Fueled By Family: Third-Generation Chase Mattioli Is First Behind Wheel

Mary Jo BuchananSenior Writer IJuly 28, 2009

As founders of the Pocono Raceway, the next stop for NASCAR's elite Cup circuit this weekend, the Mattioli family has been involved in racing for almost a half a century.  But the youngest of the seven Mattioli grandchildren, Chase, is the first one of the famed family to actually get behind the wheel of a race car.

At age 19, Mattioli is currently involved in three different racing series.  In 2009, this young race car driver has competed in the Camping World Series East, the ARCA RE/MAX series, and the KONI Challenge series.

But Mattioli's introduction to racing was less than auspicious.  "The first time I got behind the wheel, I crashed into the wall," admitted Mattioli.

"I went to the race track and my dad had me and my older brother Joseph get in the car," said Mattioli.  "He's like, you guys are going to be race car drivers today."

Mattioli continued, "The first time coming out of the gate, I put my foot on the pedal to go as fast as I could and just nailed the wall and totaled the car."

Fortunately, no one was hurt in the crash.  "It was fun though," said Mattioli.  "And it was at that very moment that I knew that I wanted to be a race car driver."

The youngest Mattioli grandson has done just that.  At age seven, Chase started racing quarter midgets at the Lehigh Valley Track, continuing to race for three years in that series.

Mattioli then graduated to Legends cars and small stock cars at South Boston Speedway and Music City Motorplex in Nashville.  He progressed to Dirt Modifieds and then enrolled in one of the most well—respected road racing schools, Bertil Roos Racing School.

With such an eclectic racing background, Mattioli admits that all of these experiences on various tracks and in different types of cars has indeed prepared him to race in the three series that he is participating in this year.  From setting up the car to interacting with his race team, he has been schooling himself to continue his move up to the "big time."

While Mattioli has dabbled in the ARCA series this year, he is fully committed to run for the ARCA championship next year.  He has a new partnership with Bobby Hamilton, Jr., who he met when he was racing at the Music City Motorplex, where his father was involved at the time.

Mattioli and Hamilton, both with famous last names, just seemed to click.  "Bobby has been a great mentor to me," said Mattioli.  "He is often known as a little pit bull, but now he has a little girl, which has softened him up a little bit."

"But don't tell him I told you that," whispered Mattioli conspiratorially. "It's just with that last name, Bobby has gone through the same things that I have and knows how to talk me through it."

This racing season has seen its share of challenges for the young Mattioli.  "We've been bit by some bad luck," shared Chase, from a stud coming off a wheel to losing the brakes at a recent race in Lime Rock.

The first ARCA race at Pocono Raceway was also heartbreaking.  Mattioli was in the top ten in practice, but had to start in the back of the field because of rain.

In front of his family and friends, Mattioli barely got into the second turn of the first lap of the race before getting tangled up in a wreck involving two other race cars.  The wreck ended the young hometown favorite's race barely before it had begun.

But Mattioli is not one to give up, in spite of trying times.  "When others throw up their hands," said Mattioli, "we've kept our hands on the wheel and we have just kept on going."

So, what are Mattioli's goals for the upcoming ARCA race at Pocono Raceway this weekend?  "To stay safe and survive," said Mattioli.  "Then when the opportunity presents itself, we will be ready to pounce."

After winning the Pocono race, which Mattioli fully intends to do in front of the hometown crowd and his hometown sponsors Liquid Fence and the Great Wolf Lodge, the young racer will set his sights on moving up in NASCAR, ultimately to the Cup level. 

While he wistfully toys for just a moment with the notion of racing Formula 1, Mattioli then firmly admits that "NASCAR is my bread and butter. It's what I've been born to."

Mattioli is as busy away from the track as racing on it.  He just finished his freshman year at Fordham University in the Bronx, where he is studying marketing.

Having been born and raised in the Pocono mountains, Mattioli loves snowboarding, including teaching snowboarding and working at a local ski shop.  He also enjoys "poker, video games, going to the beach, and hanging with friends", as is typical with so many of his other 19 year old peers.

Mattioli reveals that many would be surprised that he loves to read.  He picked up a book about a year ago and has been "reading constantly ever since."

Mattioli most admires NASCAR Cup driver Ryan Newman, primarily because of his combination of a college education and a successful racing career. 

But the young man considers his father and grandfather as his true role models, both making something from nothing with the Pocono Raceway family business.  He also admits that his family helps him keep everything balanced in his life.

There is no doubt that the entire Mattioli family will be incredibly proud when Chase gets behind the wheel of his race car at their home track.  But most likely the proudest person on the track will be Chase himself.

After all, as Chase Mattioli so confidently boasts, "I am the best race car driver in this family."