Harold Martin - The EFI Wizard

By Jim Luikens

Pro Mod racer Harold Martin is a second-generation drag racer. Long-time Midwestern drag racing fans may remember his father, Huston Martin, who raced a series of Pro Stock cars named Little Kim in the 70s and early 80s. What the fans might not know is that those cars were named in honor of Huston’s only daughter, Kim. This is the story of Harold Martin, who is proud of his family’s accomplishments in the world of drag racing.

Harold Martin is a man of many talents. He is a successful competitor in Pro Mod Eliminator and an entrepreneur pursuing a lifelong dream. As was recently stated about him on the CNN television network, “Every once in a while you meet someone who breathes inspiration, someone you admire not only for his accomplishments in life, but how that person lives life.”

Despite his accomplishments and recognition Harold is quick to remember his roots. “I want to always honor my parents,” said Harold. His father, Huston, is still involved with the Martin team, but on a smaller scale than in the past. “We like having him around and it allows me the opportunity to put flowers on the living. I enjoy the fact that he is able to live this dream with me. It would not be the same great feeling to have realized my accomplishments without sharing it with my parents,” says Harold.

“Our goal is to earn a world championship,” said Martin, a former GM engineer who holds ten worldwide patents. “In 2001 we finished 14th in the world, in 2002 we finished seventh and in 2003 we finished 5th. If we can continue to improve, we’re going to reach our goal. A new engine program and the possibility of a new race car provide encouragement that the 2004 season will continue the team’s upward climb in the points ranking.”

Harold is taking the technology of drag racing to the next level with his high-tech approach to the science of acceleration. Martin’s ACDelco Pontiac Grand Am has run as quick as 6.19 seconds, which he did twice recently at the season-ending IHRA World Finals in Rockingham, North Carolina, while recording speeds over 225 miles per hour.

But even those speeds pale alongside the speed of the electrons that are pulsing through the sophisticated electronic engine management system that supplies his 2,300-horsepower GM racing engine with fuel, spark and nitrous oxide. While other racers rely on mechanical systems, Martin has harnessed the power of high-speed computers to develop electronic fuel injection (EFI) for racing applications.

As a young racer, Harold realized if he was going to achieve the goals he desired he was going to have to approach racing in a more balanced way. Part of that balancing included attending Michigan’s Oakland University. Upon graduation he spent 15 years at General Motors in a variety of engineering roles. Since leaving GM his Martin Technologies firm designs, develops and tests components as a valued Tier 1 vendor to the automaker.

His long-term relationship with General Motors has been a key ingredient in Martin’s success. “Early in my career as a design and development engineer I shared responsibility for the engineering of components for production cars,” he noted. “Now as a professional racer I have the opportunity to test those components in a racing environment.”

“I find it fascinating that many of the components used in production vehicles are equally effective in 2,000+ horsepower race cars,” he explained. “Electronic racing fuel injection is the future, and it’s exciting to be a pioneer. Bringing state-of-the-art systems to drag racing is the kind of challenge that excites an engineer like myself.”

Harold returned to drag racing from the corporate world when he thought the time was right to introduce something new. He was eager to utilize his EFI experience in the high-speed world of open competition but found it was a tough sell at first. Some sanctioning bodies didn’t think it could be successful because other racers had tried it previously with varying degrees of success while other sanctioning bodies were concerned that it might offer an unknown advantage.

Currently the IHRA allows an EFI/nitrous engine combination to be run in Pro Mod but not an EFI/supercharged package. The power output between a carbureted nitrous engine and an EFI nitrous engine is very similar but a properly set-up EFI nitrous combination will accelerate quicker because of a better fuel curve. The rumored possible lifting of EFI throttle bore limitations for the 2004 season is encouraging to Harold.

Harold’s fame has spread with the obvious success of his EFI racing package. He has been approached by all the major sanctioning bodies that are trying to educate themselves on the intricacies of EFI in a racing application. He has also been the keynote speaker at an engine technology conference on the theory and design of EFI applications.

Harold brings his racing intensity to his many public speaking engagements and the Harold Martin Scholarship program. When he’s not racing, Martin’s diversity allows him to address groups ranging from school children to executives. Martin shares his personal drive and strong educational foundation and uses those to motivate his audience to pursue their dreams and goals.

“Clearly I’m proud of my accomplishments in both the technological and business worlds,” Martin said, “but more importantly I’m also driven to give something back and be a mentor for our successors. I enjoy sharing my experiences with people from all walks of life, and providing them with the assurance that hard work and sacrifice can also be their keys to success.”

With his combination of experience, education, innovation, and enthusiasm, Harold Martin is enjoying his time in the sun. However, coming along right behind him is Harold Michael Martin, II, his son. Young Mike has already begun racing a jr. dragster and is looking forward to being involved in motorsports just like his father and grandfather. He should be a force to be reckoned with considering who he has for mentors.