Racing star in the making

My brother Jack Macenko is spending his Friday nights pursuing his dream of a racing career.

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Racing star in the making

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Most people look at the sport of racing as only turning left and that’s about it. People say, “Oh, it’s really not a sport. Anyone can just drive a car.”

Well, what they don’t understand is the amount of skill, timing, patience, and precise decision making that goes along with it. Racing is not just hitting the gas and going. It takes more than one member of a team to put together a successful race. You have to get tire pressure right and need to make sure the engine is set up right. One time in a class I took at Elder one of my teachers once said that racing isn’t a sport, it’s too easy. Anyone can drive a car fast and come in first. Now although he may have been joking, it upset me because racing has always been a part of my family in one way or another.

Racing history

Racing goes all the way back in my family to my grandpa who passed away when I was in fourth grade. He drag raced down at the drag racing strip right by River’s Edge. Although he suffered a brutal crash, his love for racing was always alive as he went to a bunch of NASCAR races as a fan. My uncle built and raced his own dune buggies and was pretty successful doing it. One day on February 18th 2004, a little boy was born who eventually would fall in love with everything racing no matter what it is.

This little boy who is no longer so little is my brother, Jack Macenko. Jack is now a freshman at Elder and his whole life he has loved anything that had wheels and moved. He always wanted to go fast. I can remember all the way back when the golf course Deer Run was still open. My dad and I would go over late to play a couple holes because we lived across the street and jack wouldn’t want to play, but he would love to drive the golf cart.

Jack has always been made fun of for his height from many people, but he has used this ignorance from people that judge his heart based on his size and let it drive him to do something special. Jack runs cross country at Elder and he plays lacrosse as well and although he loves these two sports, his real passion is when he is behind the wheel of his race car.

There has always been a crazy passion inside Jack for racing and it all started when he got the NASCAR racing game when he was maybe in first grade. This passion led to Jack getting behind the wheel for real and seeing where his passion would take him.

The madness begins

The summer Jack was going into third grade was when the madness started. Jack was just 8 years old and the thought of my little brother behind the wheel of a race car was absolutely terrifying for my parents, my sister, and myself. The process of finding him a car and all of the racing gear has started and, wow, was that just the beginning.

I remember going with Jack and my dad when he got his first car and we thought he would just get in and drive and that wasn’t the case at all. The seats had to be molded to his body so he wouldn’t fly out of the car. I do not remember how much this 8 year old weighed but it was something close to the amount of a gallon of milk.

Jack was tiny so therefore they needed to add blocks of lead weight to the car just so he could clear the weight restrictions the track had for him and his cart. My dad thought that this would be it. All he would have to do is put the cart in the back of the truck and go to the race and then do the same thing the next week but, oh goodness, was he wrong.

This little Friday night thing we thought would be a fun activity for Jack to do turned into something we were never expecting. After a year of racing he had to buy a trailer for Jack’s cart. Jack needed extra tires and extra gears to change out. The cart needed to be run on alcohol instead of gasoline and the after the race filtered back out with gasoline. The cart needed its oil changed after ever race and tire pressure checked as well. The hardness and softness of a tire is the key to speed and how well the car is going to handle. I’m pretty sure even after four years of doing this, my dad still has no clue what he was doing but it didn’t matter because Jack would go on to success we never imagined.

Never nervous

All of Jack’s races the first couple years of his racing career took place at Lawrenceburg motorcycle speedway. This track raced carts, bikes, and quads. The first time Jack sat in the car for his first race I thought he would be nervous, but this wasn’t the case. I remember telling him to be careful, it’s your first race. If any of you happen to know his little smart attitude and remarks he said something along the lines of, “Dude, I’ll be fine, but thank you.” There I am watching my 8-year old brother race a car that at the time I thought was going super-fast but in reality they were only going around 20 to 25 miles per hour.

Jack was a natural, and honestly it was like he was someone else when he got behind the wheel of a car. Jack was nothing short of amazing for his first couple years of racing that he raced a total of 162 races and came in first 106 times and second place 30 times. Not all of these races were with the same groups of guys either. Jack switched to three different restrictor plate levels. Jack moved up to eventually racing kids my age and adults as well and guess what. Jack was winning! This still little 12-year old kid was racing people my age and beating them.

Adding a coach and sponsors

Jack had sort of a racing coach who goes by the name Justin Westerfield. Justin is an Unlimited All-stars National Champion which in the world of cart racing is a huge accomplishment. I remember having a conversation with my father while we were out cutting grass and he was telling me how he just got off the phone with Justin. My dad told me,“Justin said Jack needs to start traveling. He needs to get sponsors and he needs to be seen by other people. He is way too good to be staying at the same track and never letting other people see what he can really do.”

This conversation that my father told me about not only scared him, but freaked me out as well. My little brother turning into something we never thought could happen. This little gig of him going out on Friday nights to do something he enjoys was over. Now it was a job.

Jack went out to start getting sponsors and these sponsors would help him to get where he is today. My aunt and my dad would get together and make up a brochure for Jack to give the people he was talking to with some information about him and how much money it costs for all the stuff he needed to be successful.

When I thought about him going out to get sponsors I honestly saw my dad being the one to go and talk to these business owners, but that was way wrong. At this time Jack is 13-years old going into large businesses asking for money! Jack was not just asking for money though, he was selling himself as somewhat of an investment for these companies. Never could I have imagined my brother going into these places with his head high and his confidence to the moon and back, being able to walk away with a check in his hands.

Sponsors became the biggest part of Jack being able to race because financially it all started to add up. No more having two sets of tires. We had crazy amounts of tires and at this time Jack had two carts just in case. Jack was racing all over the place; from Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, all the way down to South Carolina. He was doing what he loved so there was no stopping him.

The reason Jack was able to do all this was because of his sponsors who had given him so much money at this point in time he was able to start living out his dream. I can’t keep going on without naming some of the first sponsors that started Jack’s career. I want to personally thank Ron’s Roost, American Scaffolding, Valley Interiors, JTM, Brockman Signs, G&W products, Schmoe’s Collison, and Excel Carpet (along with a lot more that I am missing). These businesses have allowed my brother to start doing what he loves more than anything.

Jump to midget cars

Another year went by where Jack was constantly rained out in 2018. My dad talked to some pretty well known people in the kart racing world. It was time for Jack to move on from Karts and make the jump to mini sprint race cars AKA “midget cars”. Jack is now racing under the supervision of Mel Kenyon, a man also known as “the King of the midgets”.

Mr. Kenyon had a fantastic racing career. The motor sports hall of fame of America says “many consider him to be the best midget car driver ever.” He also raced in the Indianapolis 500 a couple times. Jack will be racing most of his races on asphalt in the mini sprint cars and all of the races will be in the Indianapolis area. This is quiet definitely the start of something that could be amazing for a kid that has always wanted to race.

Jack has never gotten the respect he deserves. From being called small and being told that he can’t play football, he won’t be able to play basketball and he will struggle in any other sport he wants to play. He has taken all that pain that comes with the ridicule and used it as energy. Not many people are aware of his talents and what he has been doing on Friday nights when he isn’t at the football games. All I can say is that he is making his dream come true. Everyone says follow your dreams because anything can happen and my brother is the perfect example.

To my brother Jack. I have never really told you how proud I am of you so after telling your story I figured I’ll add my own little touch.

Brotherly pride

Ever since you got in the car I have been proud of you. Despite what people say, they don’t understand the amount of guts it takes to get in and go every weekend. Let the people that doubt you talk, they are closed minded and don’t understand what the bigger picture is.

I haven’t been able to see you race in the past two years because of going to the Elder games, but you know I’m always shooting Mom or Dad a text asking how you did. Some people may not believe in you, but that’s just how the world works. You have an amazing support system behind you and no matter where you go we will be there. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for you because there is no doubt you will do something amazing with the opportunity you have. From watching you play “I racing” and listening to how passionate you are about racing I know you will be just fine.

Good luck brother and as Ricky Bobby always says, “If you’re not first, you’re last!”

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