STATESVILLE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — NASCAR is heading to the longest oval on the schedule this weekend and that includes the ARCA Menards Series, a feeder series for NASCAR. While Talladega is the largest track, it gives some of the smallest teams and drivers a chance to run up front. You can call it “the great equalizer”.
One of the smaller teams that hopes to be in contention at Talladega is KLAS Motorsports based in Statesville. Andy Jankowiak is a second-generation race car driver, currently competing part-time for KLAS.
Jankowiak works behind the wheel on and off the track for a chance to race a handful of races every season, something he has wanted to do since he was a kid.
“I grew up a little kid watching Dale Earnhardt and Rusty Wallace and dreaming about racing on all these tracks, so it’s the dream,” said Jankowiak.
For now, the dream of racing at the highest level lives in a small, but brand-new garage in Statesville. Jankowiak isn’t just a racer, he works under the hood. It all comes naturally as he was born into a racing family.
“My dad worked on a pit crew for my Uncle Tommy and that’s how he met my mom. So technically I wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for racing,” said Jankowiak.
The Jankowiak family made a name for themselves in Western New York, a city known by most for major sports teams like the Buffalo Bills.
“Believe it or not, there is a really strong following for racing in Western New York. We have a lot of great tracks up there, dirt and asphalt,” said Jankowiak.
After cutting his teeth at those local tracks, Jankowiak wanted more. The ARCA Menards Series competes at many of the same tracks as the NASCAR Cup Series. The cost is much lower, but still a pretty penny for small teams.
Jankowiak races part-time in the #73 and his Western New York roots to fund his career. When he’s not at a racetrack, he delivers pizza for Bob & John’s La Hacienda in North Buffalo. It’s a job he has held for about 15 years.
“There are all into it. They know what we are doing. If I ever don’t get a shift covered they will fire me, but I have always been pretty good wheeling and dealing and making favors,” said Jankowiak.
Once his shift is covered, Jankowiak makes the 629-mile drive from his hometown of Tonawanda, New York to the race shop in Statesville, North Carolina. Right now he is here for about a month with a slate of three races.
“I just joined the local gym and I am now a Food Lion MVP so I guess I am a local resident now, I don’t know how that really works,” said Jankowiak.
What Jankowiak knows, is how to race. In February he was running in the top five of the ARCA Series opener at Daytona International Speedway until a late race crash took him out of contention.
“The car showed great speed and there has been a lot of hard work going into it so it’s always rewarding to go to the track and see things going good,” said Jankowiak.
Speed is the name of the game at Talladega. It’s a similar track to Daytona, where small teams have a chance to shine, as long as there is a little luck on their side.
“It’s superspeedway racing so you just never know what’s going to happen,” said Jankowiak.
Andy Jankowiak’s father and uncle were killed in separate racing crashes in 1989 and 1990, but he continues the family legacy of racing at the top level. You can watch the ARCA race this Saturday at 12:30 on FS1.