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MARTINO TO SWITCH MOUNTS IN MADISON CENTURY 21 Racing Team to debut a different Pro Stock Firebird at Sears Craftsman Nationals Parsippany, New Jersey, June 22, 1999 - In the days of the Old West, one of the ways mail was transported across...


CENTURY 21 Racing Team to debut a different Pro Stock Firebird at Sears Craftsman Nationals

Parsippany, New Jersey, June 22, 1999 - In the days of the Old West, one of the ways mail was transported across the country was by a service known as the Pony Express. These brave riders would ride continuously, facing many perils as they transversed the country. When they arrived in a town or outpost, they would often be given the opportunity to change horses, trading in their tired mount for a fresh and rested one.

At this weekend's Sears Craftsman Nationals in Madison, Illinois, Tom Martino and the CENTURY 21 Pro Stock Racing team will be making a similar change as they park the racecar they have used throughout the season in favor of another acquired two weeks ago following the Columbus event. But in this instance, their Firebird is not tired, but temperamental.

"We exhausted every avenue trying to get our original car to run competitively and consistently," explained Martino. "Sometimes we were successful, as evidenced by our career best speed and E.T. in Richmond, and our runner-up finish in Englishtown. But repeatability was a problem. Therefore, we purchased another chassis from a fellow competitor that we plan to run starting in Madison. It's made by a different builder, and we believe its range of adjustment will be much larger than our other cars. We've had cars made by this manufacturer before, and we've run well with them."

But unlike their predecessors on the Pony Express, much more than swapping saddles is required to execute the exchange. Immediately after its arrival in New Jersey, the "new" car was whisked off to the paint shop for application of the CENTURY 21 livery. Changes were made to the running gear, making it consistent with what the Martino crew uses. For example, engine-mounting plates were modified to ensure an easy installation of the Martino and Kling-built motors. The chassis was gone over, ensuring that components such as ignition boxes, gauges and the like were of the type that the team is familiar with. Finally, once the work was completed, Martino headed to Ohio for two days of testing to establish baseline performance numbers.

The Martino crew will have to get up to speed quickly with their new charge, for the Madison race will be a challenge unto itself. For the first time in recent history, an NHRA national event will be contested almost completely at night. This decision was made as a consideration to both the racing teams and fans, who had to endure sweltering temperatures in the two years since the Gateway International Raceway joined the circuit in 1997. Event records are expected to be shattered in every category, as lower temperatures and a cooler racing surface will produce much more favorable conditions than found in years past. This should be of particular benefit to the "factory hot rods", whose normally aspirated powerplants suffer in heat and humidity. The focus will therefore be on extracting the maximum from the 500 cubic-inch engines and effectively transferring it through the rear wheels and down to the ground, resulting in low elapsed times and high top speeds. No matter the conditions, the Martino team sees this event as the first opportunity to score points with their latest racecar.

"The Madison event will mark the midpoint of our season," explained Martino. "We have goals that we set for ourselves at the beginning of the year, and we need to step it up to reach them. We have to score points, and the only way to do so is to qualify well and advance rounds. This will be our first race with this different CENTURY 21 Pro Stock Firebird, and we're looking for immediate results. It's about time our competitors, our fans, and most importantly, our sponsors see what we're really capable of."

MARTINO MOMENTS: Tom Martino will be making a personal appearance at the Chesterfield Shoppingtown Northwest Plaza at 650 A Northwest Plaza in St. Ann, Missouri on Wednesday, June 23 from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. For directions, please call (314) 298-0071.... This will be Tom's third Pro Stock appearance at Gateway International Raceway, where he looks to improve upon his quarterfinal performance from last year.

Fast Facts

WHAT: 3rd annual Sears Craftsman Nationals, the eleventh event on the 22-race 1999 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series Schedule.

WHEN: June 24 - 26, 1999

WHERE: Gateway International Raceway, Madison, Illinois

SCHEDULE: Professional qualifying sessions start on Thursday, June 24 with two sessions at 5:00 and 9:00 p.m., and conclude on Friday, June 25 with two rounds at 5:00 and 9:00 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 26.

TV: ABC will air one hour of tape-delayed final-round coverage from 1:00 - 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, July. 4 (All times are Eastern). As always, please check your local listings.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tom Martino