Longtime journalist Craig Murto passed away in Virginia on Thursday morning at the age of 60, leaving behind a lasting legacy in Late Model racing.
Murto, 60, from Linden, Virginia, was the managing editor and publisher of Late Model Racer magazine and had recently become a special correspondent at Race22. He began his journalism career in 1992 writing for Stopwatcher Magazine. From there, he was able to cover NASCAR racing.
His brother Eric, who confirmed the news of Craig’s passing, recalled the story of Murto’s early years in journalism – including one of his earliest pieces, a story about Maryland racing legend Reds Kagle, a multi-time champion at Old Dominion Speedway (Virginia) and Beltsville Speedway (Maryland).
“Stopwatcher was essentially just a newsletter centered around SCCA racing and autocross,” Eric told Race22. “Craig wrote the token stock car racing article. That tiny newsletter got us media passes to the Cup races at Dover. From there, he hounded Dr. Dick Berggren to publish an article about Reds Kagle back in 1993 or 94.”
Murto was a full-time computer technician when he began working at Stopwatcher at the age of 32. He had also handled the event programs at his home track, Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas, Virginia A couple of years later, Murto went into journalism full-time.
A short time after, Murto went to work for Dean Nardi at Late Model Racer magazine, which was based out of Massachussets at the time. After working under Nardi as an editor of multiple racing publications, Murto became the publisher and sole owner of Late Model Racer in 2000.
In 2001, Murto’s and his friend Larry O’Donohue started In The Pits, a syndicated motorsports radio program which aired predominantly in the Washington, DC metropolitan market. During the time, Murto continued to work at Late Model Racer and his presence had become a staple at Old Dominion Speedway.
Along with editorial and radio experience, Murto went on to be one of the commentators when races at Old Dominion Speedway were televised by Verizon FIOS in the Washington, DC market.
Craig Murto was more than just a reporter, he was a friend to Late Model Stock Car racing as a whole. When he was in the pits covering a race, he would stop by every team’s hauler to say hi – often with complimentary issues of Late Model Racer in hand to give to racers and fans alike.
For anyone who covered Late Model racing, Murto was not just a friend, but something of a mentor. He was a human encyclopedia, a wealth of knowledge and historical perspective, and he was never afraid to share his knowledge with others. He continued to be a presence at the racetrack even while battling cancer.
On top of his motorsports journalism career, Murto was also a songwriter and musician.
“Craig lived life his own way,” brother Eric said in a Facebook post. “He set the example that you can live out your dreams and do things in unconventional ways. During the race of life, the real rewards are not monetary, but the relationships made along the way. I’ve spent countless miles going up and down the highway with him, so I know firsthand what everyone meant to him. Yes, he was passionate about his sport and his profession, but he cared most about the people that entered his life.”
On January 30, 2020, at 11:25am, Murto completed his final lap. While he was loved and is now lost, he will be remembered by the Late Model racing community.