Anthony Mazziotto is living proof that you can’t tell a book by its cover. For starters, with scraggly long locks falling over his shoulders, you wouldn’t paint Mazziotto as a barber. He’s somewhat of an anomaly. Kinda like a pimple-faced dermatologist if you will.
You might also look at the New Jerseyan and not see a young man who, despite being a road racing prodigy in MotoAmerica at just 14 years old, finished high school and dabbled in college before realizing it wasn’t for him. You might look at him and not see a deep thinker, a mature conversationalist… but that’s okay, Mazziotto isn’t the type who worries about what others think of him.
One thing we can’t argue about, however, is that Mazziotto is one hell of a motorcycle racer. How else do you explain him being thrown into the deep end of MotoAmerica Supersport racing at VIRginia International Raceway this year after not riding for two seasons and finishing in the top 10 in both races?
“From 2018 to probably two weeks before the VIR race, I hadn’t ridden a motorcycle at all,” Mazziotto said. “Only dirt bikes. My (Kawasaki) ZX-6 sat in my garage for years. I hadn’t done anything. So, I went out and did a practice day. My leg had just finished healing because I had broken my femur on my dirt bike that year before the (VIR) Supersport race. So, about two weeks before the MotoAmerica race, I rode my ZX-6 for the first time after I just started feeling good on my leg again. So, I wanted to go ride. That was something I really wanted to do. I hadn’t ridden in a really long time. So, I went out and rode. I was racing with Dom (Dominic Doyle) a little bit, but not too close because my bike is pretty stock. It’s got all stock parts on it, so I can only go so fast on it. It was my first time riding in a while, so I really wasn’t going too fast at all. So, that was the one thing I did and then I raced VIR literally the next weekend, pretty much. That was with one weekend, literally two days of riding and boom, they threw me into the paddock again with the wolves.”
So, what was it like racing again for the first time since 2018? Did the brain need a jump start to get used to the speed again?
“Yeah, that is literally the main thing,” Mazziotto said. “When I was doing that CCS weekend, that was the main thing haunting me. I’m like, ‘Holy sh*&. I’m going so fast. I have to slow down.’ But you don’t have to slow down. So, just getting my brain back up to speed with things and all that kind of crap, it took a little bit of time. Once they threw me out there with all those guys racing again and I was getting that atmosphere, that environment, it just felt natural again. It felt like I hadn’t spent any time off the bike.”
Let’s back up a bit. In 2015, the first year of MotoAmerica, a kid by the name of Anthony Mazziotto showed up to go racing in the KTM RC Cup and he was quite good. He won two races and finished second in the debut championship behind Gage McAllister. In 2016, he won four races and lost out in the title chase to his friend Brandon Paasch. He was living his dream.
“All I ever wanted to do when I was a kid was be the best motorcycle racer that ever was,” Mazziotto said. “That’s what every kid’s dream is, I think, at such a young age.”
In 2017, Mazziotto graduated to the Superstock 600 class and finished seventh in the championship with two victories. A year later and Mazziotto was in the Supersport class where he again finished seventh in the title chase with just one podium. He was up against the very best with the names above him reading as follows: Beach, Gillim, Debise, Prince, McFadden and Escalante. Not bad company.
And just like that, he was gone. The dream tarnished, thanks in part to a broken femur suffered in a motocross-training accident.
“Coming away from the sport for a few years and just dealing with some of the stuff that I dealt with going through and getting put through situations I did, I kind of realized that goal isn’t as achievable as I had once thought,” Mazziotto said. “It takes a lot more than just my determination, skill, and all that to make that happen. There’s a lot of other things that come together to put you into that position to be the best racer in the world. So, now I just kind of go out there and try to enjoy myself as much as possible.”
Fast forward to 2021 and the kid from Hammonton, New Jersey, is 21 years old and back in the MotoAmerica paddock. The dream may be a bit different now, but he’s still living it. First came the Supersport ride at VIR as a replacement rider for Doyle on the BARTCON Racing entry which in turn led to a race-by-race ride on a Veloce Racing-backed Aprilia RS 660 in the Twins Cup class and now this…. With two rounds to go, “Mazz” is sixth in the championship with two victories and five podiums in a row with a chance to finish as high as second in the championship – despite missing the first five rounds.
So, tell us about this Twins Cup thing…
“I really enjoy riding this motorcycle,” Mazziotto said. “It has everything that a 600 has to do. All the characteristics about the bike are very similar, and 600s are really what I love riding, except for it just has a little bit less horsepower. So, it honestly makes it a little bit easier to ride it to the absolute max potential that it’s capable of. So, it’s a little bit more enjoyable, I think, than riding a 600. It’s easier to make it go really fast.”
Even though he’s only 21, Mazziotto is seasoned enough in the business of racing to not get his hopes too high. He knows he could win the rest of the races and finish second in the Twins Cup Championship and be standing around at the start of next year with a phone that’s not ringing. He knows this. It’s the harsh reality of racing and he’s been through it before.
“After this year, I don’t like to have any hopes or expectations into anything because of what I kind of saw coming through the sport when I was young,” Mazziotto said. “So, I kind of understand how it all works. It’s got a lot to do with timing, luck, and having spots available when people move out of seats. A lot goes into making something happen to score a ride like that. If something were to pop up this year and a couple riders were moving seats and there were some rides available, I think as much as I shouldn’t be, I would be pretty disappointed if nothing came up for me. Just coming out of the woodwork like I did and putting in the results that I am… Honestly, I don’t really do that much training either, because I’m always cutting hair. I work my ass off every day. So, I’d be a little upset, honestly, if someone were to get something over me. I can’t really look at it like that because I’ve just got to keep remembering motorcycles is just something that I really enjoy. It’s a passion of mine. So just even being able to ride again and getting that opportunity, I’m so grateful for it. I’m going to get old one day and I’m not going to be able to do this anymore, so I might as well do it now.”
Mazziotto likes to have fun. It’s evident when you see him in the paddock, on the podium and even in the post-race press conferences. It’s almost like he’s the 14-year-old on the KTM RC 390 all over again. But does Mazziotto having fun prevent the powers that be from wanting to give him a shot? Do they not take him seriously?
“There’s a couple teams that are very, very serious,” Mazziotto said. “If you look around the paddock, you can tell which teams are super serious, no fun. You’re here to do your job and that’s it. Then there are other teams out there in the paddock that are out there having a good time and having a little bit of fun doing it. Right now, basically since I’m racing the Twins class and I kind of got into there and I was doing pretty good, I’m trying to make it as much fun as possible. I’m trying not to make it as serious as possible. Doing what I’m doing, I’m putting in good results and having fun. I might as well keep having fun and maybe one day if someone were to give me the opportunity, a hundred percent. If I’m riding a class where I have to complete 20 laps and I’m on a motorcycle that rests on me to ride it, obviously I’m going to have to do some kind of working out and getting into shape and taking it more seriously. It’s a lot different. Racing the class I’m racing right now, it makes me feel comfortable being able to do it the way I’m doing it.”
Mazziotto has also discovered along the way that he performs at his best while enjoying the ride.
“Growing up my whole life racing a 600 and stuff, especially with my dad running the program and being behind my team, that was the most pressure it could have ever been,” he said. “There were times where I was like, ‘I’m done. I don’t even want to do this anymore. This sucks.’ So, doing it the way I’m doing it now, and with the way my team is – they’re so easy-going and everything. They’re just so happy to see me even there and smiling. It hasn’t been any better than it is.”
The upcoming round at New Jersey Motorsports Park will be a homecoming of sorts for the Mazziottos with friends and family in attendance to watch the Jersey boy perform.
“I live with my parents, so my dad is always in the picture, but he definitely doesn’t really look into the racing stuff, nowhere near as much as he was when he was my team owner,” Mazziotto said. “He’ll watch my races, congratulate me when I come home, but he doesn’t really ask a lot of questions anymore. He kind of keeps his brain out of it.
“He’ll definitely be at Jersey to watch the races and stuff, but he’s not a part of my program as strongly as he was in the past, which is a good thing and a bad thing. It’s always nice to have your family around because I feel like I can always be so one-on-one with my father. But at the same time, the tension there is like… I hate listening to it from my dad. Then sometimes we get into little arguments and stuff. It’s your dad and, at the end of the day, families argue.”
In addition to racing at NJMP, Mazziotto will be showing off his other skills pre-race with an open offer to cut hair in the paddock on Thursday. The hair cutting begs the question: How did the prodigy racer end up a barber?
“Honestly, I don’t know,” Mazziotto said. “I went through all of high school. I was one of the very few racers who actually graduated high school and took my SATs and went on to college. Whatever I was studying at college, the business stuff that I was looking at, it wasn’t really clicking well with me. The only reason I feel like I ever did so well in school was because my parents always held that over me. If I didn’t do well in school, I couldn’t race. If you didn’t get straight A’s and B’s, you’re not going racing. So, I always did really well in high school. I did good on my SATs. Then the racing thing just kind of fell apart. I kind of just went into college because I had just spent all this time in school. I figured, might as well go do something. I didn’t enjoy it at all. My first semester of college, I just wasn’t having a good time. I went and got a haircut one day and I was talking to my barber. I just asked him what goes into cutting hair and was just picking his brain a little bit. I dropped out of college that day. I quit my semester and I signed up to go to cosmetology school. That was pretty long, honestly. It’s nine months every day. You’re there for 1200 hours. It’s pretty much a full-time job at that point for almost the entire year. Then I started cutting hair. What was nice about that too was I started cutting hair, and instead of having all this college debt, what it cost me to go to school I was already able to pay back within one year of cutting hair. I think it was probably one of the better decisions I’ve ever made.”
Based on what he’s been able to do in the latter part of the season, you’d have to look at Mazziotto as the favorite coming into his home round at NJMP.
“I do have a bunch of laps around New Jersey,” Mazziotto said. “Pittsburgh, that’s one of my favorite racetracks, so I felt really good going into Pittsburgh. In my brain I knew if I didn’t win at Pittsburgh, then I was just being a slouch because that’s one of the racetracks I really, really enjoy. New Jersey, I like, too. It’s not one of my favorite racetracks on the schedule, but it’s definitely one of the ones at the top of my list. I have so many laps around that place, so I just feel really comfortable. But now I’ve got a bit of a little guy I get to race now, I heard.”
The “little guy” Mazziotto refers to is Italian Tommaso Marcon, one of Aprilia’s development riders who is coming to the MotoAmerica Series for the final two Twins Cup races of the year at NJMP and Barber Motorsports Park.
“That could make it interesting,” Mazziotto said. “He’s definitely going to be quick, so it should make for a good race.
Looking at the Twins Cup points standings makes Mazziotto smile.
“Jackson (Blackmon) is second in the points, I believe,” Mazziotto said. “I think he’s only 27 points ahead of me. That’s definitely make-up-able. I should, if I can do good in the last three races and put some points between me and all those guys, I very strongly think that I might be able to wrap second up in this championship at the end of the year. It’s a shame that I didn’t get to do more rounds.”
Maybe next year.