MEET THE NATIONAL SUPER PRO CHAMPION
ISLAND DRAGWAY, DIVISION ONE AND NHRA CHAMP
Island Dragway has been in operation since 1960 and Division wide bracket racing began in the 1970s. More recently, the NHRA has hosted the division champs to make the trek to Pomona for a national championship runoff to crown a national champion in the four contested categories. Only once before has a racer from Island Dragway competed and won the national title, and that was some years ago in Street eliminator. But this season brought about a new name to add to the record books in the person of Todd Martin, who swept the Super Pro titles at the track, the division and national levels. We thought it would be appropriate to spend some time with Todd and allow everybody to know this champion better.
Todd lives in Highland Lakes NJ with his wife Mindy and two teenage sons, Matthew and Joseph. His father, Rich Martin is also a racer, having competed in his Pro bracket Ford Fairmont for many seasons with the blessing of the family matriarch Lois. Incidentally, Rich was involved in a serious mishap during a test and tune session recently that destroyed the Fairmont. Fortunately the Andy O’hagen chassis did its job and Rich walked away with only a broken hand, and is on the mend. Todd makes his living as a union electrician and shares his weekends between racing and participation in family events.
We asked Todd a variety of questions about his racing career and what it is like to be the national champion. His responses to these questions follow.
ID: How long have you been drag racing?
Todd: I started racing in 1995 with an 11 second 1970 Mustang, then moved up to the 10 second 1978 Fairmont before going to the dragster in 2004.
ID: Did you or do you have a favorite car?
Todd: I liked them all but the dragster is my most successful racer and is the most consistent vehicle I have raced. It is, of course, also the quickest and fastest.
ID: How many track championships have you won?
Todd: I think three times I have finished first in points at Island, and this year is the best one.
ID: Do you race any differently depending on who is in the other lane?
Todd: About 95% of the time I ignore the competition in the other lane. Sometimes I might dial in a couple of extra hundredths based on who I am running, but generally I race the same round after round.
ID: What is the most difficult part of a drag race?
Todd: The finish line is the toughest part. It can be tough to judge whether to stay in the pedal or back off when you are chasing a car that may be going forty miles an hour slower.
ID: How was the trip to California? That is a long haul from New Jersey.
Todd: It surely is a long trip., My father drove the car out for me because there is no way I could have gotten all that time off from the job. I had the entire family with me for the event, and that is the first time everyone was there when I won the title. The NHRA treated us well. We had a night at the NHRA museum with some of the professional drivers present. It really was a nice affair. They give you $3000 to appear for the race but when you have to go coast to coast it eats up the funds quickly. It seems a little unfair for the east coast racers to get the same money to attend as those from the west coast, but that is just the way it is. One racer lived within an hour of the track and received the same $3K for attendance.
ID: When did you feel you had a real shot at winning the championship?
Todd: The first round is always the most difficult. Once I can get past that and if the car if right I always think I have a good chance to win. At the Division finals I was off on Friday at the Race of Champions. The car was not working right and neither was I. Then comes Saturday morning, first round and no time shot and you have to get by some good racers. I got a little lucky there as my opponent broke out by just .001, and with that first round win and the car working well I thought I had a good chance to win. Same type of thing at Pomona. Once I got by first round and the car was working well I knew my chances were good to be able to win it.
ID: How did you feel when you saw the win light come on in the final?
Todd: It was an ecstatic feeling to be in that title race and see the light on in your lane. It was almost overwhelming. And to have the entire family at the track for the first time to see it was the best.
ID: In pictures from both the Division and Pomona the dragster has an R&R Truck Maintenance tee shirt on the side of the cockpit? What was that about?
Todd: That was in honor of Ralph DeBruin. Ralph was a long-time racer in Super Pro and a really great guy. He passed away earlier this year and he is greatly missed in the pits. I felt it was appropriate to display the shirt to honor his memory.
ID: We have run S/P over the 1000 foot distance for some years. Do you have any preference as to the length of the race track?
Todd: No, any length is okay. I don’t much like the eighth mile but 1000 feet is okay. It is actually easier on parts. It puts less strain on the engine and running gear and a lot less on the brakes. I used to go through a couple sets of rotors and five sets of pads in a season, but now the same brakes are on most of the year.
ID: What do you think of the Tru-start system?
Todd: I like it. It probably should have been done years ago. The slower cars have been at a disadvantage with the first chance to foul and then being chased by a faster car closing at the top end. This change makes it a little better for the slower cars, and if that brings more competition out to the track it becomes a very good thing.
ID: If you had the ability to race any car or class, what would it be?
Todd: I would drive anything, regardless of class or car. Most of the limits are financial. I would like to perhaps drive a Top Dragster but right now that is a little outside the budget capability.
ID: Do you have a favorite pro class or driver?
Todd: I like Pro Stock as a class. And my favorite driver is any underdog.
ID: This season there were a total of eleven points races and you were in the final of five of them. You outright won four and the fifth one didn’t have a final due to conditions. That is a pretty good percentage . Going into the last race your points lead was less than a round ahead of Robbie Boyd and the title came down to who could go deeper in the eliminator. Robbie had trouble with his car and you took the track title by winning the first round, and then finished in style by winning the race.
Todd: Actually I only made it to seven events this past season. I was fortunate to be able to win enough when I was there to take the top points spot.
ID: Who does the work on your car?
Todd: Pro Motion builds the motor but all the rest of the work is done by my father and me.
ID: What’s next for the champ?
Todd: We’ll be putting the car away for the winter and my son plays hockey so we’ll keep busy. I’ve been working on a street car that my son may soon drive so there is always something to be done.
ID: Well Todd we want to thank you for taking the time to get to know more about you. It is always nice to see our local racers do well.
Again, congratulations on your big victory. We look forward to seeing you often in the future in the winner’s circle. Have a good holiday season and best of luck.