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MARTIN AT MARTIN! RESULTS: A NEW CAREER BEST
May 12, 2008
Author: Bobby Martin

MARTIN AT MARTIN! RESULTS: A NEW CAREER BEST

How about this? At the track where I made my debut as an NHRA licensed Funny Car driver, I ran a career best lap in Frank Parker's Lane Automotive Charger.

The Thunder Nationals at US131 Motorsports Park at Martin Michigan provided all the excitement a drag racing fan could hope for. This race had it all. Funny Cars, Dragsters, a jet truck, a wheelstanding school bus, Pro Mods, and blown show-quality altereds and coupes. It was literally non-stop from 11AM to Midnight. Absolutely insane! And the stands were packed. Hats off to the staff at Martin who really promoted this event. I heard radio ads and saw a beautiful billboard as we rolled into town. The spectators were tremendous. They screamed and cheered. They came around for pictures and autographs. Even the weather was perfect. And the race cars were fantastic. Even junior dragsters were part of the action. (The kids were running past midnight, which gives you an idea of the laid back attitude at this track). The track officials were among the best I've ever raced for, and the facility is absolutely state of the art. Nice tower, pits, and a killer, smooth track surface.

In 1997, I qualified for the Division 3 race then run at Martin. Those were my first official NHRA points. In 2008 I got to drive one of the hottest Alcohol Funny Cars in the country, the Parkertech Racing Services, Lane Automotive, CAP Charger. This is the same team that Alcohol Funny Car icon Danny Townsend drove for from 2004-06. In case you didn't know, Danny was seriously hurt in the final of the Columbus points meet in 2006. Frank Parker and several other racers are working hard to collect funds to help Danny with his recovery. Even now, he's still not back to work. As you can imagine, expenses and medical bills are piling up. Not to mention the fact that he's not racing now. So we sold souvenirs and T-shirts to help raise money for Danny, and will continue to do so for the rest of the year.

We were scheduled to make four runs on Saturday. Gang, that's more than you run in one day at a national event! The first run was kind of a check out lap. For the first time since I've been driving for Frank, I had instructions to not make a full run. It shook, but I drove it through, shut off at about 900 feet and recorded a 6.17 at 181. Also, my light wasn't bad at .442, which equals a .042 in NHRA scoring. I ran against Mark Poyser. Poysers have an awesome Father and Son team who used to run Division 3, but now run IHRA. Mark was really cool at the turnaround, saying some nice things about our team. That always feels great coming from another racer. Dan and Frank looked at the data and made several adjustments for the "qualifying" round. All six cars would run, but only the top 4 get to race. This being an IHRA track, three of the cars were IHRA style roots blower cars. On a junk track, that doesn't matter. But on a great track like Martin, the NHRA cars with the screw blowers have a decided advantage. (We pitted next to Canadian Paul Noakes, a very cool guy) For our qualifying run, wouldn't you know, we were lined up against Mick Snyder. It was Mick, as you recall, who we had that awesome race with at Indy, decided by less than 2 thousandths. The Parkertech guys "over engineered" the right tune up, as she sailed down the track to a 5.64 at 247, topping my career best ETset at Englishtown in 2005. Mick had a nice 5.63 @ 248, but I got the win light with a .422 light. Okay, now I'm thinking the lights may be a little fast. More on that later.

Mick was the #1 qualifier, and we were #2. That put me against the other screw blower car, Tim Stevens' Stratus. On Tim's crew is Chris, one of the instructors at the University of Northwestern Ohio and the leader of the school's "Drag Club." This guy is involved! Although Tim has a screw blower and was qualified third, his time of 5.90 wasn't really close to our 5.64. I'm not used to being Frank Manzo out there (Frank has learned how to focus even when he has a big performance advantage), and after the 22 light against Mick, and it's getting darker, I was worried about red-lighting more than anything else. If you ask Frank Hawley or Dave Connelly or anybody who knows about cutting a light or driving in general, they'll tell you can't go up there worrying about red-lighting.

This deal was like going rounds at a national event. The crew had to turn the car around in about an hour. Frank was really happy with how well Larry, Kev, and Kyle were working. They had help from Tom, one of Frank's guys from last year. Tom just dove right in, and everybody worked great together. One thing I've learned this year about Frank: I've always known him to be a great tuner and wrench, but he's also an exceptional team leader, coach, and manager. Father Dan is great too. In fact, he's a very funny guy who keeps us in stitches even when the pressure's on. With this Thunder Nationals schedule, it was just run-thrash-run. We didn't even have time to sit down and eat. But we were all lovin' it!

My run against Tim was weird. I just didn't feel right about the car and clicked it at about a thousand feet. I hadn't really done a stellar job with the launch or the shift points. I was tentative, not wanting to throw the race away, and you can't drive one of these cars like that. We still ran a 5.90 at 217 good enough for the win. Tim shut off to a 7 something. Mick, on the other hand, blasted to a 5.59. What did I tell you about this track? This set up a way cool final scheduled for 10pm. But with all the action going on, the race was going to be a lot later than that. As you can imagine, Frank was concerned about that. After all, it was in dewy night time conditions that Danny had his crash, heavily damaging the Parkertech Dodge Stratus.

The crew did their usual masterful job of getting the car ready and it was time for the warm-up. Even when we're hot-lapping like we were Saturday, Frank likes to do a warm up for consistent temperature and to seat the clutch. If you're at the races, you should stop by the pits for this. Hearing that Parkertech Hemi scream at 6500 rpm on the jackstands is pure rock music, baby. We started the motor and then Frank points to the oil pressure gauge. (I don't have to do a lot of thinking, Frank does all the thinking. I love that.) I looked at the gauge and it was at zero. It hadn't moved at all. That ain't good right there. Immediately Frank and Dan spring into action to locate the problem. They try a couple things (I don't even know what) and we turn the motor over with the ignition off to see if we can build oil pressure. Nothing. Frank starts rippin' stuff apart and finds that the oil pump drive is broken. No problem, he's got a whole 'nother motor in the trailer with its own oil pump drive. Let the transplant begin. As work proceeds, Frank takes the oil pump apart. He finds a piece of metal from a valve spring lodged in the pump, making it unusable. In these big alky motors running at near 10,000 rpm, it's not uncommon for the valve springs to chip. But that piece finding its way into the oil pump was not good luck. We did not have another oil pump available, so we had to start packing.

Mick made a single for the final and ran a career best 5.57 at 255 mph. It looks like Larry Snyder and the gang got the clutch deal figured out pretty quick. In fact, it's a whole new car, meaning there's more in it. Chalk one up for Mick. Now we'll have to see how it goes this week in Norwalk.

It was after midnight and everyone was just hangin' out. Kyle, Kev, and Larry suggested that I should write Mick a note on a handout card saying congrats on making a killer run with the Bobby Martin tribute car. (His new car is painted in such a way that it is reminiscent of a certain Charger) I didn't think it was cool, but everybody including Lori thought it would be funny. So I did it. Mick laughed and hung the card on his trailer door. We'll see if it's still there at Norwalk.

The fans and track people at Martin were super. It was really a fun day, the way drag racing should be. Thanks to everybody who put this show on. Norwalk should be much of the same. The same "Cool Bus" wheelstander will be there, and 4 jets. (Cool Bus story: Lori was walking past the Bus in the staging lanes, not knowing that driver Ken Nelson was strapped inside. She said, "That thing's hilarious!" and was startled when a voice seemingly coming from the Bus itself said, "Thanks!") Plus, we're racing for points. This counts! We feel good, because we learned a lot at Martin. It served as a nice test session for us. The other guys are going to have to watch out for our car, and of course Mick. But, as I've said, Manzo is going to be there to throw a monkey wrench into the works too. Saturday night is going to be one awesome night of drag racing excitement. You should make every effort to be there. Sunday is final eliminations, and this is a big race for everybody. Throw in a pound of ice cream for a buck and you have the makings of a real good time. Hope to see you there!



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