Back in the late 1980's the name Jankowiak appeared in Victory Lane following many Modified races at Lancaster National Speedway and Dragway. Those wins were authored by the late Tony Jankowiak. A Jankowiak once again graced that same Victory Lane on Saturday when Tony's son, Andy Jankowiak earned the checkered flag.
Andy, 29, claimed his first career victory in the asphalt Modified ranks at Lancaster winning the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series "Fans in the Stands 75". The triumph proved both popular and emotional.
It was all the more impressive because Andy was driving in his first race for the newly created team co-owned by partners Bud Dreher and retired asphalt Modified driver Tom McGrath.
"As this is our first race together with this new team and we're in Victory Lane I guess you can say we're one-for-one," said Jankowiak." Maybe we should quit while we're ahead."
Many years ago Tony Jankowiak was developing a successful asphalt Modified career when he lost his life in 1990 in a Modified racing accident at the Stafford Motor Speedway in Connecticut. In the years that have followed, Andy has been enjoying his own rising career which has included victories at many tracks including Lancaster in various divisions including Sportsman type cars, Street Stocks, 4-Cylinders and TQ Midgets.
Since moving to the headlining asphalt Modifieds just a few years ago, Jankowiak enjoyed his first overall career asphalt Modified race wins when he won the Race of Champions asphalt Modified 2014 event at Holland Motorsports Complex and followed that with a second ROC triumph at Oswego Speedway in 2015. He also earned an open Modified victory two years ago in Hickory, N.C. Until last Saturday, however, he had never won victory in an asphalt Modified at Lancaster.
While too young to remember his father's racing career, Jankowiak did enjoy growing up around the sport.
"I remember sitting in the stands growing up at Lancaster sitting in those first turn stands and watching the races with Bill Colton Sr.," said Jankowiak. "To know that my father was a Modified winner here at Lancaster and now I've joined him is special."
In Saturday's "Fans in the Stands 75", Jankowiak passed Tyler Rypkema following a lap 45 restart and was never headed after that despite the persistent challenges of George Skora III who would eventually place second.
In Victory Lane Jankowiak spoke about his new team.
"I didn't know what my car was going to do today," said Jankowiak. "It's always different in race trim then it is in practice trim so I took a guess, and I thought we guessed wrong. I think the left rear tire took off and I thought it was loose but it ended up being too tight. For the first time out we really nailed it. The car just never gave up. This new team is incredible. They built the car for me, and I can't say I did much. I'm building other cars too. It was a long winter."
McGrath, who had won plenty of Modified races during his long career was delighted with the outcome for his new team.
"This is a nice way to start the season," said McGrath. "We were hoping for a top-five. I think we had a top-five car but you put Andy behind the wheel, and it just all of a sudden becomes a winner. I'm so happy for Andy. He said on the radio that I haven't had a Modified win in two years, I need this. This new team was all Bud's idea. I said if you want to do it I'll build it and here we are."
Wearing both smiles of joy as well as tears of heartfelt remembrance Debbie Jankowiak, Tony's wife and Andy's mother summed up the events Saturday perfectly. "I'm so happy and proud for Andy. This means so much for the both of us. This is special."
Also Saturday at Lancaster, Skora's day can best be described as a yo-yo of sorts as he had a season's worth of ups and downs on his way to the runner-up finish.
Skora began the day by being involved in a practice accident that damaged the left rear of his car. After repairs were made, Skora was fastest in time trials running a lap of 16.912 seconds on Lancaster's half-mile oval. Poised to start his heat race from the pole, Skora was forced pit side at the dropping of the heat race green flag with driveline issues.
Skora started the "Fans in the Stands 75", from the back of the 17 car field and began to work his way towards the front. He had other issues which necessitated trips to the pits under caution periods on laps 35 and on lap 39. When the race resumed on the lap 39 restart Amy Catalano and Kevin Miller touched wheels on the backstretch sending Catalano into the backstretch wall. Skora spun in the incident. Catalano was uninjured.
Skora recovered to race his way back to second but could not get around Jankowiak.
"This is one of those days that I had "Days of Thunder" moments," said Skora. "Everything under the sun happened. I hit everything. I gave it all I had."
In the 4-Cylinder class at Lancaster, Jason Anasiewicz has now led every lap this season, winning the first two races of 2017. Other winners were Tim Gullo, ROC Super Stocks and Rich Sharpe, Street Stocks.