Stephen Mallozzi is approaching his second-career start in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competition this weekend at Martinsville Speedway, and the 22-year-old racer will do so behind the wheel of the No. 22 AM Racing Ford F-150.
On the initial entry list for this weekend’s race, Mallozzi was listed as the driver of the No. 34 Reaume Brothers Racing entry, but unfortunate circumstances at Bristol Dirt led to the Reaume team missing the race which put the No. 34 truck in a precarious position owner points-wise heading into Martinsville.
With Mallozzi being a longtime helping hand with the Reaume team, Josh Reaume, who was originally slated to pilot the No. 22 AM Racing truck, decided to swap rides with Mallozzi to put the young racer in the best position to make the field for this weekend’s race.
“Josh said, ‘Listen man. I know you don’t do this often, but if you miss a race and we have to pay for an attempt and you don’t get to drive at all, that’s huge for you. To me man, I care enough about you to put you in my seat in the No. 22.’ So we ran all of that by everyone and got it cleared and moved onto the No. 22 truck,” Mallozzi explained to TobyChristie.com. “And I am elated to be driving for those guys. Following in the footsteps of NASCAR Cup Series winner Chase Briscoe is not anything to gawk at for sure.”
The gesture by Reaume is made even more impressive when you factor in that if qualifying for Friday night’s race is washed out, Reaume will not be one of the 36 trucks that lock into the field, while Mallozzi will now be guaranteed a spot in the field.
Mallozzi, who has moonlighted as a NASCAR betting analyst and Daily Fantasy writer for numerous websites including the Action Network and TobyChristie.com, while he wasn’t driving, will carry primary sponsorship from the Stacking Dennys Podcast, which is hosted by Nick Giffen and Jordan McAbee.
The driver will carry several associate sponsors for the event as well including Win The Race, a NASCAR gambling and DFS advice website, the Kingsway Regional School District where Mallozzi does a speaking seminar once a semester, Chris McGinnley — a close friend of Mallozzi’s — will also have a decal on the rear bumper as a surprise for his girlfriend, and there will even be a TobyChristie.com decal (according to Mallozzi) on the truck.
The New Jersey native is trying to keep his expectations in check, much like he did for his Truck Series debut last season at Mid-Ohio. Despite being involved in an accident in practice at Mid-Ohio last season, Mallozzi survived a chaotic race to score an impressive 22nd-place finish in his debut.
Mallozzi’s goal for this weekend is to have a very similar result.
“AM Racing has done a great job of being consistent this season. They’ve had kind of a revolving door of All-Star drivers. I know Gutierrez was in there for a race and Bearden has been in there, Josh has been in there and Briscoe has been in there. A lot of times they run just on the edge of the top 20 range. I would say if we could get a lead lap finish at Martinsville and bring it home inside the top 20, that would be a great day,” Mallozzi said. “My biggest thing is a clean truck. They’re putting together a hell of a piece for me, so the last thing I want to do is go out there and tear it up. I want to learn a lot and get faster as the day goes. Keep it nice and clean and if we can run inside the top-20, I would say top-25 on speed and top-20 on attrition, that would be a good day.”
While Mallozzi hopes to mirror the success he found in his NCTS debut, he learned after his debut race what it meant to be in “racing shape” and he has taken steps to be more prepared from a physical standpoint this time around.
“Honestly, I made the decision to run Martinsville pretty late in the cycle. But one of the things I realized at Mid-Ohio, which I’ve been working on a lot since Mid-Ohio, was that I wasn’t in racing shape. At all,” Mallozzi admitted. “Driving a race car is physically exhausting. I got out of the truck at Mid-Ohio and I was physically gassed, and I thought if I ever do this again, I better be ready and be in shape.
“I have been doing a lot of cardio stuff. That I hope is going to be a big step up. I should be a lot better prepared for the physical exertion of driving the truck this time around. But the other thing I’ve been doing is having Josh coach me through on the sim and walk me through pit stops.”
If Mallozzi can get past the wrinkle of live pitstops, something he didn’t have to partake in at Mid-Ohio last season, and he can steer clear of the inevitable madness on the track, he very well could surprise with another decent finish in his second career start on Friday night at Martinsville Speedway.