Welcome to this week’s edition of the Short-Track Top Five. Every week NSSN will talk to a different short-track driver and get his or her thoughts and opinions on a series of five questions.
This week National Speed Sport News talks to Northeastern late-model competitor Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. A native of Hudson, N.H., the 21-year-old driver is a regular competitor on the American-Canadian Tour.
Last year was a breakout season for Polewarczyk, which included victories in the 48th running of the Milk Bowl at Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl in Barre, Vt., and the ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H. He also finished second in the American-Canadian Tour standings.
Already a winner this season at New Smyrna Speedway in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., Polewarczyk is one of several Northeastern drivers making the trip to North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway for the $75,000-to-win race there April 9.
NSSN: What influenced you to become a race car driver?
POLEWARCZYK: My dad was doing it [racing] before I was even born. As I was growing up I kind of had no choice but to fall in love with it. Once I was old enough to drive a go-kart that is how it all started. I started doing go-kart races when I was seven and it has just progressed since then. I raced in quarter midgets, then mini cup, then four cylinders and then late models. It is just something that has always been in my family and it is a great thing to get involved in.
NSSN: If you had the chance to race in the Daytona 500 or the Indianapolis 500, which would it be and why?
POLEWARCZYK: For me it is definitely the Daytona 500. I think Indy cars are cool and it is just different. They’ve definitely got their own cool thing. But for me I’ve always been a stock-car kind of guy since I was four or five, which is what we were watching on TV, the Daytona 500. It has always been my dream to kind of get to that level and hopefully someday it does happen. But for me it is definitely Daytona. I’m a stock-car kind of guy.
NSSN: How healthy is short-track racing in the United States?
POLEWARCZYK: I think it is gaining a lot. When you go to tracks like Thunder Road that we race at in Barre, Vt., you can’t even get a seat there. There is just so much support from the fans up there. I think the last couple years have been pretty tough. I think everyone knows that. I do think that it is on a bit of a comeback. I think with Trevor Bayne winning the Daytona 500 with his short-track experience maybe it’ll bring more fans out to see who the next Trevor Bayne is.
I think it is going to start getting better and better. Racing, in my opinion, is the best it has been in a long time. Hopefully attendance goes up more. Up here in our region we have 60 late models trying to enter a regular ACT race. Up here it is pretty good. I haven’t done much racing down South. I hear the car counts aren’t as high as they once were, but I think you’ll start to see them come back.
NSSN: What is the wildest race you’ve ever been a part of?
POLEWARCZYK: That’s a good question. Probably the ACT Invitational we had at New Hampshire [in 2010]. It is such a big deal for our short-track program to go to the big track in New England in front of such a big crowd on Cup weekend. The way they start the race up, because Tom Curley [ACT President] likes to make it interesting for the fans, all the faster cars start from the back, which is where we started. We were pretty quick in practice.
We started 27th and had 60 laps with really no yellows to try and get it done. That is what started this whole streak that we are on was that race right there. We had such a good car and we drove from 27th. I knew we were fast and I got to like fifth or so and figured, ‘Man, we started 27th. This is pretty good where we are at now.’ The leaders were so far ahead but slowly but surely we caught them. We won the race and it was just amazing. It was an absolutely amazing feat to do.
NSSN: At the end of your career, what do you hope people will remember about you?
POLEWARCZYK: I’m so young right now and it is such a long way away, but hopefully I make it all the way to [NASCAR] and can live my dream. But if not then hopefully I can win everything there is to win up here in New England and make a really good name for myself and hopefully people will remember that. Hopefully it is kind of like the Dave Dion type of deal up here. Whenever someone talks about racing and short tracks they can mention my name.