock Firebird. After two hectic months of preparations, Martino and the rest of the competitors are truly looking forward to getting to Pomona for next week's AutoZone Winternationals.

"We've been going full-tilt since the season ended, trying to get everything in place for 1999," stated Martino. "After a while, cabin fever starts to set in. Now it's time for all that hard work to pay dividends. We cannot wait to get to our CENTURY 21 Firebird out to the racetrack for the Winternationals. It's serious competition, but we have a lot of fun doing it, and that's our reward."

Reviewing the Martino team's schedule for the last eleven weeks shows a flurry of activity. For example, two racecars were added to the Martino stable to replace last year's model, which was converted into a CENTURY 21? show car. This tandem will give Martino extra flexibility as he battles the best in the Pro Stock ranks. The first car is a Jerry Bickel car purchased late last year from another team. After a nose-to-tail examination, time was spent incorporating changes, updates and adapting the car to the Martino crew's preferences. This vehicle was then used for a December test session in Florida. The second doorslammer arrived just weeks before start of the season, when Martino traveled to the Midwest to pick up a new Rick Jones machine. This Firebird, too required some finishing work, including a fresh paint job in the dynamic Century 21 Real Estate Corporation livery.

In addition, an impressive, larger transporter was obtained, which entailed, among other things, having all of the equipment from the older rig moved over and re-organized. Transmissions were converted to reflect the new rules mandating manual shifters. Other, non-mechanical issues were addressed, such as designing and ordering new team uniforms and driver's firesuit to reflect the new primary sponsor.

Through it all, Martino and crew chief Tom Kling squeezed in endless hours on the dyno, working on their arsenal of race engines searching for power and consistency. Finally, the team loaded up and headed to Houston for a couple days of testing to work out any last-minute bugs and develop some baseline performance numbers, followed by a pre- season tune-up event in preparation for the Winternationals. From there they will head straight to Pomona Raceway.

"Our goal is to come out in Pomona and have a strong showing," explained Martino. "It's important, not only for our team, but for our sponsors and fans. We've spent a lot of time over the last few months working towards putting ourselves in contention and now it's time to show what we've got. Naturally, that includes ending the day with our Century 21 Real Estate Corporation Firebird in the winner's circle, and we're going to do our best to get it done."

MARTNO MOMENTS: This will be Tom's fourth Pro Stock appearance at the Winternationals .-.Martino is looking to extend his three-year run of Top Ten points finishes, an accomplishment he shares with three other drivers (Warren & Kurt Johnson and Jim Yates. This race marks the much anticipated return of manual shifting to the "factory hot rods".

Fast Facts

WHAT: 39th annual Winston Finals, the first event on the 22-race 1999 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series Schedule.

WHEN: February 4-7, 1999

WHERE: Pomona Raceway, Pomona, California

SCHEDULE: Pro Stock qualifying sessions start with one round on Thursday, February 4 at 2:00 p.m., continue with another on Friday, February 5 at 2:00 p.m., and conclude on Saturday, February 6 with two rounds at 11:30 and 3:30 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, February 7.

TV: ESPN2 will have two shows from Pomona on Sunday, February 7. The first program will air from 11:00 a.m. -- 1:00 p.m. (ET) with qualifying highlights from the previous three days, with a second broadcast providing two-hours of final eliminations coverage from 9:30 -- 11:30 p.m. (ET). As always, please check your local listings

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Tom Martino