From Gridiron to Dragstrip: A Championship in the Making

Ryan Martino

Tom and Ryan Martino

Ryan Martino, a Magna Cum Laude graduate of the Bitonte College of Health & Human Services and alumnus of the proud Penguin football program at YSU, grew up with grease in his veins and a deep appreciation for education and academics inspired by his Dad, Tom, president and founder of Martino Motorsports.

The father and son show their school pride on the rear-wings of their dragster, where the university’s red “Y” logo is featured.

“I grew up around racing my whole life,” Ryan says, “but it wasn’t until I was a senior in high school that I really had an appreciation for how well recognized and respected my Dad was in the world of drag racing. Even though he was never able to finish his degree at YSU because of family obligations, he always emphasized that getting a good education should be my number one priority, and after that, if I wanted to race, I could.”

Ryan Martino drew attention from several top-tier football programs, including Oklahoma, Purdue, Ohio State, when he graduated from Cardinal Mooney High School in 2000, but he chose YSU. “It was Jim Tressel and Ken Conaster that hooked me with their focus on what YSU had to offer me from an educational point of view, in addition to the Penguins’ tremendously successful football program,” he said. “While the other schools were trying to sell me on their football programs, YSU was selling me on the education I’d receive and the great job opportunities our graduates earn. After all, how many college players ever make it in the NFL?”

Today Ryan works as a bailiff for Mahoning County Common Pleas Judge R. Scott Krichbaum. After hours, he spends every spare moment working on the Martino’s Mac Sherrill rear-engine, 1,300+ horsepower dragster, as he and his Dad ready the car for the coming season. They experienced a major setback during a race last summer when, live on ESPN 3 during the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park, their car’s engine exploded 60 feet from the starting line, creating some spectacular fireworks, but ending the racing season for the Martino Motorsports team.

This year Ryan and Tom have the car back together and are ready to pick up where they left off last July, with plans to compete in 16 events across the country during the 2013 racing season. “Top Dragster” competitions will include the NHRA Mellow Yello Drag Racing Series, NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, ADRL, NHRA Jeg’s SuperQuick Series, IHRA NitroJam Series and various Quick8 events. While Tom does most of the driving, Ryan’s skills have grown well beyond the pit and he is seeing more and more time behind the wheel on the track.

When not in the midst of a very busy racing season, the Marino Motorsports Team is often engaged in giving back to the community through service activities with the Boys and Girls Club, Man-Up Mahoning Valley for Prostate Cancer Awareness, Leonard Kirtz School and the #ReadToSuccess program they developed with the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County. “We brought the dragster to the Boardman library last fall and hosted a meet and greet/photo session with our race car and team,” Ryan said. “We stressed the importance of supporting our library system, its valuable resources to the community, and the benefits of reading at all ages.”

Ryan is a strong supporter of the Youngstown area, its proud history and its burgeoning renaissance. “I was not only fortunate to have some of the best professors and resources at YSU, but a surrounding city that is no stranger to hard work, dedication and opportunity. It’s amazing to me that so many of my football teammates who came here from all over the country—from Florida to California— stay here in the Valley after they graduated. This says a lot: it’s a great place to raise a family; there are good job opportunities, and it is a friendly, warm and affordable place to live and prosper.”

“And there’s another thing that stands out about us: I really think you can tell the difference between a YSU graduate and those from other schools. A YSU education is earned, not given. We as Valley residents, should be more thankful for the resources and staff, and recognize the incredible value of having an affordable, nationally recognized university right here in the Mahoning Valley. YSU students, professors and staff go the extra mile and know what hard work (often without much reward) is all about,” Ryan explained.

Martino dragster

The Martino Motorsports team shows its YSU spirit with a red “Y” logo on their dragster’s rear wings.

The Martinos are big proponents of the area’s automotive traditions and rich resources, among other manufacturing and growing high-tech industries. Their car, which runs 6.5-second quarter-mile times, reaching speeds in excess of 200-MPH, is “an all-Ohio car,” according to Tom, with everything from the engine to the transmission, to the chassis and even the tires made in Ohio.

“Although I didn’t win a national championship ring playing for the Penguins, I feel like a champion every day because of the values and education I received on the field and in the classroom at YSU, and, of course, from my Dad and our family, friends and fans here in Youngstown,” Ryan says.

With the grit and character their team personifies, there may well be another kind of championship awaiting the Martinos just a quarter-mile down the road.

(Previously published in YSU Magazine, Spring 2013.)