How I Got Here with Jordan Anderson

This is the latest in a weekly feature called “How I Got Here,” where I ask people in NASCAR about the journeys to their current jobs. Each interview is recorded as a podcast but is also transcribed on Up next: Truck Series driver Jordan Anderson.

We’re in your trailer that made it all the way across the country to Las Vegas. People followed that on social media as you drove it out here yourself.

This is it. You hear the quote, “If homes could talk, the stories they would tell” — and if this trailer could tell stories on all it’s been through, it’s crazy.

I bought this trailer back in 2009 when I was racing dirt Late Models, so this trailer’s seen two years of dirt Late Models, it’s seen two years of asphalt Super Late Models, some K&N races, and then a full year of the Truck schedule back in 2015, a full schedule last year in 2017 and we’ve got it back on the road again this year. So it’s pretty cool to be sitting here. I’ve got my guys here, I’ve got Dan (Kolanda, crew chief), Dylan (Corum, car chief), and Cody (Barrett, mechanic) that rode out here with me (from North Carolina to Las Vegas), so I’m very fortunate to have some cool guys that don’t mind riding in the dually for 48 hours like we did coming out here. 

One of the first times I heard of you, I was doing an interview with Carl Edwards at Bristol, and he’s like, “You know who you should go talk to? You should go find this Jordan Anderson guy. He has a really inspirational story. He’s just making it. He’s willing it to happen.” I don’t know a ton about all your background, but it seems nobody’s handed you anything. This is all stuff that you’ve really had to work for and fight for. So how did this whole dream get started?

It’s cool that you mentioned Carl Edwards, because Carl was one of the first guys that I really met and got some advice from. I was probably 13 or 14 years old and racing Legend cars, and I gave him one of my business cards and saw him a year later and re-introduced myself. He’s like, “Yeah, I remember, I got your card sitting on my desk there.” So that was cool, and Carl always gave some great advice.

But it’s been a journey. I’ve been very blessed and fortunate to pursue something that I love. I think I first told my mom and dad at 4 or 5 years old that I wanted to be a race car driver, and being from Columbia, South Carolina, that wasn’t really a big thing. It wasn’t a hotbed for any racing, and nobody in my family had any involvement in racing.

Mom and Dad took me out to a go-kart race when I was probably 7 and we went and sat next to a family. We got talking to this kid, he was four or five years older than me, and his name was Nick Hutchins. He’s actually working at Stewart-Haas now on that 98 Xfinity car. He’s the car chief over there.

But Nick was racing go-karts at the time, had a broken arm and was out of the go-kart, and we got to talking. He basically goes, “I’m getting my cast off next month, would you like to come try out one of my go-karts?” And before Mom and Dad could say no, I said yes, and we were headed out there.

So I got one of his go-karts, and I think I was 7, 8 years old around the time we started racing in the WKA series, and we had no idea what we were doing. We would show up with a truck and like a long trailer and go race go-karts.

I still remember somebody told us that our toe was out. We looked down at our shoes, thinking our toes were out. So we had no idea what we were doing.

But it’s one of those things that we’ve been able to do together as a family. We’ve been through go-karts and Bandolero cars and ran Legend cars for five, six years, won the pro championship out there at the Charlotte Motor Speedway two years in a row. I think it was ’07 and ’08. We never really had the funding to go out and run the best of everything, so we really had to work to build a relationship with the sponsors and people to help us out.

This Fueled by Fans thing that we had (a Truck sponsored by fans) kept our season alive last year. But back in 2007, I lost the sponsorship that I had. We lost one of our bigger sponsors that we planned on coming through and the deal kind of fell through. So I painted my Legend car white. I don’t think I even had a driver’s license at the time, so my dad helped me drive around town on this open trailer, and for $100 people could sign my Legend car with a black Sharpie and become an official sponsor of Jordan Anderson Racing. That’s where the initial idea first came from.

Going through dirt Late Models and Late Models, I always owned my own cars and had to work on it and had a lot of awesome people help make this journey possible.

So being able to be the owner/driver this year is something that I’ve kinda done all along the way. We may have one of the smallest trailers here in the garage, but we have some of the hardest working guys that help make this all possible.

And that’s what this whole journey is about: It’s not any one thing I’ve done, it’s all the people that have helped out — sponsors and people that come by who have 9-to-5 jobs, but they come by our shop at night and help work on the truck.

We had some sponsors that stepped in to help buy a transmission over the offseason, or we had some people just help buy our first truck and put things together. I was showing you our dually out in front of the trailer, we had John Bommarito from the Bommarito Automotive Group, bought us a dually to pull our trailer after ours broke down. And when our old dually broke down in two-month period between when we got that new dually, we got another guy who owned a towing service and let us drive his dually all across the country. So it’s been so cool to see people that we’ve met that have made this journey possible.

No doubt there’s been a lot of generosity involved. But people aren’t going to help just anybody, so there must be something about your story or your personality or what you’re trying to accomplish that has encouraged so much generosity. So what is it about yourself or your driving or your passion that you think has helped you get all these breaks? 

It’s been quite a journey. Nothing was ever easy. There were plenty of late nights and struggles and I’m very fortunate for Mom and Dad, they sacrificed a lot. My dad, he’s been on more late- night road trips than I’m sure he wants to admit to helping me out and going to the racetrack.

We had some wins in Late Models and had a lot of success in Legend cars and dirt Late Models. But one of the things I always go back to is no matter what happens or what kind of adversity we’re faced with or we had to persevere through, we all kept our faith — we kept strong about that — and we never gave up. No matter what was against us, we never gave up.

Much of it was the people who we met who kept us in their prayers and thought about us, that encouraged us, that would support us, that would buy T-shirts and come hang out with us after the race is over.

It was all people, and it’s kind of a throwback. One of the first owner-drivers that I got to meet that was in NASCAR was Marvin Panch. I met him back in probably 2009 and got to know him pretty well. He came to my Late Model shop and I got to hang out with him some and listen to all his old stories of how racing used to be.

You know, I love this sport. I grew up as a huge fan in the ‘90s, and I was a big Jeff Gordon fan growing up. But I always loved to read about the smaller teams and the guys that were making it happen and sort of were in the position we are now. I think it’s so cool, because it kind of gives people (someone) to pull for, the blue collar worker who is working to pay his rent and keep groceries on the table. We’re doing the same thing; we’re doing whatever it takes to grow this team.

And that’s what’s so cool about this year, is having the opportunity to jump up. We had some help buying the Ilmor motor, we got some more trucks this year. So that’s the biggest thing that’s so cool, is we’re not plateauing out. Last year, we ran that one truck the whole season and we’ve got the opportunity now to get some motors, get some more trucks to build it better.

So that was why Daytona was so cool for us (when he finished ninth last month). To come out of the box in our first race as a new team, to almost get a top-five, to spin out across the finish line backward and still get a top-10, that was almost a dream come true for us.

To see all the hard work pay off — it’s not a job for any of us. We love this sport and we love NASCAR, there’s something about it that we love and we’re just so happy to be here.

When people hear me talk about interviews and stuff like that, I’m not talking about the car’s tight or the car’s loose, I’m talking about, “Alright, this is all we’ve had to go through to get here,” and we had to fight through all this stuff, and hopefully people can relate to that a little more as they follow along on what we have going on. 

I know you’re still on the way up and there’s so much more of this story left to be written. But I’m guessing there had to be times during some of the struggles when nothing’s coming easy and you had to ask yourself, “Is this worth it?” or “Why am I doing this?” What about it made you keep going through that?

I think the biggest thing was that failure wasn’t really an option. I knew that this was what I wanted to do. I feel like over the years that God has opened doors to allow me to be in this sport. I can sit here for another two hours and tell you things that have happened that shouldn’t have happened, doors that have opened that shouldn’t have opened. People have helped us out, the timing on things, the way things have happened. A lot of it doesn’t make sense, but you just look back and you’re like, “Alright, that’s an affirmation that you know where you’re supposed to be and God has opened these doors, so here we are. I’m just gonna keep digging and make it happen.” And I look back on that.

I mean, the first time I went to Daytona in 2015 with Mike Harmon, I basically gave everything I could to go down there. We missed the show. We go to Atlanta the next week, we finish 18th. The deal with Mike at that time was, he’s like, “You put this truck together, we go run Daytona, and we’ll see what happens.” We didn’t make Daytona, he said, “We’ll go to Atlanta. Just don’t wreck it.” So we go to Atlanta and then we went Kansas and that turned into me running for him for the whole year using the same truck and trailer here. And it’s just been so cool.

People that have stepped up and people that have come into our life to help us, that’s why Daytona was so big. It was special for me, but it was special for all the people that have helped us get to this point. Hopefully that’s the first of many other things that are coming. Hopefully this team continues to grow.

We have this trailer here; down the road, maybe we can get another trailer where we can haul a second truck, or haul more equipment and do more things. But it’s exciting to do this.

What keeps us going is never giving up. I mean, failure is not an option, but we love to be here, we love to keep things going. And the biggest thing for us is, it’s an adventure for us, and the stories and memories that we make, the way we do this is you can’t put a price tag on them.

We left our shop in Mooresville at 1 a.m. (after turning the truck around from Atlanta). There’s a little shower there. All of us cleaned up, hopped into the truck at 1 a.m. and we came straight out here. We’re stopping at truck stops, we came through snow in Arizona. We had a bunch of crazy things happen out here. We have a good time with it.

So I think you go back, and if you would go ask anybody that raced in NASCAR back in the day what they went through and what this sport was founded on, they did a lot of the same things that we’re doing now. It’s not that it’s a bad thing to us that we’re at a disadvantage, it’s that we love what we do and the opportunity to be here. 

Why is everybody here with you? Why do they want to come out and be with you and be part of this team?

My dad actually just brought up, this was a text that I had. John Bommarito had texted me back at the beginning of the year and I’d forgotten about it. My dad just pulled up the text and showed me because I shared it with him and I want to read it to you.

It says:

Jordan, it’s all good. When you help others achieve their dreams, the feeling is overwhelming with joy. One day, you too will be in the same position to help others. The key is never forget where you came from when it happens. And trust me, I know it will happen for you. Take it one day at a time and continue to be safe and enjoy the journey. I’d give anything to be your age and do it one more time. All our love and trust, now go out there and make it happen in 2018. The Bommaritos.

That’s pretty cool. This is a guy who’s got 40 dealerships and 850 employees, and he and I will text back and forth at 2 o’clock in the morning after a race at times. I think that’s the biggest thing, is people are hopefully drawn to what it is that we stand for.

I know there’s a lot of small teams in the sport, but everything that I do, I try to do with integrity. At the end of the day, it’s all people. We couldn’t be here if it wasn’t for all the people that made it happen. So people are the number one thing, making sure that I take care of my guys, take care of people that take care of us, the vendors that we deal with back home. Make sure everybody stays paid and doing the right thing. This kind of golden rule that we all grow up with the kids, is treat others like you want to be treated. That’s the things that we want to do. We want to build this team and do it the right way, build it on integrity.

You ask why is everybody here. So Dylan (car chief), he’s been with me since 2015. Actually, how Dylan came to help us, it’s a funny story. We were doing the St. Louis/Iowa deal back-to-back, and he thought we were just going out there for St. Louis and then coming back afterwards. We got halfway there and said, “Oh yeah, we’re gonna stay out here until Iowa.” He said, “Well I have another job I have to go back to.” I said, “So I guess you’re officially part of the team now.”

Cody (mechanic), his family helped sponsor us at the first Texas race last year, and he came and hung out with us in the pits. He’s like, “Man, I really like this, I want to be a part of this.” He’s up in school in North Carolina pit training at Xcalibur (Pit School) up there —he’s our jackman.

Dan (crew chief), who’s back here, he helped me back in 2015, he retired at the end of the year. I told him what I was doing this year, and he was like, “Man, that’s exciting. I want to come back and be a part of it.”

So that’s why Daytona was so cool. People don’t expect us in this little trailer with only two or three trucks back in the shop to go to Daytona and run top 10. And we’re really working on our intermediate program to come out here and run better (he finished 17th at Las Vegas last week).

That feeling you get when you out-perform what people expect you to do, it’s kind of a feeling deep down that you feel a sense that all the hard work and staying in the shop until 2 o’clock is all worth it.

Some people believe that anybody can do anything they set their mind to, and other people think that’s just too much of a pipe dream and you shouldn’t tell people that and things like that. Where do you fall on that? Do you believe that anybody can really achieve anything they put their mind to?

I think so, and that’s the biggest thing that I’ve learned on this journey. If you compare to who I was as a person back in 2014, 2013 and who I am now, it’s almost a 180. Just from a sense of having empathy for people and this journey that we’re on and caring about what we’re doing and how we do things.

Who I was back then as a driver, I wanted x, y, z. At certain times in life, people have these expectations and ideas of how things are supposed to be, and a lot of times if you base your self-worth and things off of that. When you finally do accomplish it, if it’s not exactly how you want it to be, you’re like, “Ah, I wanted this (instead)” — and then this cycle begins of you’re never happy about it.

With this, it’s like, “Alright, we love NASCAR. We’re here every week. We get to race. Ever since I was 4 years old, I wanted to be a NASCAR driver, and I’m here racing every weekend. I’m getting to do what I love to do.”

That’s the biggest thing I hope people can see, because when I was a kid growing up racing Legend cars, everybody said unless you get a $4 million or $5 million dollar sponsor, you’re never gonna get to go race.

I remember going and talking to a K&N team one time and they were like, “Oh you can come drive for us, you just gotta write a check for $100,000 a race.” I’m like, my dad has some rental properties in South Carolina and my mom’s a hairdresser. I guess that’s never gonna happen, you know?

So it just was so cool when opportunities presented themselves to go racing, and I learned more about the sport and learned how to do things on our own. We may not have what the big teams have, but we can do it, we can do it right, we can make sure the truck stays together, and we can build on it week after week.

I’ve never had a million-dollar budget or anything like that, but we’re here. We’re here every week. I finished top 20 in the points the last three years. We keep showing up and we keep getting better. If you look at where we were three years ago and where we are now, we’ve gotten better every single year — slowly, but we’re definitely getting better.

That’s the thing for me that’s so humbling, is people are following this journey. I have kids that are racing Legend cars and Late Models and are like, “Hey, I was kind of in the same boat you are. I don’t have this, I don’t have that, but what advice do you have?” So hopefully the journey that we’re on (helps others).

The way the Truck Series is going, I think you’re going to see more Late Model and grassroots people come up and compete at this level, but I think it’s cool to hopefully give some motivation and encouragement to people to do this.

The whole Fueled by Fans thing, that’s what was so special to me when we did that deal. There was a lady who messaged me when we first did it and she said, “Hey, I gotta pay for rent and get groceries, but I’m gonna send you $20 and buy a T-shirt.”

When that crash happened at Atlanta last year, I honestly thought my season was over. That was it. When I told people our season was over, that was really gonna be over.

And the fans stepped up and we were able to raise enough money to build a new truck and get another motor and we did the Fueled by Fans thing for a couple of years and that’s what kept our whole season going.

If it wasn’t for that last year, we wouldn’t be where we are now. That’s what’s so cool, is when you look back on things and how events happen and how doors open, they align to keep moving forward.

4 Replies to “How I Got Here with Jordan Anderson”

  1. Congrats to Jordan on what he has been able to accomplish. I truly believe the sport needs more teams like this. Hats off to you, Jeff, for covering these folks and their adventures. It is way more interesting than hearing about the megastar’s new motorcoach.

  2. This young fella is the epitome of a NASCAR driver of old …. he’s not someone with a silver spoon or sponsor in his pocket. Refreshing life story. Will definitely be in his corner.

  3. We all love the underdog. I so wish the networks would give the little guys some much needed love and attention. I really believe in my heart that, IF, FOX, NBC and the other networks of old would have/give more air time we could get some smaller, less expensive sponsors. Just look what Matty D. did thru social media.

  4. I’ve known Jordan and his family for several years now. I actually promoted the dirt track where Jordan races Late Models. I always told the young guys that he raced against the same thing. If he doesn’t make it to Big time it’s not from lack of effort. That kid has worked his tail off and is an inspiration to a positive outlook on life.

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