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KEEP ON TRUCKIN’: Mrakovich makes moves to NASCAR Gander Series

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 5/1/19

Tony Mrakovich debuted in the NASCAR Xfinity Series last year, and now the 20-year-old racer has decided to start his own team called Tony Mrakovich Racing.

This season, Mrakovich is participating …

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KEEP ON TRUCKIN’: Mrakovich makes moves to NASCAR Gander Series

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Tony Mrakovich debuted in the NASCAR Xfinity Series last year, and now the 20-year-old racer has decided to start his own team called Tony Mrakovich Racing.

This season, Mrakovich is participating in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series, moving from racing cars to trucks. He and his team wanted to qualify at the Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia, on March 23, but they ran into technical issues.

His life on the track doesn’t mean he’s planning to stop working at Street Stores Hardware at 115 E. Main St. in Middletown. That’s the store of his dad, Shane. He has cut down his hours to give him more time to work in his makeshift shop in a storage unit off River Road in Londonderry Township.

He also hasn’t given up on cars, with an ultimate goal to run in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Driver Carl Long recently reached out and asked Tony to race in the Xfinity Series as part of his team MBM Motorsports, although Shane said he didn’t know how many Xfinity races Tony would take part in.

Shane is proud of Tony for starting his own team.

“It shows that he’s not scared of hard work. It would be a lot easier to ride the shirttails of another team and just drive, but wanting to build your own team from scratch shows sacrifice, too,” Shane said.

His next race is at the Dover International Speedway in Delaware on May 3. He plans to race in Charlotte, North Carolina; Daytona; the Chicago area; Texas; and the Poconos throughout the rest of the season.

“At first it’s nerve-wracking because it doesn’t mean much until you prove you can have speed out of it. … I’m sure there are a lot of people who are doubting me right now. I’m enjoying it,” Mrakovich said of having his own team.

Mrakovich spent two years in the ARCA Menards Series before making his debut in the Xfinity Series, the stock car series one step below the NASCAR circuit, as part of the JGL Racing team.

Every time Mrakovich got into a truck or Xfinity Series car, he said he raced with a new team, and Mrakovich said it’s hard to work with team members that you don’t know. Additionally, he couldn’t be as hands-on.

“That’s power to the other drivers that can climb into something that you’ve never touched and be just as confident. I think that it gives me a little more confidence climbing in it, knowing that I tightened that bolt,” he said.

Plus, there are perks to having his own team, such as deciding when he races.

Mrakovich attended Lancaster County Career and Technical Training to study auto mechanics.

“I enjoy working on the vehicles almost, if not as much, as I do driving them, and there’s not too many drivers nowadays that do,” he said.

One of Mrakovich’s high school friends who races in Pennsylvania helps him work on his truck in the shop, and he has seven team members who accompany him to the track.

Most NASCAR drivers, he said, used to be car guys, but that’s changed. As he sees it, Mrakovich is going back to the old-school way of racing.

Many drivers have a three- to five-year plan to start driving in the NASCAR Cup series, but Mrakovich said that takes a lot of money to climb the NASCAR ladder fast.

“It used to be regular that you would get to the Cup by the time you were 31. Well now everyone wants to be there by the time they’re 25. It makes it extremely competitive. That’s the thing, a lot of people, for some reason, think that if you don’t make it by then, you’re kind of not going to,” Mrakovich said.

Because he debuted in the Xfinity series last year, Mrakovich said he could have jumped back into the series on a more regular basis.

“As a driver, I’d like to get into an Xfinity car, but as a crew guy, I’m a little more comfortable making one step up into the trucks,” Mrakovich said.

Going from cars to trucks, Mrakovich said there’s more visibility, but because the truck is lighter in the back, it makes them challenging to drive. He used to not use his mirror in his car because of the roll cage and relying solely on his spotter. 

“Of course the competition is way greater,” he said.

Mrakovich said his team will fight to qualify because 32 trucks get into events and an average of 34 to 40 competitors have been coming. Additionally, some of the spots are reserved for drivers from the previous season.

“You have to be really quick off the bat, and it’s hard to do that as a new team because there’s really no way to practice. You kind of have to show up and guess on your set up,” he said.