Who’s Who in NASA: Matt McIntyre
Full Name: Matt McIntyre
Hometown: Salinas, California
Years in AZ: 8 Years
Favorite Food(s): Fish… fish… and more FISH! Favorite fish-based meal was had in Australia called Barramundi. Matt also enjoys crab and lobster (he would have it every day if it wasn’t so expensive). Needless to say, he misses living next to the ocean and walking the wharf eating “crabby cakes”!
Favorite Music: Everything except elevator music, but mostly Country and Rock. Favorite bands are Seether and Lady Antebellum.
Occupation: Flight Instructor
NASA Class: TTB, PTB / GTS-3
Many of you have seen or heard about a certain blue BMW M3 zooming around the track. In this edition of Who’s Who I’d like to bring your attention to the guy behind the wheel, Matt McIntyre.
Matt grew up in beautiful Salinas, California, native to many local wineries, beaches, and cultural richness of the Bay Area. His father was a successful businessman in managing and consulting with the various vineyards in Monterey County, so needless to say he always had wine in his blood and viticulture on his brain. He spent many summers working for his dad in the fields, essentially saving up a “car” fund. No, he did not end up with a pristine hot rod and spend carefree nights in the neighborhood doing burnouts. Instead, his first car was a 1989 535i automatic…in beige. While not quite the car you see him driving today, it was a blast to flog around. Stock parts from this 5-series were slowly replaced with aftermarket ones, truly making the car all his own. In the process, he also learned which parts endure the test of time.
“I remember racing on the back roads and over the Laguna Seca grade passing cars in a four door sedan. That car was riddled with transmission problems. I had to replace it twice which is why to this day I will not buy an automatic!”
When Matt graduated from Robert Louis Stevenson High School, he went from Pebble Beach to Arizona for the wonderful opportunity to fly at a rather prestigious flight school known as Mesa Pilot Development. Matt worked tediously to earn his certificates and soon completed a Bachelors of Science degree in Aeronautical Management and Technology in 2008 from Arizona State University. From that point forward, Matt has been instructing flight students full-time and currently instructs foreign pilots at Falcon Field Airport. “I really enjoy my job,” explained Matt. “But it can be stressful with people trying to kill me everyday (students, weather, ATC, other pilots, the plane) but that’s my job to make sure everything and everyone is safe. Just like racing, if you do this job long enough you can anticipate others moves before they act so that you can prevent an accident or incident. I have many good stories of avoiding such things!”
I’ll never forget the time Matt was explaining to me how he likes to “eliminate risk” in his life. Naturally, I agreed with a raised brow. So! Matt likes to race cars and teach students to fly. I can see how that’s low risk…indirectly anyway.
Like many of us, the love of the race track and the excitement that goes along with it is like a drug to the vein. From a very early age, Matt has always been engulfed in the automotive world, influenced by the excitement and sounds that come along with it. His father always had a toy in the garage that needed to be tinkered with, polished, and driven. “He used to restore cars back in the day,” Matt explained. “I remember one time I asked my Dad if I could take the Porsche (1999 Porsche Carrera in a weird purple color, 6-speed manual) to school because my car was in the shop…and to my surprise he said yes! As long as I didn’t let it get rained on and only if I wash/wax it after. After driving it I couldn’t get enough of the feeling of speed.”
To be on the safe side, Matt’s parents sent him to the Skip Barber School to learn how to control his insatiable craving for speed. A drivers AA in a way! Before NASA, Matt had no prior racing experience, making Skip Barber the ultimate crash course (no pun intended) in learning how to race and control a car at speed.
Matt has been involved with NASA since it was known as Club Racing AZ, watching all the action from a flag station. With all the spectating that Matt was able to take in waving the various track flags, he gradually felt the bite from the racing “bug” and began his progression up the HPDE ladder. From the beginning, Matt has demonstrated a natural ability to drive and certainly couldn’t get enough of the rush of going 100mph with his hair on fire and inches from the walls.
For Matt, the choice for an E36 M3 was easy. Not only did he grow up with a quintessential BMW for his first car, but also owned an M3 prior to his current race car–same model but with a supercharger bringing power up to 450-ponies under the hood. “I was so comfortable in the car and was really in touch with how the car handled,” said Matt. “I figured it would make a great track car. I was able to slowly upgrade it over the years so as to not break my limited budget. Eventually, it turned into a great looking race car with the help of Precision Chassis Works and Ultimate Auto Works.”
One of Matt’s most memorable moments took place at Miller Motorsports Park in Toole, Utah last September. Having been there myself and in the same pit area with Matt, I remember it well. His very healthy PTB/TTB E36 M3 was under utmost scrutiny; weighed multiple times, GPS tracking, dynoed, even the engine was fully inspected to check compression, bore and stroke. In the midst of the “tech” madness, all Matt could think about was going faster and leaving his mark in the TTB class. ‘I have to push harder to get this damn track record’ went on in his mind. He would not be satisfied until he had another track record under his belt and a first place win in TTB. Both of those goals were achieved that weekend.
“I remember getting off the track early because I knew I was light on fuel. The grid marshal waved me into the weigh station and pushed me up the ramps and on to the scales,” said Matt. “My dad was there and immediately I knew something was up because he was jumping up and down with a big smile on his face. He yelled “2:09.89″! I started yelling and bouncing up and down in my seat, so much that the grid marshal had to tell me to sit still so he could weigh me! I knew I set a very good lap but didn’t expect to beat the track record by over a second and a half! One of my best memories especially since my Dad was there to experience it with me.”
As most of our drivers have found, one of the greatest aspects of motorsports is the camaraderie that develops within the NASA community. Likewise, Matt enjoys helping other racers at the track, or simply spending quality time with them. It’s usually easy to do in such a tight community of people, as everyone shares a common passion. When times get tough, people are usually happy to help a driver in need. Matt discovered this first-hand when his car suffered a catastrophic engine failure at PIR during his first race with NASA-AZ. “I remember when I blew my engine at the first PIR event this year,” said Matt. “People really stepped up and helped me get my car onto a trailer and home to my garage without really asking for much in return (Thanks Paul Bloomberg!)”
I think it’s safe to say that there are a fair number of spectators that have been converted into participants by watching drivers like Matt. Those of you that made the switch and gave track driving a try will likely agree that it’s fairly easy to get addicted to the sport. With his approachable personality and solid driver ability, Matt offers qualities that make him an example driver in our community. “I really love that feeling of having the fans in the grandstands watching me do my thing on track. Hopefully I may influence them as others did for me when I was sitting watching racing in the grandstands thinking that could be me on track.”
As fun as racing can be, there are inherent risks involved. We of course know Matt likes to reduce his “exposure to risk”, but he has bared witness to some fearful moments. Matt recalls two particular instances at FIR Main:
“I have been really lucky where I have not had any real scary moments on track but I have experienced two scary moments of others (both at the night event). I remember going into turn one and two at FIR main at the night event last year thinking the track was clear ahead only to see lots of dust and a car upside down in the tire wall! I immediately had that “holy shit” moment and hoped the person was ok. Oddly enough that was not was made it scary. Rather, it was his girlfriend in the car behind me screaming her head off thinking her boyfriend was in the car hurt badly or dead and she couldn’t get out of the car to help. Her screams gave me that sinking pit feeling in my stomach and goosebumps on my skin and still do to this day even thinking about it. I had that same feeling when I got word of what had happened at the last night event at FIR when Tage’s car caught fire. I hope he has a speedy recovery!”
Everyone in racing knows support is everything and safety is paramount. From family, friends, finances, and emotions; it is all a part of the large complex web of what makes or breaks a driver. Naturally, family members will have their worries when a loved one goes out and rolls the dice on the track. “My family and girlfriend really support me and my racing, but that doesn’t mean they have to like it. My mom and my girlfriend get really nervous for my safety when they know I am going on track,” explained Matt.
While the circumstances that occurred at FIR Main were unfortunate, they are nonetheless reminders of what safety gear can do in the event of the unexpected. It is a critical reminder to us all that investing in safety equipment and being prepared can save your life.
This doesn’t always make parents feel better about our “sport” even when you show them that it is reasonably safe. Matt recalled the one time he took his mother on track for a ride-along, thinking it would tame some of her worries. It would be her first time in the car with Matt, and she exhibited a lot of hesitation. “She was very reluctant to even get in the car with me,” Matt explained. “I said ‘…oh don’t worry about it. I will go slow and we will only do a couple laps.’ So we went out there in a Time Trial session and I kept increasing the speed till I was at 8/10ths of my normal pace. She then started screaming and trying to find something to hold on to and began stomping the imaginary brake pedal to the floor. Great memories!”
While I doubt Matt’s mother will be going for another ride-along, she certainly understands that his passion for racing isn’t going away any time soon. With such a close family, there is a natural level of acceptance and support from them all. While Matt continues his efforts in racing, and perhaps to take it to a professional level someday, he maintains a healthy life/racing balance with his girlfriend of over three years, Tamara. “I want to get married sometime soon and have a family of my own with the love of my life Tamara,” Matt explained. “She really makes me a better person and supports me though the good and the bad.”
So there you have it! The various sides of this young man’s life; pilot, flight instructor, racer, family-oriented and all-around good guy that we know as Matt McIntyre. If you see him at the track, be sure to take time to say hello. More than likely you’ll be greeted with a smile.
“I just want to say thank you to everyone at NASA for the love and support over the years as well as Geri for taking the time to write some great articles on some really great people. If anyone sees me at the track or out and about, please feel free to come talk and introduce yourself!” –Matt McIntyre
Article Written by Geri Amani