Parsippany, New Jersey, April 27, 1999 - One year ago, Tom Martino came within an eyelash of completing the ultimate NHRA Cinderella story at the Pennzoil Nationals in Richmond, Virginia. Qualifying in the sixteenth and last position, Martino ...
Parsippany, New Jersey, April 27, 1999 - One year ago, Tom Martino came within an eyelash of completing the ultimate NHRA Cinderella story at the Pennzoil Nationals in Richmond, Virginia. Qualifying in the sixteenth and last position, Martino started Sunday's final eliminations by defeating number one qualifier Barry Grant in the first round. He then dispatched Bob Benza and Pete Williams en route to a final round match-up with current Pro Stock Champion Warren Johnson. Martino seemed to have the situation under control when he grabbed a four-hundredths of a second advantage at the starting line. However, his hopes for an upset fell shy when his car veered out of the groove, forcing him to lift off the throttle, and allowing his opponent to edge him at the finish line. This year, Martino brings his CENTURY 21( Racing Team back to Virginia Motorsports Park determined to better that accomplishment.
"We had a heck of a run here last year, but the win just got away from us at the end," stated Martino. "This time, we'd like to complete the picture and put our CENTURY 21( Firebird in the winner's circle. We know there will be about thirty other teams trying to do the same thing, and it won't be easy. But I guarantee that no one will be working harder this week getting ready for this race. We are definitely hungry for a win."
This weekend's event marks the first time this season that the NHRA's finest will be racing on consecutive weekends. With over 1,300 miles between racing venues and less than five days to prepare, race crews would normally be hard pressed to simply perform their normal between-race maintenance. However, the Martino crew's assignment will be even more strenuous, as their week will also include a two-day test session in Darlington, South Carolina on Tuesday and Wednesday. Although some might question adding to an already heavy workload, the reasoning is quite simple. The CENTURY 21( team has made their desire to challenge for the win at every race very clear, and with questions remaining on how to precisely dial in their Firebird, they jumped at the opportunity to gather additional data on their "doorslammer" without the pressure of competition. With warmer temperatures approaching, they know a premium will be placed on handling rather than brute power, and information from these two days could be the difference between winning and losing.
Another challenge facing the "factory hot rods" at the Dinwiddie race will be the difference in racing conditions from their last event. In Dallas, competitors dealt with high-than-normal temperatures, drenching humidity and an all-concrete surface with an abundance of traction. This weekend, the battle will rage on an asphalt quarter-mile with the long-range forecast calling for substantially cooler temperatures. The potential for high speeds and low elapsed times remains, as this was the first track to yield a 200-mph Pro Stock pass. But to extract that type of performance a totally different set-up will be required, and the team that best adjusts to the environment will likely do well on Sunday. All things considered, Tom Martino likes his team's chances.
MARTINO MOMENTS: Tom Martino will be making a personal appearance at the Virginia Center Commons Mall in Glen Allen, Virginia on Thursday, April 29 from 6:30 - 8:00 p.m. as part of the culmination of the week-long CENTURY 21( "Drive It Home" Sweepstakes, and will help to award the lease of a brand-new Firebird to one lucky winner For directions to the mall, please call (804) 266-9002.....This will be Tom's fourth Pro Stock appearance at Virginia Motorsports 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 has been frozen at four members since last year....Tom looks to improve upon his runner-up finish from this event a year ago.
WHAT: 5th annual Pennzoil Nationals, the sixth event on the 22-race 1999 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series Schedule.
WHEN: April 29- May 2, 1999
WHERE: Virginia Motorsports Park, Dinwiddie, Virginia
SCHEDULE: Professional qualifying sessions start on Friday, April 30 with two sessions at 2:30 and 6:30 p.m., and conclude on Saturday, May 1 with two rounds at 11:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, May 2.
TV: The Nashville Network (TNN) will broadcast ninety minutes of final-round coverage from noon - 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 9. (All times Eastern) As always, please check your local listings.