By Dom Joseph
Youngstown has produced multiple champions: the Youngstown State University football team won four championships in the nineties, and Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini and Kelly “The Ghost” Pavlik won championships in the boxing ring. On Oct. 20, 2018, the Martino Motorsports top dragster team claimed the National Drag Racing Association championship.
Martino Motorsports is a two-man racing organization from Youngstown. The duo who produced the National Hot Rod Association title is Tom and Ryan Martino, a father-son effort. Ryan is a graduate of YSU and a former punter for the football team. He has been at his father’s side throughout his career.
“My father, when he turned sixteen, had to get a car,” Ryan Martino said. “There were local drag strips around here that he did well at.”
After bringing home multiple trophies on local drag strips, Tom Martino began to travel along the National Hot Rod Circuit.
The NHRA has become the pinnacle of drag racing in the United States, but the Martinos continued to find success as well as sponsorship.
“It was very tough back then to even have a name on your car,” Ryan Martino said. “Coors Brewing Company, when we came to the East Coast, were the first to jump on board.”
Martino Motorsports was running well in the NHRA, but the team decided that the Professional Drag Racers Association was the better league to run in financially.
“We pick our best strategy throughout the season, what’s going to give our sponsors the best look, the best chance for our fans to see us race, and the best chance for us to win,” Ryan Martino said.
Along with the financial side, another trait of the PDRA that affected the decision was the atmosphere of the league, along with eighth-mile strips, compared to the traditional longer quarter-mile strip.
“PDRA racing is a family-oriented organization,” Ryan Martino said. “It’s appealing to us because it saves wear and tear on the race car and the motor.”
As the Martino Motorsports crew travels nationwide, they bring the traditions of Youngstown with them.
“We’re proud of where we’re from and its past,” Ryan Martino said. “We bring Youngstown food on our road trips, and there’s people lined up for miles. Whether it’s DiRusso’s Sausage or Uptown Pizza, we throw it on the grill, and before you know it we’re out of food.”
At Virginia Motorsports Park in Petersburg, Virginia, Martino Motorsports captured the 2018 PDRA world championship.
“That championship was won in Youngstown fashion,” Ryan Martino said. “We had to get up and fight for it, just like how Boom Boom won his title and Pavlik won his titles.”
Martino Motorsports has joined the club of champions of Youngstown. They’re now seeking to leave a lasting legacy in the Mahoning Valley.
“We want to go down in the history of Youngstown as being a positive role model in the community, someone that puts Youngstown on the next level,” Ryan Martino said. “Youngstown produces champions — it doesn’t matter if you’re an athlete or not.”
Tom Martino, the father of Ryan, does the driving for the team. A 40-plus-year veteran of the drag strip, captured the title for the team.
“This world championship is the perfect ending to an incredible season,” Tom Martino said. “I relied on my 40-plus years of experience, focused on winning each round as they came and never looked back.”
Martino Motorsports will begin their title defense in the PDRA on April 4 at the Galot Motorsports Park in Benson, North Carolina. The team will return to Ohio on July 18, at Dragway 42 in West Salem.