SENTIMENTAL WIN FOR ANDREWS AND HIS HERO IN NIGHT SEVEN by Matt Kentfield and Jeremy Troiano
Youngster Is Living The Dream At Speedweeks
After Wednesday night’s Tour Type Modified feature at New Smyrna Speedway, Mike Andrews climbed from his #36 car with a smile a mile wide. The 21-year-old Long Islander had just finished second in the Eddie Whelen-owned machine in only his third Speedweeks start.
Mike Andrews (left) and Mike Ewanitsko (right) have made a great team at Speedweeks. (51 Photos)
He said after that race that it was a dream come true to finish so well in the car that one of his racing heroes Mike Ewanitsko had gotten out of just a few nights before after breaking four bones in his foot. If his dreams were realized with a second place finish, imagine his elation after winning the 50-lap Modified feature on Thursday.
“I guess this means this is an even bigger dream come true,” said an ecstatic Andrews. “Just to think about coming here to New Smyrna and winning is beyond anything I imagined. Just coming down here to even try a car out wasn’t possible and now I’ve got a chance to drive such a good car for Eddie Whelen.
“I came here this year and Eddie put his confidence in me and I can’t thank him enough. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for I don’t know how long. I’ve raced hard at Riverhead and other tracks just to have a shot and this is unbelievable.”
His shot came when Eddie Whelen asked the youngster to drive the #36 car after Ewanitsko’s injury. Andrews had planned to watch the Speedweeks action as a fan while lending a hand to Ewanitsko’s team after Friday night’s crash, but when the opportunity to fill Ewanitsko’s seat arose, Andrews was eager to give it a shot.
“We were walking through the pit area right after Mike’s wreck happened the other night and he came up to me and asked if I had my gear with me. I told him ‘yeah, I’ve got my gear,’ and he told me we’d talk tomorrow. We exchanged numbers and I came to the track next day. Eddie told me that Mikey hurt his foot real bad and they wanted to put some young blood in the car, so let’s go racing and the rest was history, I guess."
Growing up a Modified racing fan in Long Island, Andrews looked up to Ewanitsko. While Ewanitsko was winning races and championships around the Northeast, Andrews considered him a role model as he was starting his own racing career. Now that Andrews has made a name for himself in Modified racing, no one could be happier than the man he replaced in the seat of the #36.
“I’ve been impressed with Mike since he got in the car,” said Ewanitsko. “Friday night I didn’t know my foot was broken yet, but we said if I couldn’t get back in, we’d put Mike Andrews in the car. He was over here helping us put the car back together. My foot ended up being broken and we decided to let Mike run the show. He’s just improved immensely every night since and here we are in victory lane.”
There’s nobody that Andrews would’ve wanted to hear on the radio as he crossed beneath the checkered flag than his hero’s. Ewanitsko wouldn’t have had it any different either.
“When he crossed the line, I just said ‘You’re the man. Awesome job. I’m proud of you.’ Right away, he was talking
Andrews' moment of glory.
about how he grew up watching me and that I was his idol. That makes me feel great. It is awesome to see someone win a race that means that much to them. It probably choked me up as much as winning it myself.”
Andrews looked like a collected veteran at the front of the Tour Type Modified field Thursday night. He took the green flag from the pole and led all 25 laps but it was pressured for the lead by guys with a lot more experience than him. Rob Summers and John Blewett, III each tried to make runs around Andrews but nobody was going to deny the young driver his memorable win.
“I checked my mirror a couple of times,” said Andrews. “It looks closer in the mirror than it looks out on the track. At least I knew that my car was good and those guys were going to have a hard time getting by me.”
They weren’t able to get by him, in fact, and that’s why the win was even more special for Andrews. He knew he beat some of the best Modified drivers in the country on Thursday night and he’s been running right with them since setting behind the wheel. To succeed on a stage like New Smyrna Speedweeks is almost surreal for Andrews.
“Eddie just wanted to finish some races and that’s how it started off for us. We just wanted to come home in one
piece. Everything just got better and me and the crew started clicking and next thing you know we finish third, second, first. We’re just doing everything right, it’s amazing.
“It hasn’t even sunk in yet. It will probably sink in later. Maybe another hour or two, or day or two, but right now I’m on such a high.”
NIGHT SEVEN NOTES: MODS
LIA WRECKS AGAIN
For all the good luck that Donny Lia said he had the first couple few nights of Speedweeks, which resulted in two-straight wins, he’s countered that with two terrible nights in a row. On Wednesday night, Lia wrecked off of a restart while running second.
On Thursday night, he was the innocent victim of a multi-car accident while trying to come up through the pack after having to pit early in the race while running second when officials thought his car was leaking some fluid.
“It’s the same old story for me personally. I’ve just never had luck on my side long enough to make anything of anything.
“We worked on the car until 4 in the morning (after Wednesday night’s wreck). When we got back to the track at 8 (am) and worked on it the rest of the day. I feel bad for my guys. I feel they are paying the price for my personal bad luck. That is the way it has always been for me. Any high I’ve ever had, I’ve paid for it two fold in lows.”
BLEWETT, SEUSS TANGLE WITH NO HARD FEELINGS
About halfway through Thursday night’s Modified feature, Jimmy Blewett, who was the night’s quickest qualifier once again, got into it with surprising front runner Andy Seuss. The two drivers made contact heading into turn one with Blewett spinning off the track. Blewett righted his car, but pulled it into the infield and out of the event.
Despite the contact, there was no hard feelings between the drivers after the event.
“Everyone just checked up and I just piled in,” said Lia. “We came out of four and they were just all piled up on the front stretch. Before I could even think about hitting the breaks, we were in it.
“We had to come in because the officials said I was leaking something. I don’t know what that was all about. Maybe the oil tank breather was leaking or something. I don’t know what happened, but they let me back out. I don’t think it was anything actually leaking. All I know is that it put us in the back and it put us in this position here.”
The bad luck over the last two night has Lia’s team
The #18 got caught up in another accident on Thursday night. (51 Photo)
Andrews (#36) in front of rob Summers (#19). (Howie Hodge Photo)
“It was a rough race out there,” said Seuss. “Me and Jimmy Blewett had an issue out there, but he is a gentleman. He came over and he talked to me. I appreciate that.”
Things are getting better and better for Seuss as the week continues on.
“We are doing good,” added Seuss. “We got a fourth tonight. That is our best here so far. I can’t complain. We had some good racing. We came up through from ninth. That is what it is all about. You need to improve every night out here. We finished ahead of a lot of those guys that were in front of us in points. We didn’t come down here looking to race for points. We want to win a race before it is all over and we are racing with that attitude. It doesn’t hurt to be that good in the points though because they give a paycheck at the end of the week too.
“It is really great running with all of these guys. I really appreciate the respect they are giving me as the little guy. The 100-lapper is tomorrow and that is what we are all here for, the Richie Evans Memorial. Hopefully, we will just keep doing what we are doing.”
BEERS OVERCOMES QUALIFYING PROBLEMS
When many race fans showed up to the track on Thursday night, they were probably trying to figure out why Eric Beers was starting 22nd in the Modified feature. It wasn’t long to last for Beers though, as he finished a strong eighth.
Eric Beers (Howie Hodge Photo)
Andy Seuss (#70) gets into Jimmy Blewett's #12.
“We had an awesome car tonight,” said Blewett. “The car was strong. We had fast times and had a good start, but the battery went dead. It’s unfortunate but we’ll get to the bottom of this before the week’s out. Hopefully we’ll have it figured out for tomorrow night.
“My motor had cut out when I was getting into the turn there and that’s why (Seuss) got into me. I went over to talk to him and talked to him and there are no hard feelings. No big deal.”
Seuss was impressed with Blewett.
“We had a tire go down in time trials,” said Beers. “We spun out and into the fence a little bit. We had to start 22nd tonight and the track was pretty horrible tonight. There was no top groove, but I got by about six or seven guys on the outside in the beginning. After that, I couldn’t get around anybody else because there was so much junk on the track. There much have been guys leaking and stuff.
“We probably could’ve had a better finish if they put guys back when they’re involved in a wreck. They had that big wreck on the frontstretch and there were at least two or
three cars that finished ahead of me that were spinning in the pile in that wreck.
“If that’s the way they’re going to do things this year then that’s fine as long as the same thing happens when the shoe’s on the other foot. This is the second time they don’t put the cars involved in a wreck to the back. I don’t like to complain all the time, but this is ridiculous.”
Robbie Summers’ second-place run on Thursday night was by far his best run of Speedweeks thus far.
“We had a good car tonight,” said Summers. “It’s just so hard to pass at this place. You kind of have to pick a good number, qualify well, and get good restarts because it’s not that easy to pass people.
“I’m excited for tomorrow night’s race. It’s going to be a kind of deal where you have to be in the right place at the right time. Another thing that’s going to be key will be pitting at the right time. I’ve got a good bunch of guys on this team. The Grasso brothers give me some good racecars to come down here with and the guys that come to the track with me really get the cars going good.”