Jerry Tunney knew he was wanted to have a career in racing as soon as he bought a full-size car at age 13.
“Ever since then, it was something I’ve focused on 100 percent,”he said. “Racing is my life. It’s what I think about every day when I wake up.”
The Clarks Summit resident’s need for speed started before he ever sat behind a wheel.
Tunney began racing a remote control car around Lake Ariel Speedway as a hobby at age 8.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the recent Scranton Prep graduate enjoyed maneuvering around the fast track during his first ARCA Race last Saturday at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois.
“We were hitting upwards of almost 200 miles per hour,” Tunney said. “I’ve never raced at that kind of speed before and, as a race car driver, all I want to do is go faster and faster.
“It’s a really bumpy track, especially turns three and four. It has a lot of character and it was great to get out and learn the track.”
After qualifying 13th, Tunney finished 14th in the race, a result he was satisfied with.
“I was really looking for a top-20 or top-15 finish,” he said. “My main goal was getting the car home in one piece.”
Even thought he was content with the performance, he has a desire to start ending races in victory lane.
“I’m super, super competitive,” he said, “even when I’m not in a race car, but I love the fact that I can go out and compete against other drivers with similar equipment and race. To me, there is no better feeling than competing and winning a race.”
According to Tunney, participating in the Ansell Activ-Armr 150 was a great learning experience. He listed finding out how air from the cars in front of him affects the way his car handles as the number one thing he picked up through the race.
Making his first professional start at Chicagoland ranks as the most memorable experience in his young racing career.
“I participated in ARCA testing last December at Daytona International Speedway and that’s a great facility, but it was a privedge and an honor to race at Chicagoland.”
While it was Tunney’s first time competing in a race at a major speedway, he was working with the crew from Race 101, including founder Tony Blanchard, whom he knows well.
“It was great not having to worry about communication problems,” he said.
He also had the opportunity to utilize the professional expertise of TJ Mayors, who serves as the spotter for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the Sprint Cup Series.
“He helped out a lot to get around the track and pick up speed,” Tunney said.
Working with Mayors wasn’t the only connection Tunney had with the Earnhardt legacy last weekend. He also drove a car model similar to the one the late Dale Earnhardt made famous.
“It’s definitely something that catches a lot of eyes,” Tunney said. “The black number 3 car will also be associated with Dale Earnhardt. If people didn’t know who was in the race, it’s something that they relate back to. It was cool to go out and drive a black number 3.”
While Tunney has aspirations of racing at the highest level, he also has a backup plan.
“My goal is to keep going as far as I can,” he said. “If I get to the Sprint Cup Series, that’s great. If not, I’m going to UNC-Charlotte to study mechanical engineering this fall and, hopefully, I can get a job working for a racing team out of it. If I end up working with cars for a living, that would be great, too.”
The class projects will provide Tunney with the chance to experiment with the inner workings of the auto industry.
“I love to take cars apart and make them look better and go faster,” he said.