Pushing past life’s bumps in the road, UVA student pursues NASCAR dream
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - From the University of Virginia to NASCAR, one student has a dream. Though, there have been a few bumps in the road along the way.
Stephen J. Mallozzi and his dad, also named Stephen, share a goal of competing together with Mallozzi driving and his father fixing the parts.
“We didn’t have the money that a lot of the other teams did,” J. Mallozzi said. “We would go to the racetrack, father and son, and it was either he learned how to run repairs or we wouldn’t do it because we couldn’t afford to pay a mechanic a few hundred bucks a day to help us out.”
The Mallozzi’s started their racing career with Go-Karts. He raced competitively in his hometown of Swedesboro, New Jersey, as well as across the country. He always wanted to go a bit further, and ramp it up to racecars.
They were revving up for the race, but then life pumped the brakes.
“When you have a dad who is given six months to live your life changes a lot,” J. Mallozzi said.
Mallozzi’s dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 small cell cancer. Their love of racing never left, though they did put it on pause while J. Mallozzi completed high school and attended UVA.
He says the coronavirus pandemic ended up being a bit of a blessing in disguise for him, as he had some more time on his hands.
“I had a little bit of money saved up that I had invested during COVID and I decided, what better way to spend that money than to go after my dream?” J. Mallozzi said.
Classes being moved online meant he could move to Charlotte, North Carolina to fully train for racing.
“I was in math class, just doing calculus, and you know, and it was a lot to balance. The days were at times 19, 20 hours long, four or five days a week. Then, on the weekends, you traveled with the race team,” J. Mallozi said.
J. Mallozi says he got the call in June that he had been waiting for: The director of competition told him he was approved, and that he had become a licensed NASCAR driver.
“I broke down crying on the phone with my dad. I ran to my mom and I did a bunch of dramatic fist pumps and all that jazz,” J. Mallozi said.
It’s a day he never thought he’d see, especially with his dad by his side.
“He had driven down 10 hours, three days after chemotherapy to come watch me race. He was sick, puking, and exhausted all night, and he says, ‘I’m not missing this.’ He says, ‘I’m not missing my son,’” J. Mallozzi said.
The elder Mallozzi is beating the odds, living six years past his diagnosis.
“I have made it a point to as best I can not let it disrupt everything about the great life that we’ve had,” the father said. “No way I’m going to miss that.”
The father and son are set to make their NASCAR debut Saturday, July 9.
“My dad’s going to come watch me race at Mid-Ohio. When I realized I had this opportunity and that I couldn’t take it for granted, I threw everything on the line to make it happen,” said J. Mallozzi. “I’ve lived the past the past six years of my life with everything up in the air. And I think it’s probably going to stay that way a little while longer.”
He’s not necessarily expecting to make it first across the finish line. It’s a new car, new race course, and a new league, but J. Mallozzi still has his same dad, who’s still here to watch him live out his dream.
“I hope more than anything that his dream continues,” said Mallozzi Sr.
After the race, J. Mallozzi will enter his fourth year at the University of Virginia, and he says he plans to graduate a semester early. He hopes to continue racing with that extra time, but he says he is up for anything.
Saturday’s race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course starts at 1:30 p.m.
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