By JOHN KOVACH
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
STRUTHERS -- Drag racing is great family fun for two sets of brothers with Struthers roots.
The Martino and Dworak brothers and their families have grown up together on drag racing weekends at various tracks throughbout the country, following a tradition that began 30 years ago by Tom Martino and Mike Dworak.
As the years went by, their brothers were added to the drag-racing club, and each family developed its own racing team and car.
The group eventually became known as the "Struthers Brothers" -- Tom, Neil and Jim Martino, and Bill, Mike and Harry Dworak -- forming a unique drag-racing "family.".
Now each team competes in the same quick-rod class of Division 3 on both the International Hot Rod Association and the National Hot Rod Association circuits, although this year they are racing primarily in the IHRA.
Ranked No. 10
In the process, the Martino team, with its rear-engine dragster, has become a contender on the national tour this year by climbing to the No. 10 ranking in IHRA points.
Although the "Struthers Brothers" take their drag racing seriously, they also focus on family togetherness, friendship and fun -- the entire experience.
"It is a family affair in drag racing," said Tom Martino, pointing out that wives, children and other family members, friends and sponsors usually accompany the two teams to the various races. And these followers, like the brothers, also have become good friends over the years.
Even Tom's father, Fred, 75, still travels with the team, although mother Anne prefers to stay home.
"It's still a family event after 30 years. We still have our family," said Tom. "And, "I'm sure down the road, we will have grandchildren with us at the races someday."
Grew up together
Growing up in Struthers, the Martino and Dworak brothers lived about 2 miles from each other, and nurtured their friendship while attending Struthers High.
Tom and Mike, both 1972 Struthers High graduates, originated the drag-racing tradition when they were 16 at Ohio Drag City in North Jackson in 1970.
"And it just built up from that, adding family [team] members and getting more professional," said Tom, who now lives in Youngstown and is a truck driver for Tamarkin.
Tom serves as the driver for his team, while Neil, who now lives in Akron and is a nurse at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, is in charge of the three computers that each team uses to control the engine. And Jim, still a Struthers resident who is employed at U.S. Can, is the crew chief.
In additon, Tom's son, Ryan, helps Neil with the computers. Ryan also is a punter for the Youngstown State football team.
Run all division races
Tom said that one of the reasons the Martino team is ranked No. 10 is because, "We run all of our [IHRA] divisional races this year," which gives them more opportunity to score points.
However, "We can't go to every [IHRA] race because we all have jobs."
The Martinos' car is sponsored by Cintas Corp., which makes uniforms and has an area office on Victoria Road in Austintown.
Their car has a 255-cubic-inch engine with a maximum allowable speed of 8.90 seconds down the quarter-mile strip.
The Dworaks' car is a front-engine 23 T Alter, a two-frame car with a 454-cubic-inch engine.
Both car engines are computer controlled to keep the cars within their allowable speeds. They are capable of hitting more than 150 mph.
"Our car is a little lighter [than the Dworaks' car] because we have the engine in back," said Tom. "Their car is heavier because the framework is heavier. They are carrying chassis components like shocks, springs and 4-link bars, whereas we don't need them. This gives them the ability to transfer the weight to rear wheels. Our car doesn't have to be heavy because the engine is not in front."
Although the two teams race in the same division, "Both cars visually are quite different. It's two different ways of doing the same thing," said Tom, who emphasized the importance of the computers which operate from a trailer.
"There are three computers in the car so that it can't run any faster than 8.9 seconds," said Tom, noting that exceeding that required dial-in speed will result in disqualification. "There is a computer that they call the throttle stop, and you predetermine the numbers that can go in it."
Also, "The weather station data is collected in the trailer and is fed into the computer to determine how much delay we need in the throttle. It controls the carburetor."
Last week, the Martino team competed at the 131 dragstrip located on U.S. Route 131 in Martin, Mich., and made it to the quarterfinals.
Now both teams are getting ready for another combined-family trip in Ohio.
"We are all gearing for the Norwalk World Nationals which will be held later in August the week before Labor Day," said Tom.