|Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs|
After a difficult start to the year, NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Tim Andrews is attempting to settle in with his new team, Key Motorsports.
You may recall the story of Andrews being fired from his ride with Rick Russell and 2nd Chance Motorsports as first documented on Skirts and Scuffs, 2nd Chance Motorsports Driver and Team Fired. Since that time, Andrews' career has been in limbo. After departing his ride, Andrews then signed with Key Motorsports to drive the No. 42 in the Nationwide Series and also an occasional ride with Tagsby Racing in the Camping World Truck Series.
Andrews grew up in NASCAR, his father Paul was a crew chief for several drivers including Alan Kulwicki, Terry Labonte and Steve Park. Reflecting back on his time with his father, he said, “I got to go to victory lane a couple of times as a kid, which was pretty neat. With Geoff Bodine, in the Winston, he spun in the first segment and ended up winning the race. I still have that hat, poster and all that fun stuff.” Growing up in the sport, he did not realize the impact it would have on his future career: “Working with Alan (Kulwicki) I didn’t really understand what was going on at the time but I certainly appreciate it now that I have grown up.” The lesson he took away from all the legends he grew up around: “That never give up attitude ... when life hands you lemons, you got to make lemonade.” Andrews plays by that philosophy; he keeps his nose down and works hard for what he has.
Andrews credits his father with the influence on his career, but did not grow up wanting to be a racer. He says, “It wasn’t something I looked at and really wanted to do right away.” Things changed after Kulwicki's death. Paul Andrews purchased the go-karts he had owned, and that was the start of Tim’s racing path.
Through his lifelong connection to racing, Andrews has people to lean on for mentoring and support in the NASCAR garage. “I can always go to Mike or Kenny Wallace. Back when Steve Park was still around, I would ask him stuff. When I was racing ARCA, I could go up to Bobby Labonte, also Kyle Petty; I got a lot of drivers I can go talk to that I feel like I have made friendly enough relationships with. Most of the guys are very helpful.” As Andrews told me, he has known Mike and Kenny Wallace since birth; they have seen him grow up.
After racing in karts, Bandeleros, ARCA and now in two NASCAR series, Andrews' career has felt the impact from his diversity. He said, “Everything you drive shapes how you drive a race car. The Legends cars taught me throttle control, Bandeleros taught me how to arc into a corner big and late models just taught me how to handle the big heavy cars and how to work on them.”
Whether or not information transfers from series to series. Andrews said, “It’s a race car, it’s not that complicated, it has four tires and a steering wheel and you just make it work.” But as far as taking information from the Trucks into the Nationwide Series or vice versa, he said, “The trucks are aerodynamically substantially different than a car. They are still the same principles going on, you just have to be a little more careful with the trucks versus a car. It still boils down to four tires and a steering wheel, you push it as hard as you can.”
|Credit: Melissa Wright|
Trying to make it into NASCAR has led Andrews down many paths, including spending time as a spotter and a mechanic. Spotting for several Nationwide and Cup teams, Andrews credits this to helping him learn a track better as a driver. “I have been on the roof, watched these guys and know how the best do it,” Andrews said.
Looking back at his year thus far, with the tough spots hopefully behind him, Andrews says, “It’s still the same, just working on a different car, in a different place. I am still here everyday, still working on the car, I help out with all four cars. It’s not like I am thinking that I am driving this car this week, so I will only work on that car, that is not my attitude. If I can help these guys and help them get these race cars better, then maybe when it comes time when I need the help, they will be there for me.”
Andrews is currently start and parking most races. When asked about the struggle to do that, he chuckled and said, “I think any real racer would be lying to you if he said he liked doing that stuff, but it is just what you got to do.” The root of start and parking is not a lack of driver talent, in any case; it lies in the root of many problems, money. Teams need the funding from sponsors to be able to have the equipment, tires and even in some cases a full pit crew to run a race to the checkers. Andrews himself looks at this as an opportunity to learn the tracks he gets a few laps on better and when he does have full sponsorship, he will go back to these tracks with knowledge of having been there before.
As for the emotional toll of having to start and park, Andrews says simply, “It sucks, there is no way around that.”
The past weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway, Andrews was set to race the entire race, his first of the season, but was unable to finish due to being caught in a wreck involving Michael Annett and Steven Wallace. Andrews says of the wreck, “I think it was a pretty stupid move, I didn’t agree with it and he needed to know that right away. He (Annett) was upset with me for coming up to him at the window. It was pretty damn stupid on his part. He was running fifth and to go under a lap car and take himself out, I mean come on … really?” Andrews said he was warned by his spotter that the cars ahead were racing hard for position and was afraid something may happen; sure enough, it did and he was simply a bystander to it all. Annett drove into the corner too deep from Andrews' perspective and that collected both cars. In the aftermath of the wreck, Annett’s teammate Steven Wallace was also wrecked as well.
A few days later, having time to digest it all, Andrews still says the situation “sucks,” but knows that it was a product of racing. He says, “You put it behind you and move on.”
Having been a driver in the last race at Lucas Oil Raceway, I asked Andrews his thoughts on the departure from the NASCAR circuit. “The only times I have been to Indy has been at the big track (IMS) but every time I was there, I made a point to go to LOR and watch a race there. As a race fan, I loved going to that place. As a driver, it was really challenging and different. I haven’t driven a short track since 2007 or 2008.”
As for the future of Andrews himself, that remains unknown. Sponsorship is the issue and also the answer to whatever his future may hold.
NASCAR By the Numbers and In the Rearview Mirror (looking back at NASCAR's history) are Amanda's two weekly columns with Skirts and Scuffs, but as an Associate Editor her duties are limitless. Amanda also strives to provide exclusive interviews for the readers of Skirts and Scuffs. To read her past columns and interviews, click here. Feel free to contact Amanda via Twitter.