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Fire Dampens Tom Martino's Hopes At The NHRA Summit Equipment Nationals

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Tom Martino and Martino Motorsports recently lost all hopes of a victory at the Summit Motorsports Park, when a nitrous explosion put them out of the race.
Tom Martino and Martino Motorsports recently lost all hopes of a victory at the Summit Motorsports Park, when a nitrous explosion put them out of the race.
Recently rolling into Norwalk, Ohio, Tom Martino and Martino Motorsports had high aspirations about what would transpire in the NHRA Spitzer Top Dragster class during hours to come. Eager to get the NHRA Summit Equipment Nationals underway at the Summit Motorsports Park, Tom and the crew's confidence level was high, and for good reason.

Our K&N dragster was having a great season leading up to the event,"recalled Martino. "We were getting the opportunity to compete at a track where we've had over thirty years of experience, running with great success. We had a large amount of family, friends, sponsors and fans driving, and flying across the country to cheer us on. We were looking at a great five-day weather forecast for the event.

The driver continued, "our car had been running great. We were sitting as high as number eight in the NHRA LODRS Top Dragster points this season. We had been qualifying strong at each event we ran with career best E.T.s (elapsed times), and most importantly, winning rounds."
Tom Martino has experienced a successful season thus far in 2012.
Tom Martino has experienced a successful season thus far in 2012.


After laying down an elapsed time of 6.65, topping out at 203 miles-per-hour and experiencing low reaction times during the qualifying round, it looked as if Tom Martino was on the verge of an other successful outing. That said though, an old hand at the sport, Martino was also likely aware that things could go amiss at the twinkling of an eye. As fate would have it, bad luck reared its ugly head during the first round of the eliminations in front of a sold out crowd and a live ESPN 3 audience.

At the very beginning of the race, everything appeared to be going as planned. But then a series of explosions suddenly rattled the dragster and demanded the spectators attention. The nitrous explosion caused the engine to lose all power as fire began flashing over the driver's head.

"I've been drag racing for well over forty years," explained Martino. "Of the thousands of times I've down in the Quarter-mile in my career, I've never experienced anything like the incident that we had at Norwalk first round. It's probably the last thing I expected when the car left the line. On the pass, we had a huge starting line advantage with a .019 light to our competitor's .116. The car felt like it was on a great pass, with the wheels hiked up. Then, in a matter of milliseconds, there was a series of large booms. The NHRA Safety Crew did a great job immediately responding to the incident."

Recalling the seconds following the explosion, Martino said, "Actually, the first thing that came to my mind when the motor went dead was, I hope the other guy runs under his dial, so we could get the first-round win. By the time the dragster came to a stop, it finally hit me what had just occurred. There was series of two fireballs that pushed over the top of the driver's compartment, similar to a fire breathing dragon in an action movie, when each nitrous stage hit. Luckily, our hood scoop sits as high as it does, and kept the flames out of harm's way. When watching the replay in slow-motion on ESPN, all I could say is Wow! That could have easily took a turn for the worse in a matter of seconds. We are very lucky in that regard."

When asked if anything positive came out of the explosion, the drivers said. "It's funny that you should ask that question. A fellow racer, who won Top Sportsman, jokingly told us we received more exposure and television coverage from our fire than he did for the national event win."

The driver continued, "As tough as it was losing at Norwalk and experiencing what we did there are a few things to keep in mind. First, we are all safe and still in one piece after the event. Secondly, any damage that occurred to the motor can be repaired or replaced. Although we added a few new videos and photos to our team highlight reels, this is the kind of situation we hope to never experience again. Hopefully, we are able to step back, study our Race-pak data system from the run, and take note from the engine tear-down to help take better preventative measures in the future to ensure this doesn't happen again."

Since that memorable outing at the Summit Motorsports Park, Tom Martino and his crew have gotten their ducks back in a row and are geared up and ready to roll again. That said, the driver is aware that much of his success will depend a great deal on their ability to keep the dragster in perfect running condition. That in mind, they will depend upon K&N products to keep their engine contaminant free.

"Living in Northeastern Ohio, we face below-zero weather, snow, and ice all winter long, and then jump right into one-hundred-degree-plus summers," shared Tom Martino. "With our daily drivers facing said conditions year after year, we rely on the best products available in the industry,"he continued.

"We also utilize K&N air and oil filters on our six-second, two-hundred-plus mile per hour NHRA Top Dragster. Take it from us; when you have large amounts of time and money invested in a motor and racing program, you need the security and performance K&N provides. Their oil filters are the most important accessory to any engine combination. They are easy to install, durable in construction and built to withstand the most extreme conditions. We have been using K&N products for many years in our daily drivers and race vehicles. We wouldn't have it any other way."

Find K&N products for your vehicle using the K&N application search then use the K&N dealer search to find a K&N dealer in your part of the world.

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K&N Engineering in Riverside California is the world's leading manufacturer of washable performance air filters and air intake systems. K&N invented the reusable high flow cotton air filter in 1969 and has been perfecting the technology ever since. K&N is a world class filtration company selling air filters, oil filters, and intakes in over 30 countries. K&N sells over 5,000 products designed for cars, trucks, motorcycles, engines, and industrial applications. From their Million Mile Warranty to their Consumer Protection Pledge, K&N stands behind their products and their consumers 100%. The distinctive K&N logo represents performance from one of the original performance companies. For more information, visit knfilters.com.