Fulltime Student Mattioli Mixes College and ARCA; Brings Legendary Surname but Own Style to Salem BRONX, NY (3-30-10) - The path to success in racing, both on and off the track, has always been measured by the familial name. From Earnhardt to...
Fulltime Student Mattioli Mixes College and ARCA; Brings Legendary Surname but Own Style to Salem
BRONX, NY (3-30-10) - The path to success in racing, both on and off the track, has always been measured by the familial name.
From Earnhardt to France, Smith to Petty, family tradition, both in racing and the business of racing, is passed from generation to generation. Usually the path of the father passes to son, and on it goes, whether that is in management, design or racing. However, the latest follower in a legendary racing family is looking to take a two-pronged path to success, combining a business acumen with a passion for driving, a combination which would be akin in other sports to having George Steinbrenner's son Hal try to make the Yankees at first base, while still studying and learning the business of ownership.
The unique path being carved now through the ARCA Racing Series is being done by 20-year old Pennsylvania native Chase Mattioli. Chase, the grandson of Drs. Joe and Rose Mattioli and son of former Pocono Raceway head, Joe Mattioli, has set his sights on a road most drivers rarely follow...pursing the dream of driving and moving up the racing ladder virtually full-time, while also pursuing a full-time degree in business during the week at Fordham University in New York City.
The business and racing parallel paths are not a strange one at all for Chase. "It's what I have always done, the business of racing, and getting in a car to drive was like what playing little league was for everyone around me," he said recently. He has been racing since age seven when he began with quarter-midgets. He followed that by racing Formula Fords and in the SCCA Nationals, also competed in the Bertil Roos Racing School, tested a Koni GT Mustang with renowned road racer Elliot Forbes Robinson, ran the Fast Track Driving School, raced at the family run South Boston Speedway in Virginia and even drove a dirt modified at Big Diamond Raceway. When Mattioli hit 17 he drove a Formula Ford in SCCA Regional and National competition, and in 2007 stepped up to full-bodied stock cars in the ARCA Racing Series and the NASCAR Camping World East Series. In the fall of 2008, he co-drove a Lexus with three other drivers to a 3rd place class finish and a 6th place overall finish out of a 60-car field in a 13-hour endurance race, each step leading to a very diverse racing portfolio at a young age.
While Mattioli honed his racing skills, he worked the back office with his family members, picking up cigarette butts, painting fences, selling programs, running errands and learning the business of the sport, apprenticing with brothers, cousins and other relatives at the legendary Pocono Raceway each summer. "We were taught that to learn the business, any business, you started at the bottom and worked your way up," he added. "There were never any cutting corners, it was fun but also hard work, and I know without that background I would not be as appreciative of all the opportunities I now have."
Chase would watch and learn the business, and then watch and learn as NASCAR came to Pocono and the stands swelled with massive crowds from around the country, watching many of the stars of racing today. As he completed his high schools days as an honor student cum racecar driver, he thought he would have to make a choice between pursuing an education full-time or driving. The highest levels of business and the highest levels of racing did not seem to mix. In reality, only one top NASCAR driver today, Ryan Newman, simultaneously pursued a four-year college degree while earning his racing points, and that was made a little easier by Newman's degree choice at Purdue University, engineering, a degree which fit hand and glove with his chosen career, and probably gave him a greater understanding of the nuances of driving. A business degree in New York City was not an exact fit for someone looking to ascend to racing's upper echelon.
As he neared his graduation from Scranton Prep, Mattioli's parents, especially his mom, Lovena, weighed in on Chase's pending decision. A family friend had encouraged him to continue in the following of his high school education, looking to the Jesuit education that could be provided at the University of Scranton, or at a school like Fordham or even Georgetown. "My mom really wanted to me not to race, she believed my success would be in business, but I knew where my passions were, and they were in multiple places," Chase said. His off-track education had shown a penchant for marketing and business development, functions which even in the best of times could spell out a lucrative career in and around racing, as the prestige of Pocono grew with the fortunes, television money and new found racing fans in the Northeast. So the decision time came, could or should Chase concentrate on racing and find education by life experience, or should he pursue the formal education which would help lead to a quicker path of traditional business success? Never one to take the easier road, the youngest Mattioli thought long and hard, and came up with the compromise. Find a way to attempt to do both, get the education his parents desired (and keep a promise to graduate) while pursuing his passion for racing. However with the closest track almost two hours away and the rigors and distractions of an education pulling, could it be done? To make matters even more interesting, Chase and his family chose to have him do it with little family support...requiring him to source his own sponsors, plan and his own travel, and find ways to make it through the rough and tumble world of weekend professional driving without large financial support from his family. Could he do it? Two years in, it looks like the Chase Mattioli plan is carving a new path for success in the sport.
His first season as student/driver, Chase co-drove a Mustang in the Grand Am KONI Series with his cousin, Nick Igdalsky. He also competed part-time last year in the ARCA Racing Series and NASCAR Camping World East Series for team owner and mentor, Bobby Hamilton Jr. Under the wing of Bobby Jr., Chase spent the year learning much about overcoming adversity, gaining a new feel for stock car racing. He also finished with a grade point average just short of 3.0 (it would have been higher but he missed more classes than allowed so he could drive on weekends). This year, Mattioli is driving for Andy Belmont Racing with a full ARCA schedule, and still will run in select NASCAR Camping World Truck, and NASCAR Nationwide Series Races throughout the coming months. He has maintained a steady GPA again, using a simulator to train in his dorm room (in the aptly named Martyrs Court dorm) while most kids play video games between classes. He will then finish his studies, find a commercial flight from one of the local New York airports (or in one recent case, high tail it from New York to Baltimore to avoid a snowstorm and make a flight to Florida) on a Thursday, meet up with his team, get in some practice runs, drive on the weekend and then head back to New York in order to attend classes at Fordham on Monday. Chase pulls the schedule off without complaint, often studying to and from races, and prepping his race notes late into many a weeknight (he maintains copious notes from all his races in files kept since he was 14, and refers to them when returning to a track year after year). It is a grueling life and challenge, one without the fanfare of success both in the anominity of New York, where he is a student, and in the outposts of the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards & RE/MAX, where he is another young driver working his way up racing's treacherous ladder.
His next stop will be April 11th at Salem Speedway, his first return to action since Palm Beach on February 27. He took the majority of March off from racing to get through mid-term exams and find other areas to expand his racing acumen. "My spring break was spent catching up and getting ready to improve my driving," he added recently. "Our goal is to get better every race no matter where it is, and the ARCA series provides me with the chance to go out and prove myself against a very diverse class of driver. Salem will be our next test to see how we improve, and I'm looking forward to it. There are few fans that understand the value of racing like those who come out and follow you in Indiana, and I'm looking forward to getting back behind the wheel."
Still, regardless of the outcome at Salem or elsewhere on the ARCA circuit this summer, Mattioli maintains the steadfast resolve of a veteran driver way beyond his years. He corresponds respectfully with several unnamed NASCAR drivers who have been casually following his career from a distance, and maintains a loving and respectful relationship with all his family members, from his grandparents who still maintain a strong presence at Pocono (the Mattiolis are perhaps the only NASCAR family who have had a multi-generational relationship as track owners with the France family today) to his immediate family that also call Pocono home. He explores and enjoys all that is great about his adopted New York, and even finds tremendous time for community service work including a two-week service program in 2008 on an Native American reservation in South Dakota, working with the children of the Lakota Su on the reservation and helping to improve their schools. All of which has helped him sculpt a formula which is highly unusual, but which is all what makes Chase Mattioli what he is today... one of the most unique brands of student-athlete anywhere in the United States.
So yes, it is true that in many ways the path to racing success is still measured by familial name, and for sure Mattioli is a name of racing royalty. Still, the path that young Chase has taken is certainly one that is not tried and true, and is one that can make his road to success one that will help a storied NASCAR family write a new chapter...maybe a model for new success and diversity in racing for years to come.
"I believe what we are trying to do can work, and I'm lucky to be able to have access to many different worlds at the same time," he concluded. "They both have their unique challenges and sometimes they don't mix, but I am excited at the possibilities of what will lie ahead as we move forward both with school and on the race track."
-source: chase mattioli PR