Story By: DALE WOLBRINK / NYIRP AT LANCASTER – LANCASTER, NY – From the high banks of Daytona International Speedway to the D-shape of Lancaster Speedway at New York International Raceway Park (NYIRP), Andy Jankowiak has had quite a 2021 season thus far.
While he may be considered an underdog on the ARCA Series, where he’s had four starts this year, the Tonawanda, NY, native could be considered the big dog when the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour hits the Western NY race track this weekend for the Nu-Way Auto Parts 150.
His cumulative win total at the speedway, across all divisions, puts Jankowiak ninth on the all-time win list at Lancaster with 40 victories. He has five career modified wins at the Speedway; including the most recent tour-type Modified event at the track. He sits tied for third on the all-time win list in the Sportsman Modified division with 24 career victories.
Jankowiak is undefeated in Modified competition at his home track this year. He’s been victorious in the tour-type Modified and both Sportsman division events held at the asphalt oval at NYIRP.
This weekend; however, is not about keeping the win streak alive. For the driver known simply as Andy J., the goals are to gain knowledge, run competitively and hopefully be in contention for the win.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that I have a home track advantage,” said Jankowiak, “but we are still learning. I’m going in with high hopes. We’ll just take things as they come and hope to finish well.”
Fairly new to the Modified Tour, the Steve Mendoza owned team has run 10 Modified Tour races and only four with Jankowiak behind the wheel. All four of those starts have come at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Thompson, CT.
“It’s easier to learn at your home track,” said Jankowiak. “When you eliminate the variables of learning a new track, it helps you learn other things about the car, to find the balance and the comfort in our car. Not only for the next time we come back but for the next time we run the Tour.”
Acknowledging the exceptional talent of the drivers and teams on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, the 33-year old driver sees the Nu-Way Auto Parts 150 not only as a way for his team to get better but also to shine a light on his home track.
“Showcasing my home track is cool. I’m so excited that Lancaster will be in the spotlight,” said Jankowiak. “Seriously, it’s the coolest short track in North America.”
By ‘cool’ he means the D-shaped front stretch that provides plenty of room for side-by-side racing and a totally unique perspective for fans. Several years back, the track was reconfigured, moving the track toward the drag strip.
“The grandstands are so close to the race track, it’s so cool for the fans to be just feet from the track,” said Jankowiak, with an obvious enthusiasm for the facility. “The two completely different ends of the track drive very differently. Between the huge arc of the front stretch and the traction compound from the drag strip, it makes this place hard to drive. It’s a driver’s track.”
“Everyone is going to fall in love with this place!”
Andy J. did just that as a young boy. The now veteran competitor recalls sitting in the turn one grandstands with his Mom cheering on his favorite drivers, sitting in the racecars after the races and dreaming of one day being a driver himself.
Jankowiak is big on making dreams come true. In 2018, he won his father’s memorial race. Tony Jankowiak died in a racing accident at Stafford Motor Speedway in 1990. And, today Andy is living his dream; running Daytona in the ARCA Menards Series and making three additional starts, all with finishes inside the top-ten, winning Modified races and competing on the Modified Tour.
He’s also now a fan-favorite himself. In February, during the ARCA Menards Series event at Daytona, the 33-year old driver was highlighted on the FOX broadcast as the All-American dream-chasing, pizza delivery guy. His story turned Chase Elliott into a fan.
The Cup champion joined a brethren of fans that day. A host of Facebook pages are dedicated to his fandom. The private group Friends Who Like Andy Jankowiak Racing has 92 members and the Jankowiak Mafia page has over 4,000 active and engaged followers. His own racing Facebook page is over 2,000 friends strong.
At Lancaster, Andy J. is well known and deeply regarded. And the feeling is mutual.
“I’m so proud of our race tracks in this area, especially Lancaster,” said Jankowiak. “It’s a part of the racing world that people skip for some reason. It’s good for us to get people here to check it out.
Jankowiak, who looks to put himself and Lancaster ‘on the map’, is hopeful that fans will turn out in great numbers to see a great race so that NYIRP becomes a regular stop on the tour.
General admission tickets are on sale for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event at New York International Raceway Park (NYIRP) in Lancaster, NY. Grandstand tickets for the Nu-Way Auto Parts 150, scheduled for Saturday, July 31, are available at SeetheEvents.com for $35 for adults and $15 for children ages 12 and under.
Grandstands will open at 1pm with practice beginning at 2pm. Racing begins at 5pm. In addition to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, the race card also includes Sportsman, 4-Cylinders and Street Stocks. There will be a jumbotron presented by JJ Supply of NC for fan’s further enjoyment of the racing action and a fireworks display by Skylighters of NY to conclude the night of racing excitement.
T-shirts for the inaugural Nu-Way Auto Parts 150, designed by driver of the WMT #64, Timmy Solomito, are on sale by visiting SeetheEvents.com. The event website is hosted by event promoter and Lancaster Speedway/NYIRP partner, Speed Enterprises Entertainment.
Located just 30 miles from Niagara Falls in Lancaster, New York International Raceway Park is home to the half-mile Lancaster Speedway asphalt oval as well as a 1/8-mile drag strip featuring IHRA sanctioned drag racing.
“I’m truly blessed to have grown up here and to have so many amazing memories.”
It could be time for one more special memory for Andy J. and his crowd of fans.
“We need to be realistic about our chances,” added Jankowiak. “This is a time for us to learn together, to make gains and have a good finish. But, if we have our ducks in a row, we can certainly be a contender.”