By John Bassetti
Martino Motor- sports had a fireworks show last July that it didn’t need.
It was an engine explosion during the Norwalk Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk that left the car dead — 60 feet from the starting line and live on ESPN 3.
To that point, Martino Motorsports was enjoying a fairly successful season in the NHRA sportsman division.
At that point, all the decals in the world couldn’t put Humpty together again.
“We just unloaded it and we’ll work to get it in shape so we could put the motor back in the car,” said Ryan Martino, son of founder Tom Martino of the family-operated Martino Motorsports.
“We’re looking to have the motor back in a couple weeks,” he said of engine repair that was done in Parma, “and then we expect to be testing in mid-April.”
Martino Motorsports hopes to pick up in 2013 where it left off in 2012 in the NHRA, IHRA and ADRL series.
“We started real strong,” the 31-year-old Ryan Martino said. “We had numerous top 10-point finishes on the national level and traveling every weekend was fun when you’re winning. With the combination, we thought we were unstoppable,” he said in describing the ignition system’s fuel-to-nitrous mix ratio that runs on timers, the purpose of which is to maximize horsepower.
“It was a little off based on the weather conditions that day,” Ryan said of the July 2012 mishap. “We missed the combination a little, which lost our main motor. It was just one of those rare circumstances.”
The result was three melted pistons.
The incident did have an upside, however.
“That was how we made SportsCenter,” Martino said, “and some of the guys who won the event didn’t get the type of coverage we got.”
“All we had to do was get down the track and the win was ours because dad had an almost near-perfect reaction time,” Ryan said of the positive points of the start.
Because of the honors, championships and world records in its 40-plus years of competing on the national drag racing circuits, Martino Mortorsports likes to consider itself among Youngstown’s world champions.
“We are honored to be a part of such an elite fraternity for the city,” Ryan Martino said.
When not working full-time jobs in the Mahoning Valley throughout the week, both father and son spend countless hours prepping their race car to battle against competitors from all over the world with their six-second, 200-plus mph Mac Sherrill-built rear-engine dragster.
“We face our share of adversity throughout the season,” Ryan said.
“What makes us different from the other teams facing the same adversity is the Youngstown in our blood and that gives us a competitive advantage. Our city has some of the hardest workers and strongest families in the world. Our community knows how to stand up when they get knocked down, unite, rebuild,and get right back to work.”
As a former YSU football player, Ryan Martino knows about getting back up.
In fact, he credits former coach Jon Heacock with giving him the green light to earn his first drag racing license.
“I was hooked at 21, my sophomore year at YSU and it was football season,” Martino said.
“Coach gave me permission to skip a walk-through practice [the Friday before a home game] to spend the day at Quaker City where I earned my 890 license [Super Comp] that day.”
From April through October, the team hopes to continue building on its reputation.
“We’ll be debuting a new engine combination next month and announcing the addition of new marketing partners for our race team within the next few weeks,” Ryan said.
To follow the Martinos’ progress this season, visit Facebook.com/martinomotorsports.