Joey Amantea has made his mark in recent years on the USAC East Coast Sprint Car tour, but in 2024, he’s taking the show on the road full-time with the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship.
The 19-year-old Mount Pocono, Pa. native and Mechanical Engineering major at Lehigh University will take on the 54-race tour in 2024 aboard his family-owned JPA Racing No. 88J featuring a Triple X Chassis and power from Newman’s Racing Engines.
In recent years, Amantea has tackled a part-time USAC East Coast Sprint schedule with the 360 c.i. engine under the hood, notching a pair of victories on the half-mile dirt ovals of Pennsylvania’s Selinsgrove Speedway and Delaware International Speedway.
However, in 2023, Amantea installed a 410 c.i. powerplant and branched out extensively with the USAC National Sprint Cars, making nine series starts, including a pair of impressive top-10 results in a pair of marquee events. During the Indiana Sprint Week round at Lawrenceburg Speedway, Amantea made a spirited charge from the 18th starting position to finish seventh.
In his first attempt at Kokomo Speedway’s Sprint Car Smackdown, Amantea ran a solid ninth. Each time out, Amantea could sense his own improvement by leaps and bounds after competing and thriving against this discipline’s top talent on their home turf, so to speak. It was an up close and personal challenge he went face-to-face with and performed admirably.
“With the USAC national guys, you’re on edge, even under caution it seems like,” he said with a laugh. “A tremendous amount of knowledge was gained by running against them. They showed me how much harder I needed to drive from what I’m used to and how much harder I still can go as a driver. That’s been huge for myself and my whole team because, honestly, it’s made all of us better due to the face we’ve got to have our car on point every single time we hit the track.”
The whole experience led himself, his father, Joe Amantea, and crew chief Brian Zyck to make the next step and take Joey on the USAC national tour full-time in the coming year.
“Indiana Sprint Week was really the start of us thinking out loud that, hey, we can do this,” Amantea recalled. “Around that time, the talks began, and then we went out to Smackdown and made the show our first time doing it. It was then that my dad said, ‘yeah, let’s go do it.’”
Amantea’s red and black machine is adorned with the name of the family businesses – JPA Masonry and Amantea Real Estate. While Amantea pursues his college degree, he’s determined to some day make a living constructing racecars.
It was an interesting beginning to Amantea’s racing career as neither of his parents had any real tangible connection to the sport initially. Soon, a quarter midget found its way into the Amantea family garage and young Joey began competing extensively in the small cars between the ages of 5-12 against the likes of two-time USAC East Coast Sprint Car champion Briggs Danner.
It was in those early years that Amantea earned the nickname of “The Big Show” from a track public address announcer who witnessed Joey in a quite memorable last to first hard charging effort. On the opening lap, an incident turned Amantea around to a stop, forcing him to restart at the tail of the field where he proceeded to pass every car in his path, including the final one on the last turn of the last lap to earn a remarkable win. And to this day, the moniker has stuck.
Soon, Amantea found himself on the rugged and talent-laden Pennsylvania 600cc Micro Sprint circuit, capturing a Rookie title at Pennsylvania’s Hamlin Speedway. By 2020, at the age of 15, Amantea was behind the wheel of a sprint car, making his debut USAC East Coast feature start at the speedy half-mile of Port Royal (Pa.) Speedway.
New tracks, major competition and hitting the road while trying to balance a rigorous college workload with a full-time pursuit of the USAC National Sprint Car schedule. It’s all
part of the continuous progression of the teenage Pennsylvanian.
“I’m looking to see how far I can take my abilities as a driver from the beginning to the end,” Amantea said. “I have a few personal goals I’m setting for myself this season. I want to win, and I think we can get that along with a top-10 finish in points and multiple podiums. But mainly, I want to grow as a driver from start to finish, then be able to look back at the end of the season and see how much more I’ve improved. That’s something I’m looking forward to and that excites me.”
Joey Amantea and the JPA Racing team will begin their 2024 USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship seasonal quest with Winter Dirt Games XV at Ocala, Florida’s Bubba Raceway Park on February 9-10-15-16-17, plus two nights at Barberville, Florida’s Volusia Speedway Park on February 12-13.
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