In college, Sam Mangiameli earned the nickname “The Iceman” for his quiet demeanor and fixed glare. It’s a look that drivers know too well when they strap in to race against Mangiameli at the track.

“I don’t like many distractions. I just kind of like to be in my own quiet bubble just to be able to get my thoughts in line and focused,” he said. “As it gets closer to race time, I just get more and more quiet and focused.”

That focus helped Mangiameli win a NASA National Championship, most recently in 2019 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Mangiameli, 28, plans to keep racking up the victories in NP01 with the hope of landing a professional driving opportunity.

“That’s kind of the ultimate goal. I would love to be able to get into a professional driver’s seat with kind of everything I’ve experienced over the years,” Mangiameli said. “It just has always been a dream of mine since I can remember when I was a little kid starting out.”

Like many drivers in NASA, Mangiameli started racing go-karts at age 6 after his father John took him to a dirt track oval race. “My dad asked if I wanted to get into it and I was like, ‘Absolutely,’” he said.

For 10 years, Mangiameli racked up wins in the karting ranks, even bringing home a championship at the Grand National of the International Karting Federation. On some of the larger dirt tracks, Mangiameli said he would run at speeds of 70 to 80 mph and drafting behind karts to gain an advantage.

“It wasn’t just cruising around,” Mangiameli said. “You really had to be focused on what you were doing and being smooth, but also kind of planning out your runs, just like you would in any other spec racing.”

After a decade of racing karts, the 16-year-old Mangiameli was ready for the next step and ran a Diasio D962R at a Skip Barber Racing School. The transition from a kart to the Diasio was surprisingly easy for Mangiameli.

“With the oval racing, it’s all about how smooth you can be and hitting your marks. It’s the same thing that you do in road-course racing and full-course racing,” said Mangiameli. “A lot of it really transfers over. I don’t really see any negative aspects that really came out of it for me, personally.”

Mangiameli campaigned the Diasio while he was earning his degree at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. It was at college when friends tagged him the call sign “The Iceman” made famous in the 1980s movie “Top Gun.”
Mangiameli loved to race the Diasio, but said the Achilles heel was the rotary engine. The team finally found a reliable motor from SpeedSource that kept Mangiameli on the track and showcased his driving skills. His first attempt at a NASA championship in 2014 at Road Atlanta ended with engine problems.

“The Diasio was a very unforgiving car. I mean it had that grip, but man, if you broke grip with that car, it was gone. It spun out faster than you can imagine,” Mangiameli said.

About three years ago the team decided to campaign a NP01 car and it’s a decision Mangiameli is glad they made. The team was no longer chasing engine problems and the maintenance is generally oil changes and checking the nuts and bolts. Mangiameli still prefers to tear the car apart and go through it.

Racers and fans who don’t know much about the racecar are often surprised by its affordability and minimal maintenance.

“People think it’s a couple hundred thousand dollars, multi-million-dollar car sitting there when you explain to them you can get it for a fraction of that cost,” he said. “People’s faces just light up like, ‘Oh my gosh. I had no idea that you could even do it.’”

Family Affair

When Mangiameli is racing, his family is nearby providing support in the paddock. Mangiameli’s father John travels with him and his mother Debbie will attend the bigger races. His girlfriend Alexis will also attend races along with friends who want to experience an auto race.

The whole team was on hand Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course last September to see Mangiameli win his first NASA National Championship in three attempts. (He finished second at the Circuit of the Americas in 2018.) It was the first time he had ever driven the Mid-Ohio road course, even though Mangiameli had been to the track several times to watch Indy Car and IMSA races. “The only experience I had on it was just from the iRacing simulator,” he said. Mangiameli called it a challenging track and a blast to drive.

“It’s a neat track to be able to go and really kind of tune your skills on because it really pushes you to kind of try different things and trust your car more so than some other tracks do,” he said.

Mangiameli owns a landscaping company that does residential and commercial work. While the landscaping pays the bills, Mangiameli is still hopeful he can turn racing into a full-time job.

Terry Bouge, who has known Mangiameli and his family for five years, is hopeful that the 28-year-old will get a chance to race in the professional ranks.

“As an instructor, we like him to be relatively smooth, he appears to be smooth and he’s usually right up there, number one or number two all the time,” said Bouge, who races and instructs for NASA. “From my experience watching Sam, I don’t why he wouldn’t be able to go get a professional ride.”

Mangiameli knows that teams are searching for younger drivers but he believes his experience helps set him apart.

“With road racing, it takes more kind of seasoning in a sense before you really kind of get into your stride, like Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton and such,” Mangiameli said. “They started out karting and started out in F1 at some younger ages and some others. But I mean, it wasn’t for a few years before they really met their stride. It’s all about learning that series.”

Name: Sam Mangiameli
Age: 28
Region: NASA Central
Hometown: Omaha, Nebraska
Racing Class: NP01
Sponsors: Creative Hair Design, Top Cut Lawn and Landscaping, Goldwell, Sterling Financial
Day Job: Owner and Operator of Top Cut Lawn and Landscaping
Favorite Food: Chicken parmigiana with spaghetti
Favorite TV show: Don’t watch TV
Favorite Movie: Ironman
Favorite Book: The Art of Racing in the Rain
Favorite Track: Barber motorsports Park
Dream Racecar: Porsche LMP1 919 hybrid
Image courtesy of Jeremy Bryner

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