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Jordan Anderson walked away from the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway last Friday night (Feb. 14) as the runner-up in a photo finish with Grant Enfinger.
Margin of Victory: 0.010 seconds.
This is the closest finish in the history of the Gander RV & and Outdoors Truck Series at @DISupdates. pic.twitter.com/uQEZCIWRYq
— NASCAR Camping World Trucks (@NASCAR_Trucks) February 15, 2020
For many, coming that close to their first career win would be a huge disappointment, but given the way the owner/driver reacted when he emerged from his No. 3 Chevrolet, you’d swear he was headed to victory lane. For the team that was launched in 2018 and is now running its third season, it’s been a journey of hard work, blood, sweat and tears, along with many sleepless nights in the shop preparing for the 2020 season.
“For my guys, they worked so hard all winter. They came in on Saturdays and Sundays and worked late at the shop,” a jubilant Anderson said. “This is big for those guys and the morale for them to know they’re a part of it and we can achieve big results. It’s just super special, and it wasn’t like it was an attrition race where we lucked into it. We fought up there; we were around some really good trucks.
“It’s great on a lot of fronts for our team. This is big for purse money, big for points,” he continued. “The truck’s not wrecked. It’s got the left front fender caved in from where Grant doored us. This is big for all my guys and all our sponsors.”
When Anderson made the announcement that he had formed his own race team in 2018 and had four trucks in the stable, it was a huge step up for the driver who had spent the previous year repairing a single truck and hoping he could keep racing.
“This is probably going to be one of the most exciting seasons of my racing career. 2018 is shaping up to be one of the best yet.” Anderson said at the time. “We’ve got such a small group of guys. We want to build. We want to grow. The opportunity presented itself and everyone stepped up.
“To take the next step in my racing career this way is very humbling, and extremely meaningful. Our entire team is made up of guys that love racing, and we’re all eager to see what adventures the years ahead hold for us.”
Would you believe, though, that Anderson almost quit racing just a few years ago?
“End of ’16 I was almost done,” he said. “I just was so frustrated, my heart was broken, I just didn’t know what was next. I went back with [Mike] Harmon in 2017 and doing our own deal and fell back in love with the sport. I was like this is why I started this in the first place.”
Sure, this sport can be frustrating, but why would a racer want to quit doing what he loves? Consider for a moment what it was that almost drove him away from the sport.
While the 2015 season wasn’t great in terms of overall results, the effort Anderson had put in showed he really wanted to be racing in NASCAR. Hauling his truck on a 40-foot trailer behind a dually, Anderson and a small handful of people gathered wherever practical – a hotel parking lot, a grocery store parking lot, a borrowed section of a race shop from a generous team on the road – to prepare his truck weekly.
“ was one of those years where it was a journey,” Anderson recalled in a 2017 interview. “I didn’t realize what we were doing as we were doing it. I’m a firm believer everything works out for a reason, and it’s so cool to look back on what we were able to do.
“Yeah, it was tough, but I enjoyed it because I was getting to go do what I love to do.”
Fast forward to 2016 when Anderson appeared to have found himself a home at Bolen Motorsports. After making the field for the season opener at Daytona, the new driver of the No. 66 Chevrolet was riding the high of having people to work on the truck and hopefully “build a program.” But it wasn’t meant to be as Bolen ended up choosing to move into the 2017 season without Anderson behind the wheel. Interestingly enough, that team is no longer around.
Having given up his own effort to move to a team owner that talked the right talk only to be dropped by him later, it’s understandable why Anderson considered just walking away.
Instead, he returned to what it was that he knew and loved: working on his own trucks and racing each week. It wasn’t easy and it’s sure had its bumps in the road.
“This journey has been one that we’ve gotten kicked down, and so much of it is never giving up,” Anderson said. “Life has its way of throwing you curveballs and we just kept plowing, kept digging and here we are.
“It wasn’t easy and there’s been a lot of heartbreaks, a lot of tears shed over it, but to be here and see this thing grow…. It’s my baby, it’s my team; I love it, I love my guys and love what we’ve built.”
Moving forward, Anderson has high hopes for the 2020 season, and that he left Daytona with the truck mostly intact is a huge bonus for the small team.
“We made a calculated investment in buying this truck that really made it tight for our team to get through the winter,” he continued. “But we knew that we needed a good showing at Daytona to start our season off. God is good; I’m so blessed.”
In the short-term, starting off the season on the right foot is exactly what the No. 3 team needed. Without having to put a large portion of the Daytona purse into repairing or replacing a heavily damaged truck, the organization can instead look ahead to its next race this weekend. In fact, he said he’ll probably walk into Las Vegas Motor Speedway still smiling, and who could blame him?
“To be able to be here and really thrive, we’ll hopefully look at this night and say this is what kept our team growing,” Anderson said. “Hopefully this is a night that we can look on and be like alright, this is what allowed our team to go to the next level.”
Long-term, Anderson hopes he can prove to those who have a dream to race don’t just need rich parents or a large corporate sponsor. Instead, you need faith and perseverance.
“Keep pushing and never give up; that’s what faith is about,” he said. “God tells us… you want to ask for perseverance, He’s not going to give it to you. He’s going to put you in positions to learn it and earn it. That’s what the last couple of years have been.”
But regardless of what happens for the remainder of the season, the 28-year-old will look back on his weekend at Daytona as a dream come true.
“As every kid that’s ever dreamed about going to Daytona, you always dream about winning the thing,” Anderson explained. “And to be in the position to be there to compete for it was something I’ve had playing in my head since I was seven years old. To be able to actually live it out was pretty neat.”