Most college guys have a nickname. Some are even fit for print in a family publication. Sam Mangiameli, a University of Nebraska-Omaha junior, has two distinct but interrelated identities.
Many on campus know him simply as Ricky Bobby, a nod to Will Ferrel’s goofy character in Talladega Nights. But on the track, the 22-year-old motorsports enthusiast who is studying business management with an emphasis on entrepreneurship has a more ominous moniker—The Iceman.
Marked by a fixed, cold glare, Mangiameli’s game face led other drivers to size him up as a serious, don’t-mess-with-me competitor. The Iceman.
“The funny thing about it,” Mangiameli says with a chuckle, “is that the nickname is pretty much on target. I don’t mind the Ricky Bobby thing, but it’s the other nick-name that I like.”
Mangiameli has had a need for speed for as long as he can remember.
“Some of my earliest memories are of me as a little kid playing with my Hot Wheels cars when my dad [Creative Hair Design owner John Mangiameli] and I watched the Indy 500, Formula 1, and other races on TV,” he says. “I’d play with my cars imagining that it was me up there on the screen. That’s where it all began. The roar of the engines. The sights and sounds of the track. I knew right then what I wanted to do.”
His Hot Wheels collection gave way to karting at age 6, and Mangiameli was soon trading paint on tracks far and wide. “Now that I was actually behind the wheel of a motorized vehicle,” he continues, “I was totally hooked. Finished in fourth place in my very first event.”
A mere 10 years later Mangiameli took the checkered flag at the Grand Nationals of the International Karting Federation.
The young man who aspires to the grandest of motorsports stages—the grueling Rolex 24 at Daytona—now competes on the National Auto Sport Association circuit in the high-powered Super Touring 1 class. Mangiameli’s Diasio D962R mirrors the motif of his racing garb, where man and machine merge to become a sleek, midnight blue assemblage of catch-me- if-you-can bravado.
The family established Creative Hair Design Motorsports last year as a means of surrounding this one-man team with the infrastructure and support required for one who aims to rise through the national ranks on courses from coast to coast.
In the meantime, Mangiameli yearns to be on the track. Donning his helmet is an act of transformative regeneration. Just like in a superhero changeling sequence, one persona melts away as another creeps in to possess its host. The sharp click of a safety harness completes the metamorphosis. The amiable, book-toting Ricky Bobby is no more. The Iceman cometh.
Sam Mangiameli is continuing to advance his racing career four years after the publication of this article. In September 2018, he raced against professional drivers on the national stage in the National Auto Sport Association Championships, where he earned second place in the NASA Prototype division.
This article was printed in the March/April 2014 edition of Omaha Magazine, and digitally updated in October 2018. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.