By Tim Packman
DAYTONA BEACH, FL – Andy Jankowiak and the No. 73 Chevrolet team sure as heck had an interesting day at Daytona. For fans of the Ken Schrader Real Racer of the Year Award winner, it was done in typical “Andy J. Way” to earn his sixth-place finish.
When the ARCA Menards Series took the initial green-flag for their 80-lap race at Daytona International Speedway, Jankowiak was lined up 12th. It didn’t take him long to find the top-five getting there in the first 10 laps.
A sliding trip through the infield grass, after getting pushed down there, the part-time pizza delivery driver battled back from the adversity to gain the impressive finish. This is his second-consecutive top-10 at Daytona in as many attempts.
“The car was fast as anything,” a grass covered Jankowiak said outside his car in the garage. “TJ Majors (spotter) put us in all the right lines. We were dragging the brakes following in the Venturini (Motorsports) line.
“This car was awesome, special thanks to Andy Seuss and Mr. Dayton, Aaron Jones and everyone involved in making this car go fast gave me a great hot rod.
“We were in the top-five and, unfortunately, got caught up in one of those racing deals. Someone didn’t know the caution was out, I got his from the outside and sent me mowing down there in the grass.
“With all the grass and dirt flying in the car, it went dark. We got lucky there wasn’t more damage to the car.”
In the early going, the native on Tonawanda, NY quickly jumped into fifth place.
After a caution, the self-owned team elected to pit and fell to 13th and remained there until the mid-race break on Lap 40. Electing not to pit, Jankowiak restarted seventh and two laps later, he was in fourth.
The fate of the race appeared to change for Jankowiak when a caution came out for the aforementioned multi-car wreck behind him on the backstretch. As the field slowed into Turn 3, a car behind him appeared to still be at race speed.
Pushing another car to Jankowiak’s outside, the two came down on him forcing his car into the infield and sliding through the grass. After a quick pit stop to asses there was no great damage, the No. 73 returned to action into 18th place and still on the lead lap.
“I’m really proud of my pit crew,” Jankowiak said. “We came down pit road, nobody panicked, we had a really good plan and got the car fixed.
“We lucked out with a few more cautions and running some good lines.”
Just eight laps later, he was up to eighth and then sixth by Lap 65. Working to the low side, a few cars drafted by on the high side and he fell to ninth when a caution came out.
Remaining on the 2.5-mile superspeedway, Jankowiak and team didn’t pit restarting sixth with 15 laps remaining. And, when the checkered flag flew, that’s where he would finish.
Of course, he wanted to better last year’s top-10 finish with a top-five. But, the efforts weren’t lost on the team owner/driver.
“It sucks to get that close,” Jankowiak said. “It all could have been over there in the grass. We’ll take it. I want to keep doing this and we’re actively looking for sponsors to get on board to make this deal better.
“We raced Daytona today, compared to how I raced here last year with it being my first time. That was pretty cool.”