Doing it Right
Marco Abruzzi is a Businessman, Too!
By Matt Zapp
Photos by/courtesy of Bryan Epps, IHRA, and Michael Beard
Marco Abruzzi is a noted IHRA Top Sportsman driver with an IHRA World Championship to his credit. But he is also an established businessman within the world of drag racing.
Marco owns and operates Abruzzi Racing Transmission based in Youngstown, Ohio. The family run business actually dates back to 1956 when A & T Garage was originally founded.
"We have served as a transmission repair facility for nearly 50 years," explains Abruzzi. "My grandfather Marco actually started the business. Then my father Joe took over for his father. I am the third generation."
A & T Garage started as a small mechanical shop in the late fifties. Automatic transmission repair is the sole focus these days of the substantially larger operation.
"My hobby, turned passion and now profession lies in the arena of high performance transmission building and repair. Our shop continues to repair daily driven vehicles, but I concentrate on the motorsports end of things."
Abruzziís list of performance customers includes some of the hottest names in the world of NHRA, IHRA and monster truck competition. His automatic transmissions can be found at nearly every big dollar bracket race or national event on the east coast. And his transmissions contribute to major wins week-in and week-out.
"In preparation for the Florida Five-day series, a lot of bracket racers hit the warm-up events at Adel, Georgia and Immokalee, Florida. It was astonishing that my transmissions won a total of $40,000 plus in prize money is just three days. It is great to win races as a driver," continued Abruzzi. But we are just as happy when our customers win a big event. It says a lot about our products."
Marco is an innovator as well as an entrepreneur. He has designed custom internal parts to improve high performance applications. Abruzzi Racing Transmissions now manufacturers in-house many of the components it uses.
"Our custom valve bodies have become a real fan favorite among the Top Sportsman, Top Dragster and big-money bracket racers. Heat had caused severe issues in many transmissions in the late rounds and we tried to cure the problem," continued Abruzzi. "Iíve had friends put over 30 runs on a transmission in a two day bracket event. Then they call on Monday to tell us how well they have held up."
One of the largest names in bracket racing utilizing Abruzzi Racing Transmissions is Jason Lynch. Lynch was part of the payday craze at Georgia last fall that netted $40,000 in a period of 96-hours. He managed to runner-up twice and make the semifinal round once during the $10K three-day weekend at Adel. Needless to say, the professional sportsman racer from Tennessee is a very satisfied customer.
Since Abruzzi competes primarily in the Top Sportsman ranks himself, it is a given that racers within his class are also running his goods. On the 2004 IHRA tour, two separate weekends stand out for Abruzzi.
"At the US 131 Divisional race, both drivers in the Top Sportsman final were our customers when Aaron Glaser met up with Glenn Butcher. Then we doubled up again at the Virginia Motorsports Park Divisional when Glen Maine and Chris Nyerges battled it out. This season was another fantastic year for us as a company," said Marco.
Abruzzi also had a very strong season as a driver. His familiar bright orange í68 Top Sportsman Camaro found its way to the winnerís circle multiple times, including a pair of IHRA national event wins. He even expanded his race operation to include a 2004 Invincible Chassis 4-link Top Dragster.
"We were fortunate this season in Top Sportsman. We won the Toronto national event and then Norwalk. It was amazing to win the biggest race on the IHRA tour," commented Abruzzi.
His 2004 debut in Top Dragster wasnít subtle either. Marco finished his brand new dragster on the Wednesday night prior to Grand Bendís IHRA Canadian Nationals. The car made its first full pass during qualifying on Friday afternoon. By Sunday evening, he was already in the winnerís circle with his first Top Dragster Iron Man.
"That whole situation with the dragster was unreal. We went to Grand Bend completely untested and things fell together perfectly. Heck, we had the chassis certified on Friday morning of the race. I was very impressed with the work that Vince and Bob Cireddu did on the chassis to get the car ready. In fact, they are building me a new dragster as we speak."
With a total of 409 points, Abruzzi defended his Division 1 Top Sportsman Championship. A pair of runner-up finishes at Budds Creek and Kanawha Valley helped him earn the title. But on the national scene, he finished second place.
"Even though we made four final rounds this year in Top Sportsman, it wasnít enough. Jamie Silance did an excellent job and put together one heck of a run to win the World Championship," said Abruzzi.
This year Abruzzi finished number two in the world with 776 total points. In 2003 he won the World Championship with 749 points. It is rare that you can improve your performance following a World Championship year and not defend the title. One sign of a champion though is consistently strong finishes.
Abruzzi is definitely not a one-man operation. Without the constant support of his wife, Marco would be in altogether different position. "My wife has been in my life for 19-years. We have been married for the past 10 years and I need to thank her for all she does," admitted Marco. "She sacrifices a lot for us to race this serious. I am fortunate to have her in my life."
The operation at A & T Garage is family oriented. Marco works and races side-by-side with his father Joe. But Marcoís mother, Phyllis remains in Youngtown to handle all of the shop duties while the team is on the road chasing the IHRA tour.
"My parents and our entire family are very supportive of what we do. They are great and I appreciate them. We also have the worldís greatest crew chief," stated Marco. "Brian ĎElií Sexton has been with us for 6 seasons now. He is one of the hardest working crew members in history."
One rare fact that relates to Abruzziís ability to win is the rubber he races on. Whether you consider his first bracket win, his track championship at Quaker City Raceway, his multiple divisional titles or his World Championship in 2003, he has always won on Hoosier Racing Tires.
"It is really strange to think back on it all, but I really should thank Hoosier. Every single race that I have ever won has been on a Hoosier Tire. I think that when I started racing they had only been producing racing tires for less than two-years," said Marco. "I am glad I came along when I did."
Consistent race products, quality racecars and tough drivers make for
champions. That is exactly what you find when you visit the Abruzzi Racing
pit area. If you donít find the opportunity to stop by his trailer at an
IHRA race, you can always learn more about Marco Abruzzi by visiting abruzziracing.com
or calling his shop at 330-369-1707.
© Competitionplus 2005