August 5, 2012



Membrino Carrying on Family Name in Racing

Tommy roaring down the Stafford Motor Speedway backstretch

By Brian Danko, Staff Writer
The New Britain Herald & Bristol Press

Stafford Photos By Driscoll Motorsports Photograhy
Jap Membrino Photo By Phil Hoyt, Tom Ormsby Collection

Tommy Membrino comes from a racing family. Then again, you better be a racer if your last name is Membrino.

Tommy is just 23 years old and can only relive stories of his grandfather, the legendary Tony “Jap” Membrino. Membrino was part of the famed Waterbury gang that ran at the Plainville Stadium during the 60’s and 70’s.

While things change today, much remains the same. His grandfather ran a purple car numbered 00 and today, Tommy honors his grandfather by running the same color and number.

“I can’t really tell you where the number or color came from. All I know is as a kid looking at all of the pictures the car was purple and the 00 so we went with the same scheme,” Membrino said.

Membrino, after years of running the SK Lites at the Stafford Motor Speedway, this year is running in the SK division, the track’s premier series, and while the cars look the same, there are differences.

“Well besides the speed and the other drivers around me, the cars are similar. It’s a lot different when you are running with the likes of Ted Christopher and Keith Rocco weekly. That’s not a knock on the SK Lite drivers, it’s just that the competition is tougher,” he said.

Membrino runs a Race Works Chassis out of Berlin and he credits Ed Flemke, Jr. and Reggie Ruggiero as a big help in his learning curve.

“Reggie and Eddie have done a lot for us. Both of them have taken out my car to shake it down and seeing Eddie is there every Friday night, he’s like a coach to me.”

Membrino got his start in racing much like Joey Logano did, starting off at the Silver City Quarter midget club in Meriden.

“I ran there when I was like 13 or 14 and then I went to Whip City and ran a Micro Sprint car until they closed,” he said.

It was at that time he bought a SK lite and began to learn the ropes of racing a full sized open wheeled modified and running at the tough Stafford Speedway.

It seemed the first couple years were tough as the team would be replacing parts weekly after incidents but in racing, that is part of the learning curve.

Membrino’s father ran a pro stock in his racing days as did his uncles, Marty and Tony, and while Tommy can’t rely on his grandfather for help with his SK modified, he is still a major influence.

Tommy's grandfather the legendary Tony "Jap" Membrino
Click On Photo For Full Size

“First of all being the grandson of Jap Membrino is pretty big shoes to fill,” he said. “He was known as being a good driver, who sometimes could get into alterations with others and while the cars are different than what he ran, he gives me a lot of advice.

“He can tell me how important is to be patient and how I should trust my instincts on the track and remind me to let the car come to me during the race.”

Racing, as everyone knows, is an expensive sport and while he is currently working in a machine company, he is planning on finishing college to get his degree but he also hopes of advancing in racing, if his talent and doors open for him.

Running a SK can cost as much as running a SK Lite but Membrino learned very quickly that the less you have to repair the car, the more money it keeps in your pocket.

“We do what we can to race and we are always out looking for sponsors but we are lucky to have some people that help us out, but keeping the car in one piece, the cost of moving to the SK’s hasn’t been that tough.”

While 98 percent of all drivers, whether they be 6 or 60 would like to think they have what it takes to move up in racing, and Membrino is no different, but he also knows the odds.

“I’d like to learn as much as possible and let me see where it takes me in racing,” Membrino said.

And he has a lot of support from others drivers such as NASCAR modified tour drivers,Ted Christopher, Ryan Preece and Eric Berndt.

“These guys have all been a big help to me. Teddy can point out a lot seeing he’s run there forever.”

Currently, Membrino is 20th in SK points but only the third rookie in the top 20.

The eras have changed but one thing remains the same is the name Membrino is alive and well on the race track and for the sport of auto racing that is a very good thing.


Brian Danko has been covering Auto Racing for over 30 years for various magazines & and racing papers including Area Auto Racing News. His weekly column can be seen "In The Print Editions" of  The New Britain Herald & The Bristol Press.


Copyright © 2012 Brian Danko