Valley 'family' realizes racing isn't such a drag
By JOHN KOVACH
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
Cars, drag racing and roots have formed an enduring bond for the "Struthers Brothers," said Mike Dworak, who along with friend Tom Martino originated the two-family drag-racing "family" more than 30 years ago.
"It's the love of drag racing and our upbringing," said Dworak, who teams with brothers Harry and Bill. "Growing up, the kids in Struthers were a close-knit group. You know, as they say, 'You can take the boy out of Struthers, but you can't take the Struthers out of the boy.' "
The Dworaks and Martino brothers -- Tom, Neil and Jim -- all grew up together in Struthers and compete on the same drag-racing circuits in the same class -- with relatives and friends tagging along.
"Tom and I started together in the eighth grade," recalled Mike. "We met in the eighth grade at the now torn-down Lyon Creed elementary school. I went to grade school at Fifth and he went to Manor, and then they threw all the eighth graders together at Lyon Creed."
Mike became interested in cars and drag racing at a young age, and started to race at Ohio Drag City with Tom when they were 16 in 1970.
Recalls first cars
"My first drag racing car was a 1966 Olds 442. That car was my first street race car," said Mike. "It never made it to the track. My first track racing car was a 1967 Chevy Camaro that I raced at Ohio Drag City. We each had our own cars."
Over time, Mike and Tom, both 1972 Struthers High graduates and now 48, kept bringing their younger brothers to the family drag-racing club.
The team competes with a front-engine 23 T Alter, a two-frame car with a 454-cubic-inch engine. The engine is computer-controlled to keep the car within their allowable speeds.
Mike now has several roles with his team, which competes in the quick-rod class of Division 3 on the NHRA and IHRA circuits.
"I am the driver for my truck trailer rig. I get us to and from the track," said Mike. "I serve as the role of crew chief. I do all the setups on the car whether it deals with chassis or computers."
Two-way radio contact
Mike said Harry serves as the team's driver, and the pair stay in constant communication.
"We use a racing radio and so we are in contact at all times," said Mike, who feeds information and anecdotes to Harry. "I look at track conditions, and sometimes we joke about the blonde in the fifth row, [or] what I see on the track and my familiarity with other racers."
Bill's role is multi-faceted.
"Bill picks up the slack, [doing] all things that we don't do," said Mike. For example, "He is definitely the cook."
Mike also said the other family members who accompany the brothers on their trips are important ingredients.
"When my daughters were young, where we stayed [at the races] was dictated because of the kids. It was a tradeoff," said Mike, who usually selected a motel with an indoor swimming pool for the families to enjoy.
"For us, it has been a family affair, also," said Mike.
But unlike the Martinos, the Dworaks have not raced in every IHRA Division 3 race this year.
That is because Mike's busy schedule this summer has prevented the team from competing in some races.
Mike, who has been general manager of Wedgewood Lanes since 1985, is among a group of investors who are seeking to purchase the bowling alley.
"The sale of Wedgewood Lanes is nearing and I am involved in the process. We have a closing date set at Oct. 1," said Mike, who works with Harry.
"Harry is my head bartender and assistant manager and runs the Grist Mill," said Mike, noting that Bill is also employed at General Motors in the Fabrication Plant.