Martino(s) Realize “Indy” Dream

By:       Bruce Biegler

There is no doubt that the word surreal probably crept into the minds of both Tony and Mark Martino during the recent NHRA Mac Tools U.S. Nationals held at Indianapolis….

The Stoney Creek Ontario based father and son team have just completed quite the accomplishment for all Canadian drag racing.   For the first time since the early 1990’s, a Canadian racer was a participant in the Pro Stock category during the NHRA U.S. Nationals, drag racing’s single most storied annual event attraction.

Yes indeed ... that is a Canadian Pro Stocker under the Indy tower!

The team entered Indy just a couple weeks after their quite memorable debut during the Lucas Oil Nationals held at Brainerd MN.  During that outing, the team flirted with the unimaginable by coming very close to qualifying (#18) in their first ever NHRA Pro Stock class start.  That is something that is simply not supposed to ever happen.

At Indy they once again did not qualify, this time ending up #26 of the 30 cars entered with a best run of 6.722 secs at 205.76 mph.   While maybe initially disappointed with that outcome, the very promising new team is taking things in stride and they did enjoy the moment for sure.

“Coming to Indy and the U.S. Nationals to race is something I’ve planned to do all my life,” said Tony Martino, the founder and owner of the highly successful Ontario-based DeSantis Crane Services.  “Up to this point I never had the money or the opportunity to do it.  I knew it was going to be expensive (and it was) but when you love a sport as much as I do I guess you just have to make certain sacrifices.  When I came around the staging lanes and looked up that track for the first time – it was certainly a big moment.”

Tony was also especially proud to see his son behind the wheel of a Pro Stock car.  Mark Martino, one of Canada’s most highly rated new drivers, has been a very fast student within Mountain-motor Pro Stock ranks.  He is now standing on the cusp of the NHRA Pro Stock class category.

Mark & Tony Martino

“When I was very young I can remember spending some family vacations here at the U.S. Nationals,” Mark revealed.  “Now to actually race here is very special.  I admit I was a little bit intimidated when I saw all the famous crew chiefs and then that full grand stand for the first time.  But once the car fires up – you just shift into race mode and concentrate on getting the car down the track.”

The team, which ran their initial race at Brainerd with a leased motor program from Jimmy Oliver (Elite Motorsports) in fact shifted to a Steve Schmidt engine for the U.S. Nationals.   The basis for that move was mostly for convenience as Schmidt’s operations in Indianapolis are closer to Ontario then the Elite facilities in Oklahoma.

“Using a Steve Schmidt engine just makes more sense for the immediate future as we move forward,” added Tony. 

While Mark’s dream of qualifying for the U.S. Nationals did fall short this year, the team did gain valuable experience with their all new Rick Jones-built Pontiac GXP race car.

A best run of 6.722 secs fell short at Indy

“We don’t have much data for the car just yet,” Mark admitted.  “These programs take time and they do not happen over night — especially in Pro Stock.  But every time we make a run down the track we are learning something.   For now we are just happy to be here and to be racing.  But all that being said, we do have some ultimate goals.”

Mark was also quick to cite how very proud he and his father are to be currently the only Canadians in the NHRA Pro Stock class mix. 

“That (gap) has been just too long and we are very honored to be able to give Canadian fans something to cheer for again in the class,” Mark added.  “That is huge for us.”

(Bruce Biegler Photos)