BY: Kyle Souza / PHOTO: Michael Jaworecki/MyRaceNews
Time to make the next step.
Andy Jankowiak, who has been to Victory Lane across the Northeast in multiple different styles of race cars, is ready to move to the ARCA Menards Series in 2021. Jankowiak acquired a car from former NASCAR Cup Series star Ken Schrader, and will head to Daytona International Speedway in January of ’21 to compete in a test session that will help him get approved for competition.
“It’s amazing, and I can’t believe it’s happening,” he told My Race News on Friday. “It’s so hard just to find a way and now that we have the way, it’s about the work. I’m excited to put the work in and try to make it something bigger than it already is.”
Jankowiak made his name in Modifieds, Midgets, dirt cars and more. He’s known for his glowing personality at the track, his work ethic, and social media interaction with family, friends and fans.
Following in the footsteps of his late father, Tony Jankowiak — a former regular at Lancaster National Speedway — and World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing champion at New Smyrna Speedway himself — Andy found success early in his career.
He’s become a staple in the paddock area at Race of Champions Modified Tour events, along with Tri Track Open Modified Series races, and as part of the Indoor Auto Racing Championship Series. Last year, he made his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour debut at the Sunoco World Series at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.
He’s been behind the wheel of just about everything.
“It’s the ability to focus, I’ve always been goal-oriented and I’ve known that I always wanted to be a race car driver,” Jankowiak said of how he is successful in different style rides. “Whether it’s Modifieds, Midgets, or anything in between, I want to go out there and win. I’ve always been hands-on and I try to get the most out of the car at the shop with preparation. I try to stay in good shape, eat well… just try to do all of the little things and hope it adds up to one big thing.”
His 2020 season already started with a championship — although it came in a different fashion than he would have expected and hoped it would. The Indoor Auto Racing Championship Series originally had four races planned, but when the COVID-19 pandemic started, the series was forced to cancel the finale in Syracuse, New York. Jankowiak, who was leading the points entering the race, earned the title.
“It’s a huge accomplishment — something I’ve chased for a while — Indoor is such a unique atmosphere because you really can’t have a bad race,” Jankowiak said. “What you always will remember about winning a championship is going into the last night, racing against someone, when you both know what you need to know and how bad you want it. There is a lot of pressure that goes into a situation like that and I enjoy those tasks — to be one of the best race car drivers, you have to stay cool under pressure. Without being able to race Erick Rudolph and Matt Janisch there at the end and test myself in that atmosphere is disappointing. I think I look forward to the opportunity to test myself against great drivers. But they aren’t getting the trophy back either — we’re keeping that one. Everyone is disappointed with it — it was a home race for us. We’ll take credit for the championship. The trophy is on display in my living room, and it’s just more incentive to go try and win another one next year.”
With all of this in the past, Jankowiak is looking towards his future — one that looks bright — but he will need some help to attain his goals. Jankowiak is seeking sponsorship for what he hopes will be three races in ARCA in 2021. The car he acquired is going to put him in the position to be successful.
The car will stay down south in the shop. Donnie Richeson will help Jankowiak achieve his dream by preparing the car for competition. The story behind the opportunity all lines up with what Jankowiak has been hoping would happen for years.
“It’s all crazy the way it all shook out, part of the way we got on the path was because of the pause in the racing season that we have, where our attention could go into something different,” he said. “It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, take the step and give myself the chance to do it. Sometimes it just seems so unattainable the way the sport works these days.”
“I have a good friend, Andy Seuss — I told him that I had interest and it was the right time, and he walked me through what I was going to be walking into and he gave me some great advice… he was the first person to suggest I contact Mr. Schrader. I’ve met him a few times at an awards ceremony. I contacted Karl Fredrickson (of Speedway Illustrated) and he was on board. He put me in touch with Mr. Schrader. I’m going to be on the track with really good equipment.”
Jankowiak knows two things are going to be crucial to success: sponsorship, and hard-work. He’s willing to do the work to find the sponsorship, and put in the work to get the car to the front of the field.
“We’re going to be able to go to Daytona, and that’s going to be awesome. But now that we have made it this far, the goal is to attain sponsorship,” he said. “I think what is realistic and ambitious at the same time is to run three races. In order to do it, we need the sponsorship. That’s the step where we are right now. We’re going to hit the ground running and try to find the funding we need to go to a couple of races as soon as we can.”
For Jankowiak, the opportunity is something he’s going to cherish.
“This is really going to help me get to the next level. It’s a dream come true,” he said. “It’s something I didn’t really see coming right away, but it never left my mind. I really think we can do something really good with it. We’re going to give it everything we can. Having it be possible, having a goal… it’s the dream and it’s going to be an experience of a lifetime. You never know what is going to happen. This is all really good equipment.”