As Mattioli is a rookie, car owner Andy Hillenburg opts to have him focus on race setup du
As the sun came down on Pocono Friday evening, I found myself starting a respectable 20th. Partying and/or late nights before a race is something I do not do. I go home straight from the track, start hydrating, and get my carbohydrates by eating some of my grandma's pasta. A good meal the night before the race, as well as a good night's rest, is essential to prepare for a 200-mile event. During the race at Pocono, I ended up sweating off about eight pounds and unfortunately broke my drinking hose about twenty laps into the race. If I had done any kind of partying the night before, no doubt I would have suffered from dehydration. A good tip I learned about staying hydrated on race day is to eat plenty of protein and salt-filled foods such as nuts and beef jerky.
Race day is an event in itself-even before I get in the car. Being at my home track at Pocono, I obviously had a substantial number of appearances to make, as well as sponsors and family members to see. I started out my day at 9 a.m. with an autograph session for the Pocono's kids' day program. I try to spend as much time as I can with the kids before I go to the driver's meeting at 11 a.m.
Mattioli credits his crew with making his entry into ARCA a smooth one. Photo by Rob Fishe
Then I took time to hang out with a very special Make-A-Wish child. People say it takes a lot of courage to drive at the speeds I do, but my courage pales in comparison to that kid. If possible, I would have spent my whole day with him, but sponsorship obligations limited my time with him to about an hour.
This is one of the most important things a young up-and-coming driver can do-spend time with the fans. I think that all too often drivers get caught up in their own program and forget about the fans. Let's face it: Without the fans, we don't get to go racing and that goes for ARCA, NASCAR, and even the local Saturday night show.
Pre-race time is also spent talking with and entertaining my sponsors, all of whom are Pennsylvania-based companies, so we had a large contingent of people to meet at Pocono. When talking with sponsors, I always try to give them insight into what to look for when they watch the race. Unless your sponsor is a company directly involved in racing, you're likely going to have to educate them a little bit on how the track will affect the racecar and how the race will develop. Trust me-taking the time to understand how much or how little a sponsor knows about your sport will go a long way in making their money work for them and you.
Spending time with fans, especially young ones, is critical to building a good reputation,
Sponsor obligations completed, I quickly snuck in a fifteen-minute nap before dressing for driver introductions. It's a good time to relax because driver introductions are perhaps the worst part of a race for me, personally. As you're standing there with a bunch of world-class drivers in front of thousands of fans, the nerves begin to kick in.
When the announcer calls my name, I quickly make a B-line across the stage to my car. Once in the car, I do a once-over of all my safety equipment, check my radio communication with my spotter, and then have a little pre-game talk with my team. The nerves finally go away as I hear those most famous words in racing: "Gentlemen, start your engines."
The race starts off with a few pace laps. As tedious as they seem to the fans, they are extremely important to the driver. During these laps, my spotter and I search the track for any debris, determine our pit road speed by comparing our rpm to the speed set by the pace car, and figure out exactly the location of our pit box. My spotter is essential during this portion of the race, as well as under green-flag conditions. He is my eye in the sky and keeps me from running into trouble on the track.