Jordan Anderson: The people’s racer with grass-roots ties

DENVER, N.C. — Jordan Anderson’s story is probably best written in Sharpie. Nothing fancy, but with the personal touch of handwriting and the resilient qualities of permanent ink.

 

When Anderson needed help making it through the back half of the 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule, fans and other backers he’d never met answered the call, making contributions with the promise of their name appearing on the truck at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Anderson considered registering their support with a decal or printed wrap, but that meant early deadlines and money. Plus, “It just didn’t seem very personal to me,” Anderson says.

 

So, just as with most everything else in his everyman’s racing career, Anderson did it himself. Borrowing a page from his own history of ingenuity, Anderson made neatly ruled lines with a straight edge and hand-wrote each name on the truck bed panel with permanent marker, even during the course of the New Hampshire race weekend. It mimicked a campaign of his from nearly 10 years ago, when he painted his Legends Car white, letting fans sign it in exchange for donations.

 

This year, Anderson faces yet another hurdle to clear, in large part because of a late-race crash two weeks ago at Atlanta Motor Speedway that left his only truck’s frame rails bent, battered and caked with far too much Georgia clay. It’s why the 25-year-old South Carolina native may be brushing up on his penmanship even while putting his own sweat equity into a new vehicle.

 

“It was something that had never really been done before,” Anderson says of his 2016 crowdfunding campaign, which he’s revived through his self-designed ‘Fueled by Fans’ website, sponsorjordan.com. “So my goal with this thing here, we get this new race truck built and my whole truck’s going to look like an autograph card with hopefully Sharpie names all over it.

 

“You never know. There’s always so many positives through the negatives, and that’s kind of been the background through my racing career. Yes, I’m an underdog; no, it’s not a bad situation, it’s just where I’m at and I’m going to make the most of it. There’s 100 different ways to look at it, but I always try to stay positive through it all.”

‘I want to be a NASCAR driver’

 

Jordan Anderson wasn’t born into a racing background. His father, Clif, is a property manager in the greater Columbia, South Carolina area; his mother, Sherry, owns a hair salon.

 

But the family tells the story of how at age 4, Jordan sat whimpering in the back seat of his mom’s car as she drove home from an errand. “I want to be a NASCAR driver,” the preschooler cried, even though his experience with the sport extended no further than seeing races on TV or playing with Hot Wheels cars.

 

“We didn’t influence him in any way, shape or form, but he was burdened by the fact that he was going to be a race-car driver,” Clif Anderson says. “Of course, at the time for us that was no big deal. Yes, you’re right, you can be President of the United States, a doctor, a cowboy or a race-car driver. Little did we know it would be a life’s journey.”

 

That trek started at age 6 with a go-kart, which quickly became the scourge of the elementary school grounds across the street from the family home. “My dad got to know the local police really well because I was just sitting there terrorizing the parking lot, cutting laps in circles over there,” Jordan says.

 

Anderson progressed to competitive karting on an actual course by his grade-school years, but the family operation’s inexperience showed early on. A competitor noticed their kart’s wheels angled incorrectly and told them their toe was out. Instead of inspecting the kart’s tracking, the Andersons looked down at their feet, making sure their shoes were intact.

 

Jordan’s parents have offered support and encouragement every step of the ladder, through karting, Legends Cars, Late Models, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series and now in his third season in trucks. But Jordan says they never pushed him toward the sport, never bankrolled his career with wads of cash, and never had racing as a family tradition. Even Jordan admits, “if you really look back, it doesn’t make sense why I’m in racing or why I’m here,” other than the tearful wish he had confided to his mother at age 4.

 

“He didn’t come from any of the ingredients that it takes to be there,” Clif Anderson says.  “He’s totally defying all the odds to be doing what he’s doing. He completely recognizes there’s 10,000 young people across the country who would love the opportunity to be doing what he’s doing — and he’s doing it.”

 

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