Northeastern Pennsylvania racer John Anderika jumped on his first mini-bike at age eight, graduated to a go-kart soon thereafter, had two wheels in the dirt by early teens, and was working alongside his brother at the family garage following high school.
Though his brother Chuck enjoyed a successful drag racing stint in the late 1960s and early ’70s, the unfortunate closing of Pocono Drag Lodge prevented him from taking the passion further. During the mid ’80s, the brothers attended an area event that turned out to be the Budweiser Super Stock Nationals, with none other than Keystone’s Amato behind the wheel. Needless to say, it sparked renewed enthusiasm to smell burned fuel and rubber at the track more regularly, and Anderika Racing was born.
This time, Chuck was the mastermind under the hood and little brother Johnny was a competitive menace behind the wheel. What made him jump in the driver’s seat of a purpose-built ride—from NHRA and IHRA to sprint and funny car–with such little experience? Aside from a competitive nature, “He was my older brother. He said ‘get in the car’ so I got in the car,” laughed Anderika.
The Travis Pastrana of Keystone
What followed was the stuff of legends. Chuck’s tuning turned out a winning formula and little brother’s natural affinity for foot-to-pedal and methodical execution meant a good, hard run at the championship each year. Before hanging up the racing helmet to pursue another venture, John and team kept busy running a 260+ mph alcohol funny car, one of the only to utilize a torque converter instead of a clutch.
“5.4 seconds at that speed… it’s like shooting out of a canon. It’s the kind of sensation that’s over before your brain even registers what happened. And it’s in the moments right after that you really process what just occurred,” said Anderika.
You know what they say, old habits die hard. Retirement from racing didn’t last long before John was itching to get back behind the wheel. After all, “I don’t golf. I don’t hunt. I race,” he said. This time around, it’s with a low maintenance small block 1973 Chevy Vega that runs 9s.