From time to time we are sharing the story of Andy Jankowiak, a popular young driver from western New York State. Andy has caught the eye of many race fans for his wins at many different race tracks all over the east coast, his ability to do more with less and the fact he always seems to be having fun. Here is his latest installment, Andy J on the Road.
I don’t think I have ever felt more accomplished in my racing career then I felt as I read Mark Bourcier’s magazine article about our racing operation in the recent Dick Berggen’s Speedway Illustrated.
Time Bandits. I’m not much for images as you can probably tell. I just like to race and I have a great group behind me that allows me to do that. If I had to pick an image a “throwback” is what I would try to be. I grew up in a racing family and I idolized the racing heros of the old days. I never lost a trivia round at the FOAR SCORE racing Christmas party because I had read every coffee table racing book I could put my hands on. I love this sport and everything that is good about it. I would love it if the racing world would portray me for the throw back role. I sometimes get discouraged when I think about how racing is today and how it used to be so different. You have to be in it for the right reasons. For me, first and foremost, Its all about those fans in the stands. If just a few extra come out every week because they enjoy watching me race then that is my greatest accomplishment in racing. I’m nothing but humbled at all the attention and support we have gained over the course of this season. Its so cool to have a guy like Bones taking a liking to what were doing. I know we’re doing something right. Bouncing around to new tracks, running multiple nights a week, shaking hands with the guys after its all over and meeting fans is what it is all about…to me anyway….oh, winning is fun too!
We have certainly been busy lately. Its been a LONG stretch run here and its not over. Truth be told between racing, working and and maybe some Halloween antics I have just been to worn out to jump on here and articulate my experiences as much as I should! Summer has turned to fall since I have done an extensive write up and with the Fall comes the bigger races for the Modifieds. I feel like we have performed very well as of late but I also feel like we let a couple of chances for better finishes slip through our fingers as of late.
I made a bad call in the US Open to try and save some tire after our pit stop. I let a couple hard chargers go and had trouble getting back by later in the event. My struggles to get back to the lead allowed the 60 to get by us after being taken high trying to make a pass in the top three. I got back to second but could not get back by the red 60. I firmly believe that the fastest car won the race that day but I think our strategy should have put us to the lead before him on a track that wasn’t easy to pass on. I felt like I let the guys down on that one. Second isn’t a bad day…second makes you think the most though. The closer you get the more you wonder I suppose.
I believe we had a car that was as strong as anyone’s in the ROC 200 in Chemung. We had been bounced around a bit in the first 100 laps but kept making our way back into the top 3 to collect on the generous lap money that was being offered. The car was so strong.. We got clipped trying to miss a wreck after our pit stop and bent a spindle with 50 to go. We got the front end back close but the toe was still out and inch when we went back out. We got to forth, pressing for third by lap 200. A third place finish would have placed us in second in the final points instead of third. Still not a bad weekend, but I’m always looking for more and wondering what I could have done different.
The conclusion of the ROC season brought some bad news as I learned that my good friend, mentor and former car owner Jim Sulzbach had passed away. I was and have been beside myself a bit after we lost Jim. We made my Modified into a #57 Jim and Bob’s sponsored machine for the weekend’s events at Orange County only to see the rains fall and a cancellation. The timing felt right to head back to a track I had not visited in a while. A track that Jim and I won a championship at. We loaded up and went to Perry Speedway for the 10k race. I’m sure many of you were there. We started on the pole and I had the wrong strategy from the get go for the race that ended up playing out. The plan was to do a no pit stop. I think we might have been ok with it if not for having forty eight caution flags and two or three red flags. We just cycled out the tires. Regardless we led most of it. I ran a race I wasn’t proud of though. I was trying to hold a lead and win a race with a car that just wasn’t going to win that day….try as I may. We held on until a late red flag with ten to go and I gave way to the pit stop cars after the start. Finished forth in a race I would like to have back. I was happy we went though.
Now then, back to the Koma tour we go for a back to back weekend at Orange County Speedway and Carteret County Speedway! Oh my did I love Orange County!! That was a racetrack we we hooked up quick over there! Fast Fast Fast in practice on a track that’s fast in general. I called my Buddy Rick Kluth for some last minuet tweaking after hot laps we we got better yet! The guys nailed the pit stop after we made some good calls on when to pit in the event and we found the lead around lap 100 of the 125 lap event. I didn’t get a good restart around lap 110 and I gave way to settle into second with a very fast car. We were patient and with 8 to go I had worked my way back under the leader heading down the back stretch only to get caught up in a big lap car wreck that we couldn’t avoid. Ended a fun race that was going to hopefully end with another victory. I was so proud of how the whole team performed that night, it was a shame we didn’t get the result.
Carteret was a different story. I don’t think anyone came out of that race feeling that they did everything perfect…Maybe Cale did…I sure didn’t though. A brand new surface brought about a set of challenges and surprises no one there was really ready for. That place was slick. We unloaded pretty bad. I made some huge changes after the Friday test session. We caught a restart wreck early and bent the front end up pretty good. Bottomed out both tie rods only to still have a lot of toe out. We raced on though and it was still drive able. A good pit strategy put us in second after we spent some time saving a bit of rubber on a long run. I hit the gas on the start and the car went every way but strait..I had not experienced a restart upfront yet. It took a couple laps to get the tires to hook up…much more so then I had experienced before on any other surface. I wasn’t ready for that. By the time I got settled down I was in forth. We got hooked up after a few laps but had trouble passing. I got to third eventually and we were running down the two leaders but we just ran out of laps. Still another solid run! You have to take what you can get on days where you’re not perfect. We certainly were not perfect there.
We left Carteret at around midnight. Drove all night to meet Rick Kluth 800 miles away at Waterford for me to run the 2Kwik car over there. We opted for the tire saving strategy and an early pit stop when most guys opted to do the no pit in the 65 lap race. Once again we were on the wrong side of how the race played out. The race went green for the final 40 laps. We were on our way to a solid top ten either way before we got pinched off in the wall during our charge to the front and suffered some front end damage. We lost a few important spots to cars we had pitted with after the incident as well. Came home 11th with a right front wheel that had been shortened up from 15 inches to 13…in one piece though…sort of.
I do need to keep up on this better lol. Between all the work and losing my buddy Jim I just have not found the motivation as of late…BUT this messages comes with promises of doing a better job keeping up on the antics in the future.
All in all I think we have been some big gains as of late as a race team. I think we had 3 race winning strategies to go along with a race winning setup during this stretch. Their are a million ways to lose a race and only one way to win, you have to be perfect. I want us to be the team everyone worries about going into a race weekend. I want to go toe to toe with the best every week and feel like we belong there. We’re so close and we get better every time we hit the track. I have the best people behind me helping me, pushing me guiding me and sometimes carrying me to that level because we all believe that is where we deserve to be. The best part of all is all of you who support us and make some mention to me that you appreciate what were doing. I love racing and I love winning but it means nothing without all of my supporters and fans their to enjoy it with us. I mean every bit of that. Racing meant as much to me as a fan growing up as it does as a driver today. I feel that same buzz in the driver’s seat that I used to when I watched Tom McGrath and Karl Hehr from the stands as a kid. Everyone that roots for us is right there with us. I’m just glad to be a part of it. Thank you!!!