Stephen Mallozzi made his first oval start in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series at Martinsville Speedway in April for AM Racing. He recently spoke with Frontstretch about how he came to join Reaume Brothers Racing, working a day job at Outback Steakhouse and more.
Joy Tomlinson, Frontstretch: How did you come to like NASCAR and racing in general?
Stephen Mallozzi: I started liking NASCAR when I was a kid, I was probably 5 years old when I started playing NASCAR Thunder, and that was kind of how the love started for the sport as a whole. … That’s how it started for me, and that love kind of carried on. One day I told my dad, I’m like, ‘hey dad, we’d probably be pretty good at this in real life,’ and I was like 8 or 9 at the time. He was like, ‘No, that’s not really how it works.’ But then we went to an indoor go-kart track, we did that for a few years, and by the time I was 13, we started go-karting competitively. Once we started doing competitive karts we never really looked back. I took a little hiatus because my dad got diagnosed with cancer in 2016 and we thought that was going to be the end of my career. One day, I came back, I moved to Charlotte and I started learning my way around stock car racing.
Tomlinson: Could you tell me about how you came to know Josh Reaume and that group over there?
Mallozzi: Basically, one day, it’s 2021, I’m sitting in my room, and I’m pissed off, I’m just upset about NASCAR, I never got my shot, I always thought I’d be good enough to do it. I’m kind of being mean to my mom and dad and in walks my dad to my room, he’s like, ‘What’s the problem?’ I’m like ‘Dad, I never got my shot in racing.’ He gets frustrated, he gets mad about it, he’s unhappy by the comment that I just made. He turns around and points his finger at me and he goes, ‘Son, if I treated my cancer the way you treated racing, I would’ve been dead five f’ing years ago.’ I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s a pretty stout comment for the guy with cancer to make.’
So, I started sending emails, and I heard back from a Truck team that’s based on the West Coast, and there’s only one or two of ‘em so you can probably figure out who it is. I’m not trying to steamroll this guy, he was actually very nice to me, very kind. But at the end of the day, he invited me to do a driver development program that just didn’t work out.
At that point, once I got the invite to go do that, I started looking for funding, it was like $200,000 for 40 races or something like that. I started sending emails, I actually sent an email to the Philadelphia 76ers’ old commentator, Marc Zumoff, and he’s like, “that’s great, I know nothing about racing, so let me connect you with somebody with NBC who might.” He connects me to a reporter named Michael Carey. Michael Carey connects me on an email chain with a dude named Peter Selino and Josh Reaume. Peter answers, Josh never does. Peter actually calls me and says, “Hey man, don’t do that, you’ll never see a seat in NASCAR in your life if you do. Move to Charlotte, I’ll get you a job down here and we’ll figure it out.” I moved down like five days later, and one day he walks me into Josh Reaume’s office, and I remember thinking, “What the hell am I doing here?”
When I sat down into Josh’s office, Josh just gave me a job. From that point on, we kind of had a relationship that grew and developed. And with Josh specifically, Josh and his father had a very similar upbringing in racing, they both did go karts, it was actually the same engine type, we did Rotax karting growing up, Josh was a national representative for I think it was South Africa I think was the country he represented. He’s been all over the place, Josh Reaume has grown up in like five different places.
We both went to Rotax grand finals, we were both some of the best in our respective fields when we were racing. And that kind of built the relationship, I remember once Josh said to me, “I think you’re very much like me except my dad didn’t get cancer, so I was able to keep doing this. I don’t know where I would be without my dad.” I think it was kind of that moment on he decided he was gonna help me kind of figure out my way through racing.
Tomlinson: You wrote for Toby Christie before about Monday Night Racing events. Now that you’re a NASCAR Truck Series driver, would you like to actually compete in that if you would be able to?
Mallozzi: No, probably not. I mean, would I? Yeah, probably, if I got invited, I’d probably do a couple of rounds. But after reporting on Monday Night Racing, it was frustrating to me to watch some of those events for as long as they go on. There were so many crashes and, for lack of a better term, talentless moments; I think I’d just get too frustrated. Honestly for me, iRacing is, if I were using it to have fun, I think I’d enjoy it a little more. For me, most of the time I just use it for practice, I don’t really have time to just hop on and have fun anymore. Between school and work and racing and sponsorship chases and preparation and all this other stuff, I don’t really have the time to hop on there to just have fun anymore. …
Tomlinson: You mentioned you were going to school, are you back in school? Because I remember reading that you had graduated from, I believe it was the University of Virginia. Are you back in school?
Mallozzi: So right now, for these six-seven months I don’t have anything, but I have accepted a seat at Temple Law for the fall of ‘23. So, starting in August I’m going to law school up in Philadelphia, so that’s exciting. I’m kind of really trying to make a push in these months that I have off to get as much done with NASCAR as I possibly can, because I don’t know how my life changes when I get to law school. It probably looks a lot different than it does now. That’s definitely something exciting. I still actually live down here, my apartment’s in Charlottesville just because I have the lease, I graduated early, but I had to sign on in case I didn’t. But I figured if I can graduate early and not pay the 30-something $1,000 a semester in tuition, why would I? So, I just graduated a little early.
Tomlinson: Do you have any future plans, like anything going in the works with either RBR or AM, or any Truck Series races you hope to compete at?
Mallozzi: The stuff I’ll probably be doing will be with RBR if I had to guess … From my standpoint, I think we’re looking at doing bigger tracks, we actually got approved for everything a mile-and-a-quarter and under, minus Dover. I think we’re currently looking at Gateway and Milwaukee as a couple of targets to kind of try and do, and if I could find the funding, I would definitely do Mid-Ohio again because that is such a fun racetrack.
Tomlinson: I saw that you’re trying to get Outback back in NASCAR? From what I read, they haven’t sponsored a truck since 2013 and hasn’t been in NASCAR since 2016.
Mallozzi: Nothing I can talk about a lot yet, but I’m working on it, I really am. That’s something I’m pushing for, I think if there’s ever an angle or a time to come back into the sport of NASCAR for Bloomin’ brands and BBI, this is probably the time. There’s so many angles that I’m willing to work with them on and take with them that I think would really make it a valuable investment for Outback as a whole. And the fact of the matter is, because I’m a small-time driver, there’s two things. One, a sponsorship like Outback would still get public attention regardless of who’s driving. … It’s a big deal to have a company like that return to the sport, especially when it’s also an employee of said company.
I think that leads to a lot of things. One, to get back into it for way cheaper than what they were into it before. Two, there’s a lot of cool things, I think one of the things I suggested on Twitter was like, hey, when I have shifts, send me to random Outbacks. I’ll go to an Outback of your choice, you tell me where to go, we’ll do some announcements, or we’ll just go in and freaking surprise customers. We’ll give them a discount on their meal, and I’ll serve them in my gosh dang Outback firesuit. …
So, you send me to the Outback across from Daytona, guess what? You’ll probably make 15, 20 lifelong customers out of that. That type of brand interaction, that’s the type of stuff that keeps customers coming back to restaurants. … I think with a driver who serves at Outback and is willing to put in the work to make a sponsorship deal like that happen, that’ll make it more worthwhile than any other investment they can make in sports.
About the author
Joy joined Frontstretch in 2019 as a NASCAR DraftKings writer, expanding to news and iRacing coverage in 2020. She's currently an assistant editor while continuing to write daily fantasy and news articles. A California native, Joy was raised as a motorsports fan and started watching NASCAR extensively in 2001. She earned her B.A. degree in Liberal Studies at California State University Bakersfield in 2010.
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