By Richie Murray – USAC Media
SPEEDWAY, IN-Jake Andreotti turned the heads of many with his performances on the west coast late last season.
Now, the Castro Valley, Calif. native plans to have the same effect nationwide as he takes his talents on the road with the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship trail in 2023 to compete for Rookie of the Year honors and a series title.
The 20-year-old will compete full-time on the USAC National Midget circuit this coming season with car owner Tom Malloy and crew chief Jerome Rodela in a two-car, full season effort as a teammate to upstart Ohioan Jacob Denney.
Andreotti, who works as a realtor during the offseason, has captured a pair of USAC Western States Midget victories over the past two seasons, but his ultimate highlight came in winning Don Basile Rookie of the Race honors in 2022 with a strong fourth place finish during the Turkey Night Grand Prix at California’s Ventura Raceway.
It was that particular performance as well as a strong showing in all seven of his starts on the November 2022 California USAC National Midget swing that propelled him into consideration for an opportunity to race full-time on the tour, a whirlwind turn of events in just a couple month span for Andreotti as he recalled.
“It really came together, and caught me off guard, after the west coast swing,” Andreotti remembered. “I feel like we performed really well competing against national talent and equipment. I got the call about two weeks later, asking if I would run for them at the Chili Bowl. Of course, hell yeah I would! After my qualifying night, Jerome offered me a chance to run the whole USAC National tour and it almost brought me to tears. This is everything I’ve been pushing for ever since I first jumped into a midget. Jerome definitely saw the drive that I know that I have, and I’m really honored to have this opportunity.”
Like Malloy and Rodela, Andreotti is California-based, and they have their own way of doing things successfully, operating just outside the standard trends of the day. It’s an aspect that Andreotti not only respects but also relates to.
“Being with a team like Malloy and Jerome’s, they run different chassis (King) and engines (Ed Pink Toyota), and just do their own thing,” Andreotti explained. “That’s the same kind of thing my dad and I did growing up. We tried to figure it out by ourselves instead of riding the wave of what everyone else does. This is the perfect combination for me, and I feel like it’s going to be a great year.”
Andreotti regularly races a winged sprint car on the west coast and still plans on competing in the discipline between USAC National Midget dates. His experience mostly consists of Golden State dirt ovals, which means the bulk of his midget racing in 2023 will take place at venues that he’s never seen before outside of watching on FloRacing. When posed the question of what he’s most looking forward to on the tour, Andreotti stated, “everything.”
“I’ve never been to any of the tracks, so I’m definitely in for a treat, to say the least,” Andreotti acknowledged. “With this team, I know we can do it, and Jerome told me we’re going for the championship; that’s the whole point of this. We’re not here to mess around or play games. That’s what I wanted to hear and I’m ready for it. I definitely feel I can perform to what the whole team wants to do, but that’s not really the concern for me. The main concern is to learn the tracks quick enough, tracks like Eldora, Kokomo and Bloomington, the world-renowned places that I’ve only dreamed of racing at.”
Unlike in past years, this won’t be a solo go for Andreotti. This season, he’ll have a teammate to work alongside on the Malloy team in Jacob Denney, a 2022 first-time USAC National Midget feature winner who finished eighth in series points a year ago and whom Andreotti can also learn from as he takes on the challenge of a full season at an array of new tracks.
“I think teammates are absolutely huge,” Andreotti exclaimed. “It’s a huge factor in learning how the track’s going and the different driving styles that come along with it, knowing how the track is on the top, the bottom and all that. Jacob is a great guy, and at the Chili Bowl, we bonded really well, so I’m really looking forward to racing with Jacob all year long. I feel like I can learn a lot from him since he’s already won a national race and has run all those big tracks. I’m really thankful and happy I have a teammate and I’m not jumping into the water by myself.”
Denney echoed Andreotti’s sentiments and looks forward to teaming up in the “Jake & Jacob” duo to chase a championship in the coming season.
“He’s really good,” Denney said of Andreotti. “Out west, he did amazing, and when we were teammates at the Chili Bowl, we meshed pretty well. I’m looking forward to working with him throughout the year.”
It’s been quite a ride for Andreotti to reach this point in his career. He didn’t exactly come from a racing family, per se, outside of his father doing a bit of bracket racing on the drag strips. However, at 4.5 years old, Andreotti recalled his life changing in an instant when he visited a quarter midget track with his dad. After seeing it firsthand, his dad asked him if it looked fun. Young Jake was sold. The very next weekend, his dad surprised him with a new quarter midget in the garage.
Andreotti competed on the quarter midget circuits between the age 5-10, then hopped in a micro sprint which he raced regularly from age 10-16. At 16, he made the biggest move of his career to that point, climbing in a winged sprint car for Keith Day Trucking. A couple years later, a most unexpected, unplanned turn set Andreotti on a new course in his career.
“We were never planning to get into the midgets, honestly,” Andreotti admitted. “We bought an engine heater from (USAC Western States Midget car owner Pete Davis), who owns Hot Head Engine Heaters. He told us we could just use the engine heater and then contact him later for payment and just see if we liked it. (Pete) called my dad one day and my dad asked Pete what he was up to. Pete said he was going out to Antioch (Calif.) Speedway to test the midget. My dad said, ‘oh, well, Jake’s always wanted to try a midget.’ Pete responded with, “well, have him come out and try it.’ That’s how I got into a midget for the first time. It was not planned at all, and right from there, this is what I wanted to do.”
Now, another opportunity of a lifetime has presented itself to go national, and Andreotti and his family couldn’t be prouder.
“My whole family has been so supportive of this,” Andreotti stated. “My parents, both my sisters, my mom and dad, they were all in tears when I told them that Jerome had offered the full-time ride. Nothing’s holding me back. I’m not intimidated by the national guys. I’ve just got to compete at their level and learn how hard they drive and the different moves to make. At the end of the day, racing is just a high speed chess game. If I can play my cards right, get going, be aggressive and make the moves that need to be taken, I feel like we’re going to have a really good shot at the championship.”
The 2023 USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship season kicks off on April 21-22 at Indiana’s Kokomo Speedway for the Kokomo Grand Prix.