NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series' JL Mattern remembers Unlimited Hydroplane Racing's glory daysPosted: Updated:
JL Mattern is no stranger to motorsports.
When he began in unlimited hydroplane racing in 1989, he was working for N. B. Ventures out of Irvine, Calf. producing multi-bus hospitality settings at NHRA, CART, NASCAR and IMSA races.
RJ Reynolds wanted a hospitality bus for Steve Woomer on the unlimited racing tour. Having been a casual fan attending previous races in San Diego Mattern snapped up the opportunity with open arms, because he had known Woomer from his involvement in drag racing with Ed "The ACE" McCulloch, Raymond Beatle and Jerry Ruth. He knew this would be a great experience to be involved with.
The following season, Woomer bought his own bus and hired Mattern to run it. "I gladly accepted, because the people I had met in the sport of Hydroplane racing were like no others, remembers Mattern.
"I made many friends during this time and got educated on the many aspects of the sport and enjoyed the whole experience. The people made the sport what it was back then. Woomer and Bernie Little were the Hitters and both loved the boats and the spirit of competition," Mattern said. Mattern reflected, "These two guys keep the sport afloat for many years. It certainly was a fun time with all the different personalities of the owners and drivers."
"I was thrilled to get a closer look into the real workings of the sport. I had the honor to work with such greats of the sport, Larry Lauderbach, Jim Kropfeld, Mark Tate and Nate Brown! They all had such a passion for the sport!"
"It was also very cool to observe the talent of each one of these drivers and of course the dedicated crew chiefs (Jim Lucero, Ron Brown) who managed to put together the awesome crews and worked the long hours to keep them competitive at each event!"
"Woomer constantly had a good time doing what he loved --racing Boats!"
Mattern has fond memories and fun times after the boats had qualified and the pits were closed. "I remember times when the quarters came out and members from different teams and media would get drawn into a game of heads or tails. The money would change hands a fast as you could toss the coins in the air! But on Sunday's, when it came time to race, the focus certainly was on winning!"
"One of Steve's best lines was, the sport will bring you the highest of highs and the lowest of lows," Mattern said. "That's what kept them coming back for more."
After a tour with QVC's mobile TV production, Mattern landed at Screen Works/NEP. Mattern works with the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, working the big screen production truck at all 23 NHRA events. He said that the Nitro cars keeps him close to the thunder! The previous Diamond P, producer of the Unlimited Hydro's TV shows, "Mr. Wayne Thing" has worked side-by-side for the last eight years at NHRA.
"We both still have many discussions about those great days around the Hydro's," especially when they run into old Hydro buddies at the NHRA races. "We hope in the future, that someway these magical icons of the water will once again appear on the lakes with the popularity they were so legendary for!"
PHOTO CREDIT: Owen Blauman
J.L. Mattern still can't get racing out of his blood. After a long tenure with the late Steve Woomer's unlimited hydroplane team Mattern now runs the screen productions at all NHRA races. He interfaceswith many on the ESPN broadcasts along with seeing to it that the fans at the races get play-by-play video play back on the screens throughout the race tracks.