Frankie Montecalvo Talks Racing, Training and His Favorite Jersey Drive

"I love it here," Montecalvo says of his native NJ.

Frankie Montecalvo

“I’m always training,” says race-car driver Frankie Montecalvo. Photo: Courtesy of Rick Dole

A dozen times a year, Frankie Montecalvo races cars on the Vasser Sullivan team, competing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The 32-year-old Highlands native is a 2015 Pirelli World Challenge Champion, and is currently chief of field operations at Bayshore Recycling, his family’s business. Montecalvo recently chatted with New Jersey Monthly.

How do you explain a SportsCar Championship?
It’s a series of races with different levels of cars that are either prototypes or similar to a street car that comes off the showroom floor. It’s the highest level of sports car racing in the world.

What do you drive?
A Lexus RC F GT3 is my car. It looks similar to a Lexus RC F at the dealer—headlights, taillights, shape of the car—but we have a massive aero wing, a rear diffuser under the car, and splitters.

How fast do you go?
The tracks with the longest straightaways are the fastest, like the Daytona International Speedway. There, we’re right under 190 mph for 24 hours. At Daytona, we have four drivers on the same car, and I probably drive three or four times for a total of six hours. For the shorter races (such as Battle on the Bricks in Indianapolis, September 15-17), it’s two drivers per car, splitting driving time roughly in half.

Is there an ideal body type for the sport?
The lighter the driver, the lighter the car. I’m 5’8”, which is a great size for a race car driver. My co-driver and I are identical in size. We fit in the same seat. 

How do you prepare for a race?
I’m always training—cardio, running, weights, kayaking. We have a great area here (Hartshorne Woods in Highlands) for mountain biking. Cars get extremely hot. You have fire suits on, everything is closed up in the cockpit. Airflow’s not great. It’s always hot; it’s always hard.

And for a race weekend?
Racing is very mental. Get the track fresh in your mind. Luckily, my team has a simulator in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

What advice would you give aspiring race car drivers?
Get an engineering degree. Every driver can drive. If you can talk to the engineer in terms he can understand, it gives you a leg up on the competition.

What’s the most frequent question you’re asked by people who aren’t racing car fans?
When I say I’m doing a 24-hour race, they ask, ‘How do you go to the bathroom in the car?’ The answer is that you’re sweating so much, you don’t have to.

How young were you when you started working in the family business, Bayshore Recycling?
I feel like you’re born into that. I’ve been there since my dad could hold me in his arms on a bulldozer. I have a lot of respect working for my parents because they grew the business to what it is today.

When did you decide to concentrate more on your work at Bayshore Recycling instead of race car driving?
When I started getting a little older, I made a decision to take it more seriously. I really needed to be there, to be more involved and to help grow our company to be more successful. It’s a family business. If I didn’t have a family business, I’d still live here in New Jersey. I love it here.

What’s your favorite Jersey drive?
I always love going to Sandy Hook in the offseason. You can drive along the water on a motorcycle or in a car with no one there and the sun setting. It’s beautiful.

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