George Anen Jr.’s win in the Open Wheel Modified feature his last time out was just another chapter in a career that is become more and more storied.
“My dad (George Anen Sr.) took me to my first race when I was 4 years old,” Anen said last week. “In Wall Stadium in Bellmar, New Jersey.
“I don’t think I’ve missed a Saturday of racing since. After that first race, I begged everybody to take me to the races until they agreed to take me.”
Anen, 41, has been racing since 1991. He moved to Elkin in 2001. Originally from New Jersey, Anen moved to Virginia and then to North Carolina.
“I love being in the South,” he said. “I haven’t forgotten a thing up North.
“I wanted to get closer to the racing community,” he explained. Like many, Anen loved NASCAR and wanted to be near its nerve center. “Now I could care less about NASCAR,” he added.
His first win came in a 1974 Chevelle he bought and then won the Street Stock feature with the “very next weekend” at Eastside Speedway in Waynesboro, Virginia.
He was quickly successful and the success has continued over the years on both asphalt and dirt, although he races only dirt now.
“There’s stuff going on on a dirt track you don’t see on asphalt,” he explained. “There’s not a lot of room for error. Asphalt racing is cleaner; it’s low maintenance, but to me it’s boring.
“Dirt is a lot more challenging. Every lap — you got to make a good decision.”
‘Things just fell into place’
Anen picked up the No. 42 off of Craig’s List. “It was a good car,” he said. “I could tell by looking at it.”
He switched the motor out, replacing it with a used motor. “That engine is 10 years old and I don’t think it has ever been apart,” Anen said. He said the seal bolts are still on the engine plate.
When Anen won July 5, it was his first win in an Open Wheel Modified. In a highly competitive class, Anen ran away from the field. One might assume he was running outside the rules.
“I’ve seen it three or four times this year,” Anen said. “Cars just start taking off. I think the same thing.
“I think the track was just perfect for my driving style. Things just fell into place.
“The track was very smooth. It was very dry slick. About as dry as it’s been all year.”
Anen’s won a lot over the years, but he said winning never gets old. “When you win a race, you feel good for a week or two,” he said.
This last win felt especially good after three consecutive second-place finishes and then a sixth-place finish in the previous four outings.
“Second’s a good finish,” he said. “I felt like in two of those races we had the car that would win. We were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Anen said he knew the win was coming. “We were happy that the car was competitive, but we knew we could win it if everything would fall into place,” he said.
Anen has raced in several different divisions at more than 50 tracks. He has settled on running Open Wheel Modifieds. “It’s the best value for your money,” he said.
Money is also a factor when it comes to where he races now.
“I mainly run at Friendship now because it’s so close,” he said. “When gas was $1.50 a gallon, we went everywhere. At $3.50 a gallon, we stay a little closer to home.
“I really like Friendship. I like the design of it; the shape of it … but it’s the hardest track I’ve been to to win a race.”
Anen said two of the things that make it so difficult to win at Friendship are the turns and the drivers. “One and two and three and four are completely different,” he said. “And the drivers are some of the best I’ve seen anywhere.”
What he doesn’t like about racing is the same problem he has seen everywhere. “I don’t care what cars they are,” he said, “someone is always doing something that evolves into something — a new part that gives them an edge.
“If it becomes a rule, it costs everybody more money. I got to go buy that part to keep up with you.”
Anen said racing could remain more affordable “if the rules would stop evolving.”
Anen’s family includes his wife, Donna; son Jake, 20; and daughter Paige, 13. “They’ve dedicated a good part of their lives to supporting me in this,” he said. “You got to have your family behind you or you can’t be successful.”
He said his favorite part of racing is “being with all my friends and family at the race track.”
Anen calls his pit crew — Clayton Wooten, J.R. Brown, and Cody Brown — “our adopted family. They’re over every night helping me maintain it and keep it in top shape.”
He said there are several others who help from time to time or just provide moral support.
Anen is sponsored by three Elkin businesses: Battery Barn, Quality Machine Shop, and Luffman Brothers Lawn Care.
Anen and the rest of the drivers return to racing this weekend at Friendship. Gates open at 3:30, warm-ups follow the driver’s meeting at 6.
Jim Fuller may be reached at 336-835-1513 or Twitter @elkinareasports.