Andy Jankowiak does not have the most decorated car by any means when he shows up on race day, but when it becomes time for the green flag the 27-year-old is typically a force to reckon with.
The first-time Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour winner in 2014 will take his talents south to participate in the two 100-lap Modified races at the historic Bowman Gray Stadium (NC) as part of the NASCAR K&N Pro East Series weekend at the end of May. It is not necessarily a bucket list event for the driver that resides near Buffalo, New York, but he does have an appreciation for the more than 65-year-old racetrack.
“I don’t think there is any logic behind the decision,” Jankowiak recently told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We are Modified enthusiasts and it’s an important part of Modified racing. It’s a big part of NASCAR history. I am a big history buff; Bowman Gray and Greenville-Pickens are two of my favorite tracks. We are going to try and go to both of them this year.”
“Andy J.”, as he is popularly known around the racing community, racked up quite the resume in his years of weekly racing prior to joining the RoC Tour full time. With wins at multiple tracks throughout Upstate New York, he has done it all with a frugally funded effort and plans to bring the green machine he finished second with at the Chemung Speedrome RoC season opener down to the Tarheel State.
“We’re going to bring (our Race of Champions car),” Jankowiak explained. “We just kind of do it ourselves. Fuel costs aren’t that bad right now and tires are only $150. If we can keep the wheels on it we will be alright.”
Jankowiak continued by somewhat joking that they have the means to run a couple bigger shows each year including past runs in the Turkey Derby at Wall Stadium Speedway (NJ), but that it is never financially wise to do so.
Despite it being a tight-knit group working hard on the Modified, he has received some tips from a wealth of experienced names before heading down to The Madhouse.
“A couple guys have been helping me out,” Jankowiak said. “I have some family ties to the Riggs Racing team. Andy Seuss and those guys have helped me out and got me talking to John Smith. We got some good advice. Danny Bohn has been very helpful. We do a lot of racing over in Jersey so we got to know them guys a little bit. Everyone has been more than welcoming.”
Andy is the son of the late Tony Jankowiak, who lost his life in a crash at Stafford Motor Speedway (CT) in 1990. Tony recorded a win south of the Mason-Dixon in 1989 at Motor Mile Speedway (VA), and Andy continued in his father’s footsteps with an interest in the ground pounders at a young age. In fact, he will get to compete at Bowman Gray with one competitor that he had the opportunity to work with as a teenager.
“One of my father’s sponsors used to sponsor the Riggs team when Junior Miller drove for them and they took me down to Martinsville,” Jankowiak mentioned. “I was actually on Junior Miller’s pit crew when I was 12. I have a picture of me and Junior; I was going to bring it with. I don’t know if it’s going to help or hurt my status out there. It’s probably 50-50.”
Jankowiak has also recently had some success on smaller tracks, winning indoor features in a TQ Midget in both Trenton and Atlantic City, New Jersey. Nevertheless, he knows that coming into a facility like the Winston-Salem ¼-mile bullring will not be any easy feat.
“It’s not realistic to think you are going to go in there and be beating up on anyone, I don’t care how good our stuff is,” Jankowiak said. “We’ve got good enough stuff that we can go down there and run. Obviously we’re going under to their territory so we don’t expect anything is going to be easy, but we tend to adapt quick and from what I’ve seen up there I think anything can happen.”
Anything can truly happen at Bowman Gray Stadium, which means do not be surprised to see Andy Jankowiak running with North Carolina’s finest on this particular Friday and Saturday night.
-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com New York & Pennsylvania Editor – Twitter: @Aaron_Creed
-Photo credit: Speed51.com