Can-Am Connection = Early Impact

 Alberta’s Todd Lesenko did it at Pomona and Phoenix and now Ontario’s Mark Martino is making Canadian waves within NHRA Full Throttle Series Professional level Drag Racing…….

Martino and his father Tony had a truly remarkable outing during last weekend’s running of the NHRA Tire Kingdom Gatornationals at Gainesville Florida.  No – they did not win the race – but they certainly left an impression and catapulted some very welcome Canadian presence into the world of 500 CID Pro Stock class racing.

The team which is based from Stoney Creek, and who dabbled within only a few NHRA Pro Stock races last year, have for 2012 aligned themselves with Houston Texas-based racing partners Brian Self & Scott Benham.  That association paid rather immediate dividends for the Jerry Haas-built race car and their Elite Racing Engines program.

Mark Martino drove to Canada's all time quickest NHRA Pro Stock times last weekend.

During time trials Mark Martino clicked off a pair of 6.55 secs elapsed times – his best run of 6.552 secs at 210.31 mph (career best) qualified him 15th for the brutally tough Pro Stock program which featured a 6.555 secs bump spot. 

Then on Sunday Mark faced off against the defending NHRA Full Throttle World Champion Jason Line and his Summit Racing GXP in round one.  Martino carved the tree with a .028 RT and then simply outran Line to score a jaw dropping 6.589 secs to 6.604 secs victory.

That win was Martino’s first ever round win within NHRA Pro Stock and was also the first by a Canadian Pro Stock driver since *Alban Gauthier beat Larry Morgan in Sanair in 1992. 

*Editors Note:  (to the best of our knowledge – thanks to Bob Frey) 

Canada's Mark Martino upset defending NHRA Full Throttle World Champion Jason Line in round one of Pro Stock

Martino then came stupendously close to making the semi-final round.  While racing #10 qualifier Chris McGaha (from Texas) Mark did give up a lead off the starting line but actually ran down McGaha at about the 1100 foot mark.  But in an instant, his GXP got inexplicably loose and Mark did a simply fantastic job as a driver pushing in the clutch and correcting the car at the exact required moment.   McGaha then did earn the round win light — both drivers recorded identical 6.604 secs elapsed times.

“We are pretty ecstatic about the results here,” reflected Mark Martino.  “We had quite a journey even coming down to the race because our rig broke down and that prevented us from doing any testing.  So when we pulled in we were behind the 8-ball a bit.  But I knew we had the power and it was then just about the new team pulling together and jelling.”

Brian Self and Scott Benham are not strangers to Pro Stock racing.  They are the brain thrust tuners behind the championship winning ADRL Goforth Racing operation.  But while their expertise with Mountain-motor cars is extensive – 500 CID NHRA class racing is a new venture.

“They are also very established Comp class racers so they really know what’s going on over here in NHRA,” Mark added.  “I think they clearly proved that this weekend.”

Plans for 2012 are to continue on with the potent new Canadian & American alliance.  The Martinos plan to set their remaining NHRA circuit schedule so that it does not conflict with ADRL events.   Mark, Tony, Brian (a.k.a. “Lump”) and Scott will be together next at NHRA Charlotte (April 13-15th).

Scott Benham, Brian Self, Mark & Tony Martino

Posted by:  Bruce Biegler

Photos by:  Bruce Biegler