The first checkered flags of the NASCAR season have not yet waved. But Jordan Anderson has already won.
Earlier this month, the 29-year-old driver/owner got engaged to Kendall McReynolds, the daughter of longtime NASCAR crew chief Larry McReynolds.
He did so in an outdoor chapel in Cleveland, South Carolina that’s nicknamed “Pretty Place” for its spectacular views atop Standingstone Mountain.
Beforehand, he had convinced her that they were attending a private wine tasting.
“I looked at her and said, ‘I don’t know if you realize it or not, but there’s no wine here,'” he recalled with a laugh. “That’s when I popped the question.”
Both of them know the racing life acutely. And it’s about to get even busier.
An independent driver/owner since 2018 in the Camping World Truck Series, Anderson is now expanding his operation to the Xfinity Series. Through a deal with Chevrolet and Richard Childress Racing, he’s purchased five RCR-built cars and an ECR engine package.
They’ll form the backbone of Anderson’s new No. 31 team, which will run alongside his Truck program. Anderson will run the full Xfinity schedule while sharing the No. 3 truck with multiple drivers.
In his conversation with NBC Sports, Anderson said he needed “a perfect storm” to enter the Xfinity Series. Between RCR and Chevy’s help, as well as additional support from St. Louis auto dealer John Bommarito and his Bommarito Automotive Group, he appears to have gotten it.
Now, his focus is on building the program race-by-race, just as he has in the Trucks.
“We ran (the Truck program) lean and we grew a little bit each year, and that’s our same approach with our Xfinity program as well,” he said.
One thing he won’t have to worry about is a lack of uniformity with his race cars.
As Anderson’s Truck program has progressed, he has competed with chassis manufactured by other teams that not only varied in age, but also in parts and set-ups.
Using older chassis and older parts in general have helped him keep his team rolling along. But it’s also contributed to up-and-down results on the track.
It’s a reason why Anderson was excited about making a deal with RCR.
“We’ve got five cars that are all from the same chassis builder at RCR – it goes down the path of what they’re doing,” said Anderson, who noted that some of the RCR-built equipment he purchased was raced last year and most of it was raced two years ago.
“… I think as we build our notebook and build our sim data for here in the shop – all of those things we’re really trying to focus and build on – I think that consistency is going to play a key role in us getting better as a team and growing as an organization.”
Additionally, Anderson hired new personnel entering this season, to the point where he says it’s pretty much a whole new team.
He also knows that he’ll have to keep practicing the lessons he’s learned in delegating duties to his crewmates, led by crew chiefs Artie Haire (Xfinity) and Bruce Cook (Trucks).
It’s all part of leading an operation that he likens to “a full-time job, times three,” where he has to constantly balance between the wants of a driver and the needs of an owner.
“The driver in me wants to buy the latest and greatest, the best of everything, this, this, this,” he said. “The owner’s got to pull the reins back and go, ‘You know, let’s stick to our budget, we’ve got to make sure we make the right decisions.’”
Sometimes, it’s fate that determines if those decisions are the right ones – like when Anderson, knowing his 15-year-old speedway truck could no longer cut it for him, bought a new speedway truck for last year’s season opener at Daytona International Speedway.
A split-second mistake in the pack at Daytona can wipe out at least a dozen cars in an instant. But fate held for Anderson, and on the final lap of overtime, he found himself charging from fifth place to the outside of Grant Enfinger‘s door.
The two banged off each other twice in the tri-oval, before Enfinger won by one one-hundredth of a second. Afterwards, an elated Anderson declared his run was “for every underdog in America.”
#NASCAR … @j66anderson after his runner-up finish in t Truck race at @DISupdates: “This finish tonight … is for every underdog in America.” pic.twitter.com/XQrojBbqXr
— Dustin Long (@dustinlong) February 15, 2020
He’ll be in his No. 3 entry for this year’s Truck season opener at Daytona on Feb. 12. A year after his near-miss, he’ll have a chance to avenge it.
“That will forever be a night that’s one of the highlights of my career, without a doubt,” he said about how he remembers it all. “At the same time, I still have nightmares about it (laughs). Somewhere in between.
“… I sunk some savings into getting that truck built, moved some things around, and it felt like it was the right move. It could’ve gone the other way. I could’ve gotten wrecked out on Lap 5 and been shaking my head about it.
“But sometimes in life, you’ve got to push all your chips in and that’s where we were with that Truck last year, and that’s what we feel like with this Xfinity program. We’re pushing our chips in and feeling we have a good hand of cars here to go with it and try to see how it all plays out.”
It’s certainly a gamble. As a driver/owner, he is putting not only his money, but his dream on the line.
Time will tell where his journey goes. But one can believe that, both on the track and off, Jordan Anderson has already won.