by Beth Stauffer

If the classic Jeff Foxworthy statement “If you think the last four words of the National Anthem are Gentlemen, Start Your Engines” applies to you, then you are in for a real treat as today we feature one of New Haven’s own Baer Field Speedway racing superstars, Brian Janes.

Brian Janes, Tyler Clark and Matt Janes

30 year old Janes, a lifelong resident of New Haven, grew up in a family where racing has been handed down from one generation to the next.  His maternal grandfather, former New Haven Chief of Police Dick Patty, raced at the South Anthony Speedway during the 1960’s and 1970’s.  When Patty stepped away from racing, Brian’s father, Everett Janes, stepped in to carry on the family tradition, racing for 23 years.

Brian and his older brother Matt now keep the racing dreams alive for the next generation of Janes men, including Brian’s 3 year old son Aiden, at Baer Field Speedway during the summer racing season.

On Saturday June 29th, Brian will vie for his 5th win of the season at Baer Field in the Front Wheel Drive class.  For just $20, anything that can be driven through the gates at Baer Field Speedway will get you in so load up 30 of your closest friends in your Honda Civic tonight and head out to the Speedway for the 5 Division Super Show; gates open at 2 pm, with an autograph session with the drivers at 7 pm and racing action at 7:30 pm.

Prior to tearing up the track at Baer Field later tonight, Janes started racing at the young age of 12, manning the wheel of a Go-Kart on a dirt track at the speedway for a few seasons before making the leap to racing Open Wheel Modified cars when he was 15.

With a laugh, Janes recalls how he had a learner’s permit to drive at the very same time he was racing the Open Wheel Modified cars on the weekend.

Janes raced in this division for 3 years before his situation at home changed.

Money became tight.

Even though he loved racing, and had a passion for it, racing went by the wayside for 13 years.

Janes admits that he still went to the track to watch the races from time to time, but it wasn’t until his brother Matt started racing again a few years ago that the itch to get back behind the wheel took hold of Brian.  “I started helping my brother out, and then last year after talking it over with my wife I started racing again,” said Janes.  “Christina and I have a pretty good agreement.  I work on the car while she’s at work, and my son Aiden helps me out in the garage.”

Last year, and again this season, Janes participated in the budget friendly, entry level Front Wheel Drive class at Baer Field.  Janes finished 6th in the overall points standing in his rookie season last year, and this year he has been undefeated in the futures races in addition to being the fastest qualifier  at the Speedway.

With humbleness, Janes says very directly that it isn’t about being the fastest car out there, or having the most money wrapped up in your car.  “For me, it’s about going out there and having a good time, because you can’t make money at this sport.  It’s not gonna happen.  But for me, being in the budget class I’m in, with having kids and a family, while money is tight and the economy is down, it’s nice to be able to get away and have a little fun without breaking the break.”

Janes attributes his stellar success so far this season to the time he put into his car over the winter in the garage.  “My homework has paid off in the garage over the winter,” said Janes.  “Everything I’ve done in the garage has paid off, as they have yet to beat me out there this season.”

Janes is also quick to point out that he also has a lot of help in the garage with his homework, too.  His stepfather, “Lightning” Larry Zent, an area racing legend, has served as a mentor to both Brian and Matt.  Zent races in the Outlaw Super Late Model class at Baer Field for serious cars with more than $100,000 in modifications.  According to Janes, back in the day Baer Field would host a NASCAR Night with such legendary drivers as Rusty Wallace and Dale Earnhardt.  On at least one occasion, Earnhardt drove one of his stepfather’s cars to victory lane, so one can only assume Zent has some excellent advice to pass along to the next generation of aspiring race car drivers.

“Larry stands behind me 100%,” said Janes.  “He gives me a lot of good advice, and comes out every Saturday that he can make it.  So far this year he’s been to every race.”

Janes’ close friend and de facto Crew Chief, New Haven Police Reserves officer Tyler Clark, is another one of his secret weapons in the garage.  The two friends behind Clark Janes racing have found a mutually beneficial relationship in the garage and the pits.

“Tyler doesn’t have kids, he isn’t married, no girlfriend, so he’s available to come help me at the drop of a hat.  It’s the best thing ever!” said Janes with a smile.

Janes reciprocates all the help he receives by helping Clark, who races in the Street Stock division at Baer Field.  “I’m helping him out with his car, helping him to get his car going as fast as it can, added Janes.

Now, someone you might not expect to be helping Janes in the garage is one of his competitors, but in this case, according to Janes one of his fiercest competitors is also one of his biggest supporters.

He’s also his big brother, Matt Janes.

Matt, who works for Advance Auto Parts, has been known to bring parts by for his little brother after he gets off work.  (In fact, on the night this interview took place, Matt had just dropped off a part on his way home.)  According to Brian, Matt is an extremely hard worker, putting in 50+ hours a week on the job, in addition to being a husband and father of 4, but he still makes time for his kid brother even though he technically is the competition.

Just last week, the Janes brothers came in 1st and 2nd in the Front Wheel Drive class in a clean futures race, Brian told me.

That wasn’t necessarily the case in the heat that took place beforehand that resulted in a post-race scuffle in the pits that Brian and Matt’s mom, Teresa, had to mediate to keep the peace in the family.

“My brother and I have always been close,” Brian said on Thursday following the race. “I always try to watch his back on the track.  There are a lot of drivers that are inexperienced or can’t drive the car as well as they need to.  Last week, I pushed him all the way to the front and then with a couple laps to go I passed him.  I followed him up to third and I was in fourth.  He ran in on the inside.  I see the hole even further on the inside, so I decide to stick the nose of the car into the hole going into the last lap of the race, going into the last two turns of the race into three and four.  I ran down into him and he pushed me down into the grass.”

At this recollection, Brian puts his elbows on the table and leans in, and, raising his eyebrow and altering the tone of his voice to indicate that he is partly seriously, partly sarcastic, continues with his remaining comments.  “I have video footage of what happened because I have an in-car camera.  I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Days of Thunder, but there’s a part in the movie where he says ’There seems to be a bit of post-race activity’ because I came into the pits and gave Matt a bit of a bump when he was parked in his pit stall just to let him know I wasn’t too happy about it.  Then I got out of the car and we had a friendly discussion about it.  If I didn’t know how to drive the car, I would have went straight into the wall,” said Brian.  “I asked Matt, ‘Didn’t you see me there?’  He said, ‘I seen you.’”

I wonder if Darrell and Michael Waltrip ever had issues like this on the race track?

Aside from his brother, perhaps Janes’ true ace in the hole in the garage is his 3 year old son, Aiden.  Young Aiden is already well-versed in using many of the tools in the garage, says his proud father.  “Aiden can’t pull the tire off yet because he’s not strong enough, but he can work the electric cordless impact that allows him to take the lug nuts off with.  Then I’ll take the tire off, and he can put the lug nuts back on by hand.  He’s been doing that since he was two.”

I’ve been doing that since, well, never.

It’s no wonder that Janes’ stepfather, Lightning Larry, is anxious to get this little mechanical prodigy, and the next generation of racing, behind the wheel of something with four wheels that goes fast.

“I can guarantee that by the time Aiden’s five, my stepdad will have him racing a Go-kart.  Maybe sooner,” said Janes assuredly.

To me, this sounds like a little boy’s dream, but Janes tells me, “No, actually the only thing Aiden is obsessed with right now is choo-choo trains.  Since we live in New Haven, he’s living the dream.”

Just like his father.


POSTED: 06/29/13 at 7:50 am. FILED UNDER: News