By CAMDEN PROUD
“I can’t believe it. This is a lot of hard work, it’s just so much work,” offered Andy Jankowiak, out of breath and clearly relieved after scoring his first indoor victory in two years. “I wanted this so bad and it just feels good to be in this position again.”
Friday night marked the first Indoor Auto Racing event held in New York State in more than 16 years (Niagara Falls, 2002) and Jankowiak, a New York State pavement Modified star, had a chance to etch his name into the history book as the first winner of the Albany Indoor Race at Times Union Center, but instead it ended in heartbreak.
29 year-old Jankowiak had two indoor wins under his belt already prior to this weekend, one at Trenton in 2014, and most recently he was the 2015 Gambler’s Classic champion in Atlantic City. On one of the two indoor stops which hosted two 40-lap main events back to back each night, the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series regular was leading Friday night’s main event with just over ten laps to go, but got together with Erick Rudolph on a restart, eliminating his chances at victory and resulting in a recovery effort for a sixth place finish.
“I wanted it so bad last night,” mentioned Jankowiak. “I don’t think I’ve ever been more dejected in my life until then, but I knew if I could rebound today that it would be really special. It’s just an awesome feeling to be standing in this position.”
The second generation driver from Tonawanda, N.Y. no doubt has a familiar name, as he is the son of longtime Tour Modified driver Tony Jankowiak. His family has ties with Richie Evans, Ted Christopher, and some of the biggest names in Modified racing, but for Andy, there’s nothing like running indoors.
“I’ve never done drugs, but this is pretty close,” joked Jankowiak about racing on the indoor tour. “I just want to say thanks to the Indoor Auto Racing Championship for everything they do. I wouldn’t know what to do without this stuff. Teddy (Christopher) used to say that ‘this is my drug’ too. It helps get us through the winter.”
Some of the best pavement Modified, dirt Modified and Supermodified drivers across the country strap into cars and compete on the indoor tour in events at Trenton, Allentown, Atlantic City, and Albany. That’s what makes coming so close to getting a win but winding up into the outside wall that much more of a tough pill to swallow. It’s tough sledding out there. Fortunately, Jankowiak has a good support system from his crew and of course Rick Kluth at Kluth Motorsports, who put together his 2KWIK Chassis that clearly, despite the Mark Lafler undertaking on the indoor circuit, is still extremely competitive.
“I have a great support system,” cited Jankowiak. “I have a good car and a good group of guys. Rick Kluth says that raceday ends at midnight, so today was a new day. I just have to thank all my guys, the crew for all the work they put in. It’s a great deal. We’re going to enjoy it and really look forward to coming back next year.”
Jankowiak now shifts his attention to the 2018 Tour Modified season, which beings with the RoC Series Opener at his home track of the Lancaster National Speedway on Saturday, May 12.