This weekend, the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series will host its annual Tommy Druar/Tony Jankowiak Memorial. While the event is taking place at a new venue this year, it will still be a very important race for Modified racer Andy Jankowiak.
Andy Jankowiak is the son of Tony Jankowiak and nephew of Tommy Druar, who both lost their lives in separate racing accidents. “Andy J” carries on that family legacy, and the annual tribute race in their memory is one of the most meaningful races of the year as a result. He discussed this weekend’s race on Speed51’s “The Bullring” on Monday.
“Obviously, it’s a huge deal for our family,” said Jankowiak. “My uncle, Tommy Druar, and my father, Tony Jankowiak, they were my racing heroes. My father got his start in racing on Tommy Druar’s pit crew. That’s how he met my mother, my mother was Tommy Druar’s sister. I’m a product of racing, for sure. I wouldn’t exist without it. I figure that’s why I race the way I do.”
While both Druar and Tony Jankowiak passed away early in Andy Jankowiak’s life, he still feels their influence and presence in their career and is proud to carry their legacy.
“Growing up, those guys were my heroes. You see all the scrapbooks and hear all the stories. They didn’t just make stories on the racetrack, they made them off, too. They were a lot of fun. They’re legends around here, and we look forward to this weekend every single year.
“I’ve ran 73 and ran 37 in tribute to them. I’ve considered my career an extension of their story. They’re the reason I race. They were heroes when I was growing up. They were both gone by the time I was two, so I didn’t learn from them in person, but you can’t imagine the stories I heard growing up and how important they were to my family. I feel like I knew them just hearing the stories and growing up in the family.”
Jankowiak is a former winner of the “Tommy/Tony,” taking the checkered flag in 2018. However, this year’s race will take place at Lake Erie Speedway (PA) rather than Lancaster National Speedway (NY). While COVID restrictions are preventing the race from taking place at its only home to date, Jankowiak is excited to see the event at Lake Erie.
“This year is going to be a little different. We’re going to be at Lake Erie Speedway because of the COVID situation. It’s been at Lancaster for the duration of the race, but with everything going on we approached [Joe] Skotnicki with RoC and asked if there was anywhere else we could do it. He came back with this idea.
“It’s going to be a little different, but Lake Erie is such a cool race track. We’re really looking forward to going over there. It’s just such a good modified race track. We are so blessed in Western New York and Pennsylvania. Lancaster, Holland, Erie, we have some of the best side-by-side tracks there. If you haven’t been to Lake Erie Speedway, it’s worth checking out, for sure.”
Jankowiak also noted that his father and uncle loved traveling to new tracks and venues all over the eastern United States. In that sense, taking their memorial race to a new track only fits that mindset.
“My dad loved to travel and trying new things out. He went to Riverside, he won a race at Pulaski County [now Motor Mile Speedway] down in Virginia. My uncle, his nickname was the ‘Traveling Man.’ He liked to go to different racetracks and travel.”
“They saw a lot of racetracks and saw some pretty cool ones. Lake Erie was after their time, but they saw some cool ones, for sure.”
Race fans who missed Jankowiak’s interview can click here to watch an on-demand replay of “The Bullring” presented by JEGS. Stay tuned to Speed51 for more coverage details regarding this weekend’s Tommy Druar/Tony Jankowiak Memorial at Lake Erie Speedway.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo