Family affair

REX NELSON: A Family Affair

From 2001 to 2008, Spencer Andrews’ life focused on NASCAR racing. Andrews, originally from Arkansas, had earned a bachelor’s degree in biology with a concentration in writing from Davidson College in North Carolina. But it was racing rather than biology that was his passion.

Andrews remained in North Carolina after graduation, working in the Charlotte area for Motorsports Management Group, Roush Fenway Racing, Braun Racing, Wasserman Media Group and ClearBlue Communication.

In 2008, the talented Andrews returned to Little Rock to work for Alltel and eventually Verizon Wireless while earning a master’s degree in business administration with a major in marketing from the University of Arkansas. Since February 2016, he has served as Director of Marketing for BSR, a publicly traded real estate investment trust with dozens of properties in five states. Through it all, the running bug never went away.

Spencer’s father, Collins Andrews III, graduated from college as a mechanical engineer, later working as a metallurgist in the aluminum industry. He ended up with fintech pioneer Systematics in Little Rock and later became an Alltel executive.

In 2016, Collins was invited to come out of retirement and work with fintech start-ups as an executive-in-residence at the Venture Center in Little Rock.

Last year, Collins, Spencer and Spencer’s brother in Fayetteville found himself with extra time due to the pandemic. They started talking about racing. Collins says it was time to “rethink your priorities and focus on the things you love in life.”

Here’s how the Andrews Autosport website explains it: “For the Andrews family, a common thread has always been cars and racing. The father, Collins Andrews III, was a semi-retired hot rodder from the 60s. The firstborn, Collins Andrews IV, an ’80s Gen-Xer with an affinity for sports imports (a preference that also showed with his choice of wife) And finally, youngest son, Spencer Andrews, whose his no-holds-barred approach to cars and motorsports led him to an eight-year career in NASCAR with top teams and drivers.

“Under the guidance of their sometimes very vocal spouses, the Andrews boys pooled their resources and hatched a plan. In August 2020 Andrews Autosport took to the track. Andrews Autosport is an IMCA dirt modified racing team that competes at select events across the U.S..”

I have lunch with Elders Collins and Spencer, and they point to Arkansas’ rich motorsport culture, which they say has never received the recognition it deserves. They note that former NASCAR star Mark Martin of Batesville continues to have tremendous success across the country and has helped introduce motorsports enthusiasts to dirt racing in Arkansas.

When Andrews Autosport was founded, Spencer’s wife, a physician at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, told him, “Do something good with it.”

The Arkansas Department of Health’s Vaccinate Arkansas program has agreed to help sponsor a car with the words Vaccinate Arkansas, the hashtag #VaxAR, and the website healthy.arkansas.gov painted on the vehicle. The Andrews family have teamed up with driver Peyton Taylor, who has a large following in this part of the country. Taylor is also from Batesville, where his uncle built Martin’s first car.

A press conference was held in downtown Little Rock to unveil the Vaccinate Arkansas car. Taylor has since visited vaccination clinics in Little Rock and Batesville.

Spencer notes that track owners are vaccinated, as are many drivers. The Andrews family and health department officials believe motorsports allow them to reach a segment of Arkansas’ population that is largely unvaccinated.

“We do vaccination campaigns on the slopes,” says Spencer. “We’re adding vaccinated drivers to the scholarship. It’s much bigger than our program.”

Earlier this fall, Andrews Autosport invited people to send in the names of Arkansas healthcare workers who deserved special recognition. The names were placed on the car for Race for Hope 71 at Batesville Motor Speedway.

Last month, Taylor and Andrews Autosport finished second in the most lucrative IMCA stock car race in history. It’s not a series the Andrews family typically races in, but the company has teamed up with Arkansas-based Cadillac Chassis and AcreTrader to build a second car. There were 100 IMCA stock cars that showed up at Batesville Motor Speedway to compete for 30 starting spots in the long distance race.

“A mechanical failure late on the first night of qualifying, a Wednesday, cost us a third-row starting spot for the main event,” Spencer said. “Terrible draws buried Peyton in the two remaining qualifiers, but a heroic drive from 27th to fifth in the final qualifier was enough to clinch our ticket to start 15th in Saturday night’s main event.

“On championship night, Peyton drove from 15th to third in the first three laps, using a high line that few other drivers could master. The #1 AcreTrader-Cadillac Chassis car battled on that high side for most of the 71-lap race, taking the lead four times and convincingly holding the top spot on laps 17-20 and 36-40.”

On the final restart with two laps to go, Taylor had a chance to win.

“We wanted that top spot so badly, and if the chips had fallen a little differently, we could have won it,” Spencer said. “It was still the biggest night in our team’s history. No other Arkansan finished in the top 15, and we walked away with a $15,000 payday, the largest ever for Andrews Autosport. “


Editor Rex Nelson’s column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He is also the author of the Southern Fried blog at rexnelsonsouthernfried.com.