In the world of NASCAR, life rarely imitates art, unless you’re NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series driver-owner Jordan Anderson.
The independent driver has often explained his affinity for the NASCAR Thunder video game franchise, specifically the 2003 installment of the game. Anderson has the game and a Sony PlayStation 2 installed on his pit box to pass the time during rain delays. The game also holds a bit of nostalgia as the 28-year-old grew up playing the game.
That nostalgia came full circle following the NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway. The race strategy Anderson and crew chief Wally Rogers employed kept his No. 3 K-Seal/Bommarito Chevrolet Silverado clean until the final 100 yards. He briefly took the lead before door-banging with Grant Enfinger resulted in a runner-up finish.
“As a kid, and I’ve told this story before, I played NASCAR Thunder,” Anderson explained. “It had a career mode where you could go in there, you started with a junk car, you ran races, and you built a better team. Then you did this and got a better picture. That’s really been my life. This team is trying to build a better team, trucks, everything.”
Progression, Art vs. Reality
Anderson is in his ‘junior year’ of team ownership. Today, his fleet of trucks consist of seven trucks. However, that was not always the case. In his first year of ownership, he had just one truck ‘007.’ The 2019 season saw the fleet increase, but Anderson still ran ‘007’ in 13 of the 23 Truck Series races.
The driver-owner still stretches equipment when needed. At Daytona International Speedway, Anderson and his team used scuffed tires from Norm Benning and Ray Ciccarelli during the race. That choice saved him and his team money that can be redirected elsewhere later in the season.
Another in-game feature on the NASCAR Thunder series was the ability to name chassis. While Anderson doesn’t name his race trucks, he and his crew chief Wally Rogers do number them. However, the duo chose not to use No. 013. The truck Anderson drove to a runner-up finish at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 14 was coincidentally chassis No. 014.
The progression that Anderson and his team have undergone is reminiscent of the progression in the career mode of the NASCAR Thunder video game series. In career mode, the player would start with a basic ‘junk’ car. Overtime, the player would sign sponsors, hire crew members, and more importantly, upgrade their equipment.
Similar to the upgrades in race trucks, Anderson has watched how his race team has upgraded equipment. He started with a GMC dually pickup towing a gooseneck trailer going to each race. Now, Jordan Anderson Racing has a Kenworth Tractor with a Featherlite Trailer thanks to the help of his sponsors.
In the NASCAR Thunder 2003 game, Jordan Anderson had a knack for superspeedway racing at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. He was also competitive in-game at both Michigan International Speedway and Pocono Raceway.
Anderson found it funny that the tracks he had a knack for in the virtual world were the same in the real world:
“It’s funny, I was always really good at the superspeedway races, oddly enough. I think it was always really good at Michigan and Pocono, which are ones that I’ve been thankfully really good at in real life. The speedway racing just really worked in my favor.”
All three of Anderson’s Truck Series top-10 finishes have come at Daytona and Talladega. Outside of the speedway racing, Michigan and Pocono have been Anderson’s statistically best races. Excluding one engine failure at Michigan, both tracks have often produced top-15 finishes for the independent-driver.
As any driver-owner will attest to, Anderson drives with a cautiously aggressive style. Knowing exactly how much each fender, quarter-panel, and spindle costs to replace, he chooses his moves wisely. He learned how to take care of his own equipment in Legends Cars and Super Late Models.
“I was just super aggressive driver,” Anderson reminisced. “I’d put a new front bumper on my car every time I raced it and got into late models and I was the same way; I got really good at putting new duct work in and hanging body panels on that Super Late Model every week I ran.”
The career mode of NASCAR Thunder 2003 that Anderson referenced includes this very feature. Each race the chosen car runs in-game results in repairs. Mounting repair costs leaves the pit crew on the sidelines, very similar to how it could be in reality.
Since starting his own team, Anderson has changed his driving style. In addition to constantly gaining more equipment, he has also added more crew members. Since hiring veteran crew chief Wally Rogers, Anderson has finished inside the top-15 more often.
The strategy that earned Anderson his runner-up finish was a collaborative effort between himself and Rogers:
“For superspeedway races, we knew going into that race that my crew chief and I actually sat down and said ‘you know what? We just spent all this money on this truck. We really want to be able to get to Talladega later in the year. Let’s just kind of hang on the back,’ because we looked at everything in the last couple of years and there’s always seven, eight, nine trucks left there, the end.
“So, if we can be one of those guys that is left at the end, I think we’ll be in contention. I said even if we come away with a 15th place, as long as the truck’s in one piece, that’s what our team needs.
“And we stuck to that strategy, the whole race. We got in the pack and they started racing a little too hard for my favor and I dropped back, and they’d wreck. Then we go up and I dropped back, and they’d wreck.
“It’s crazy going back and look at the finish. I think that’s gotta be the most trucks that have finished on lead lap in the Daytona truck race. I think there were 18 on the lead lap there. So that’s been a first for the truck race there. To be up there in the mix of all that played out really well to where we wanted to do it.
“But, the progression of this whole team has been really cool for me personally because it’s not because of anything I’ve done, it’s just all people have been able to be surrounded by that believed in us, supported us, worked hard to help this thing grow. The finish at Daytona was cool for our guys in this team too, because they now can take ownership in this team and say, ‘Hey, you know what, we’re the ones that are making this thing better and we’re a part of all this.’”
This very strategy has been employed by many real life drivers including Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, and Ryan Newman to varying degrees of success. It’s also been employed by gamers. Jordy Lopez, Jr. and Cody Byus both used a version of that strategy to finish first and second in the eNASCAR iRacing Road to Pro season-opener.
As with the NASCAR Thunder series of games, Anderson has signed a laundry list of sponsors that help him each weekend. In the game, each area of the car, hood, quarter panel, rear bumper, decklid, etc., can be emblazoned by a different sponsor. Some have their own benefits or goals that the player has to try to meet in game.
For Anderson, the goal has been simple, improve and bring the No. 3 Bommarito.com/Lucas Oil Chevrolet Silverado home in one piece. The sponsors on his trucks are not limited to major companies either. On the C Pillar and the truck bed, a long list of partners that help Anderson get to the track each week are prominently featured.
Anderson reflected on the journey that he and his sponsors have taken to get here:
“It was big for all our sponsors that started in this thing from day one that took a chance on a no-name team and helped us be here. From Bommarito, Lucas Oil, I even made a post when Ryan Newman came and drove for us at Eldora back in 2018. I mean people that took a shot on us, believed in us, and believed in what vision we had, I think has been so cool to, to see it all come together.”
The Lightning Challenge
The NASCAR Thunder series also has mini games called the “Lightning Challenge.” In these mini games, the player was tasked with a specific scenario that they had to accomplish. These scenarios ranged from replicating an iconic finish from NASCAR history to changing NASCAR history, or simply avoiding ‘the big one.’
Immediately after his runner-up finish, Anderson compared the finish, and his career, to the “Lightning Challenge” from the NASCAR Thunder series of games:
“So, my career mode is like when they had the ‘Lightning Challenge.’ It’s like Jordan Anderson is running second in the Daytona 250, see if you can win the race and not do what he did. It’d be one of those little mini games they had on there. I think that would be it.
“I’m going to replay this for the rest of my life. You asked me if I was going to be disappointed. Hopefully this is a pivotal moment in our team that we can look back on and say, ‘that was what allowed us to go to the next level.’”
While the NASCAR Thunder series of games came to an end with the 2004 edition, EA Sports continued to make console games for NASCAR until 2009. The later games had different features.
2005’s “Chase for the Cup” saw the addition of the Whelen Modified Tour, Truck Series, and Xfinity Series. The 2006 game, “Total Team Control” added the ability to take over the cars of teammates mid-race.
Other features included autograph sessions, cut scenes that featured driver arguments, and the ability to manage merchandise. The in-game merchandise included shirts, hats, and other memorabilia. For the first time in his career, Anderson will have an official Lionel Racing diecast of one of his trucks.
The diecast-replica company recently took photos of the truck Anderson drove to the runner-up finish. Those photos will be used to make a raced version of that truck that will be available to race fans.
However, it is not the first diecast of one of Anderson’s trucks that has been made. In 2018, he drove a Junior Johnson throwback truck at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. A race fan took another Chevrolet Silverado diecast and turned it into a custom-made replica of that truck.
“It’s cool to see it go because Lionel is actually making the diecast,” admitted Anderson. “It hit the MOQ, so it’s going into production. To see people fall in love with this scheme, know it for us, and our white and blue scheme that it becomes so synonymous with our team and what we do.
“I mean that’s what’s so cool is we got a kid, Jack Drucker who lives up north. Actually, I think he’s just got into UNC Charlotte for going after engineering degree. But Jack’s done some custom diecast for us and a bunch of other people have done them. And it’s so cool to see that. Now to have them go to legitimate production is pretty awesome.”
Throughout NASCAR history, drivers have looked up towards others as they climbed the ladder. Many point to Dale Earnhardt Sr., Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, and Richard Petty for inspiration. However, on other parts of the grid, some drivers look at the driver-owners and independents.
Brandon Brown, Jeremy Clements, and Ryan Sieg are some drivers that others point to in the Xfinity Series. In the Truck Series, those independents include Jennifer Jo Cobb, Codie Rohrbaugh, Austin Wayne Self, and Jordan Anderson.
The advice that Anderson would give to drivers that use this career for reference or as a ‘tutorial,’ is fairly simple:
“I think that the number one thing I would say is never give up. And I think whether it’s on the video game or for a kid that’s recent Legends Cars out at Charlotte Motor Speedway, I think never giving up is the number one thing. Never forget. Because anything you want to achieve is never going to come easy. I think that’s the biggest thing that if you’re passionate about something and you love racing, stay after it. Stay humble, stay persistent.”
The 2015 season Truck Series season-opener was a turning point for Anderson. He failed to qualify for the race after pouring his heart and soul into attempting the race. One of his friends was the first to his truck after qualifying. That friend was Carl Edwards.
Anderson recounted the advice that Edwards gave him that day:
“When I first came here in ’15, I missed the race and I was really bummed out. You have things that happen in life that you never forget. I had been texting Carl Edwards I had gotten his number and we’d known each other for a couple of years leading up to that point. I had given Carl one my business cards. It had my driver photo on it like four or five years prior.
“We just kind of stayed in touch and he was always a big encouragement to me. But when I missed Daytona and pulled it on pit road, he was like one of the first guys that came over and spoke to me. And he could tell I was bummed out. I mean, it was obvious we were gonna miss the race.
And he knew and he came over to me and kind of put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘you know what? Don’t be too worried about the result of the day, the outcome of today. Don’t be caught up in the moment. You’re down in the valley now. Don’t worry about it. That life is so much a journey of valleys and up and down. Appreciate the journey more than necessarily the end result.’ That stuck in my head ever since 2015.”
Most Recent Race
In Anderson’s most recent Truck race, the Strat 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Feb 21, he started and finished 20th. He never drove his machine past its’ limits. That allows Anderson to use it once again. Prior to the postponements of due to the COVID-19 outbreak, that truck was to be used at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Overall, Jordan Anderson’s Truck Series career really can be described as a case of ‘life imitating art.’