A dragster driver, who won the NHRA Top Fuel championship a record 5 times and scored 52 event victories (most of them with crew chief Tim Richards), Amato was the first driver to exceed 260 mph and 280 mph in competition.
Amato began racing cars as a teenager, when he worked at his family’s auto parts store. Between 1982 and 2000, he finished in the Top 10 every year. Eye surgery forced him to retire from competitive driving at the end of the 2000 season. He then participated as a team owner until selling the business and retiring permanently in 2005.
On the National Hot Rod Association Top 50 Drivers, 1951–2000, Joe Amato was ranked No. 9.
In 2008, Amato’s record of five championships in the Top Fuel division was beaten by Tony Schumacher.
He was inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.