NHRA: Martino Ready to Rock in Memphis
9 October 1998Farmingdale, New Jersey - When the 1998 Winston Drag Racing schedule was originally set, competitors knew that this weekend's NHRA Pennzoil Nationals at Memphis Motorsports Park would have an added challenge. With only five days separating the conclusion of final eliminations in Kansas and the first day of qualifying in Tennessee, crews would have little time to service or repair their racecars. However, the task now looms even larger as severe weather caused the postponement of last Sunday's events in Topeka. The world's fastest quarter-milers are now faced with a grueling five consecutive weekends of racing, which promises to test the mettle of both man and machine. But, as strange as it may seem under the circumstances, Tom Martino and the Martino Racing Enterprises/Jesel Valve Train Innovation Racing team cannot wait to get things started.
"Last weekend was our first with this borrowed Firebird, and we learned a lot about it in qualifying," explained Martino. "Although we never had a chance to try it in eliminations, we can't wait to get to Memphis and see what we can do there!"
A quick glance at Martino's performance in Topeka shows the reason for his eager anticipation. After only three passes in his current car, Martino recorded the second fastest pass of Saturday's afternoon session, along with the fastest sixty-foot time, which was good enough for the fourth qualifying position. Just as important was the fact that the team was able to logically adjust the car to maximize its performance, a luxury that had seemed to elude them with their old car. These accomplishments are even more impressive when combined with the circumstances leading to them. Forced to work on their engines up until the last moment before departure, the team spent much of Friday in Kansas adapting the car to Martino's liking.
This groundwork behind them, the Martino crew will need this ability to read the track and adapt their Firebird to it during qualifying in Memphis. Although last year's scheduled shift to the fall has resulted in quicker elapsed times, the Tennessee speedplant still features a bumpy surface which magnifies the importance of lane choice, and makes a position on the top half of the ladder a key component towards victory.
"With the competitive fields we have in the Pro Stock division, you find yourself on the edge looking for speed," stated Martino. "Hitting a bump at speed really upsets the car, so lane choice will be a big factor on Sunday. Our goal for the rest of the year is to perform consistently and competitively at every event, setting the stage for a championship run next year. Of course, the best way to exemplify consistency is to win, which is exactly what this Martino Racing/Jesel Valve Train Innovation Pro Stock Firebird Racing team is looking to do, starting with this weekend's Pennzoil Nationals!"