Major Martino Moment

Canada’s only NHRA legal Pro Stock car delivered some serious vibrations during the recent NHRA Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis…..

The father and son team of Tony and Mark Martino (from Stoney Creek Ontario) did in fact accomplish something that very few new Pro Stock teams have ever done.  They qualified in Pro Stock at the biggest drag racing event in the world.

Tony Martino

DragRaceCanada is currently unsure of exact historical details (but we are checking ** see update at bottom) – but we believe that the Martino’s are the first Canadian team to qualify in Pro Stock for almost two decades.  We do know that Quebec’s Alban Gautier raced at Indy and that Toronto’s Mike Papadamou was also active during the earlier 1990’s – but we do not know at this time those details for the U.S. Nationals PS eliminator.

Anyway you look at it — this achievement by the Martino’s goes well beyond the fact they are a Canadian team.  In NHRA Pro Stock racing it is pretty much a given that new emerging teams rarely qualify and for a new team to make the show at Indy is even more of an extremity.

As reported during August on DragRaceCanada – this Martino Racing team has shed its skin somewhat for the later part of the 2011 season.   They have a brand new car (Jerry Haas built GXP) and a new motor program and that strategy is obviously paying serious dividends.

At Indy Mark was in the game right out of the gate from the first qualifier on.  Ultimately he made the show #15 with a 6.671 secs at 206.54 mph in track and atmospheric conditions that varied widely.

In round one, he faced a truly formidable foe, defending NHRA Full Throttle World Champion Greg Anderson.  While the outcome of that match was probably predictable – Martino did have a good showing.  Anderson, who eventually went on to win the event with the highly-funded Summit Racing Equipment GXP, took the round by a 6.547 secs 211.03 mph to 6.595 secs 207.78 mph margin.   The 6.595 secs was Mark’s quickest career run to date in NHRA 500 CID racing.

Mark Martino faced powerhouse Greg Anderson in round one!

“The event was very exciting and I’m very proud of what our team accomplished,” said Mark Martino, who truly showed some great driving talents during the event.  “We did a last minute deal with Richard Freeman right before the first qualifier.  We leased one of his motors and that proved to be a good move because it gave us the steam to qualify this brand new car. We were able to stay on par with pretty much everybody after that.”

“Sunday’s last qualifier was tense for sure,” Mark admitted.  “Everyone was improving and I knew that I was bumped out — so it was all on the line.  When I swapped feet the car rattled the tires but when I got it into 2nd gear it smoothed out.  When I jumped out on the top end I was getting thumbs up from everybody and I knew then I had made it – that was quite the feeling.”

A telling indicator overall for the effort comes after a quick peruse of the Pro Stock DNQ list at Indy.  That includes some significant names not the least of which are Warren Johnson, Larry Morgan and Steve Schmidt.

Mark Martino is giving Canada something to cheer for in NHRA Pro Stock

Both Mark and Tony are truly proud to be representing Canada in the NHRA category which has not had very much serious Canadian participation for a long period of time.  

“I think Alban was the last Canadian to qualify in Pro Stock – but I’m not sure of the year,” Mark added.  “We got some big cheers from fans coming back down the return road at Indy.  We are very happy to give Canadian fans something to cheer for in the class again.  Our objective is to add some new chapters to Canada’s Pro Stock history.”

The team, which receives 100% of it’s funding from Tony’s company, DeSantis Crane Services Inc, plans to be active during a couple more NHRA national events this season.  Both Reading and Phoenix are on the radar before they ramp up to a planned 15-race NHRA Full Throttle tour in 2012.

Posted by:  Bruce Biegler  –  Photos by:  Bruce Biegler

** Editor’s Note: Confirmation has now been received from NHRA announcer extraordinare Bob Frey :  “Actually Alban qualified for Indy six times (1977, 79, 80, 81, 87 & 92) — Also, Barrie Poole, qualified for Indy in 1972″ — Bob Frey 


Alban Gauthier was Canada's most competitive NHRA Pro Stock car during the 1980 era