Brandan Marhefka is the driver of the Marhefka Motorsports Asphalt Late Model that will be competing at Jennerstown Speedway, in Jennerstown, PA this season.
Brandan Marhefka isn’t your typical 17-year-old.
Sure you will find him playing a varsity sport, soccer to be specific, but you won’t find him sitting in the house after school playing Fortnite or other video games with his friends.
Most nights, after working a few hours at an after-school job, you can find the Windber Area High School junior at his family’s race shop/garage busy working on his No. 13 Chevrolet Late Model race car or finishing up rebuilding his 2011 Scion.
“It’s in the blood,” Marhefka said of being a third generation race car driver. “My brother Devan and I grew up watching my pappap (Bobby) and dad (Rob) work tirelessly in the shop. I just love doing it. I love the adrenaline rush of driving fast. But, I also have a lot of fun doing it.”
Marhefka hasn’t been racing all that long. He is set to kick off his second year racing at Jennerstown Speedway when the green flag drops on the season May 11.
“My mom (Chris) was hesitant to let me drive because she didn’t want my grades to slip, but they haven’t. My family is big on education and wouldn’t even let me think about racing until I understood I had to go somewhere after high school,” he said. “It was really cool to start racing at 16 when my dad was 18 when he started.”
His father Rob said the family held the start of Brandan’s racing career until he was older for two reasons. They didn’t want to burn him out early by competing with Go Karts every weekend growing up and they didn’t want him to pick up bad habits from other young drivers.
“I started racing with my dad’s old Late Model. We just put a new engine it,” Rob said. “I don’t think I could even try to work on a Fast 4 or Street Stock. So when we decided it was time to let Brandan race, we decided to start him in the Late Models because some of these guys have been driving on the asphalt of Jennerstown Speedway for decades. We wanted him to learn from some of the best short-track drivers around in Gary Wiltrout, Barry Awtey and Rick Boyer.
“I told him to respect those guys, and he did. There weren’t any complaints about him from any of the drivers or the officials.”
Brandan added, “My dad told me to respect them and follow in their footsteps. I wanted to piggy back off those guys who have been doing it forever. I knew in my rookie season that I needed to race cautious. I can’t bust the car up because then I can’t race. I need to be out there every weekend I can, working on improving.
“The Motor Mountain Master race last year was 150 laps and I just wanted to survive. I did, but I was light-headed and really tired after it. My last race of the season was the best. I was able to run side-by-side for a number of laps with one of the guys that used to race with my dad. This year I want to break through that barrier of backing off every time someone is running with me.”
While Rob said Brandan hates to lose, he added Brandan understands he isn’t going to beat veteran drivers from day one.
His grandfather Bobby said Brandan takes the sport seriously.
“He is very smart. He asks questions and is his own worst critic. He is harder on himself than we ever are,” Bobby said. “We are very proud of him.”
While Bobby can’t help much with the car anymore with all of the new technology from when he raced, he still can give advise on driving smooth through turns, braking, looking at driving lines and keeping cool and calm under pressure.
Rob said there are a lot of changes since he last raced on asphalt.
“We we did time trials, I had 600 horsepower and Brandan is running 400 horsepower with a crate and he is faster than I was with more. It’s all because of technology,” Rob said. “I am going to step out and let him run in my dirt car a bit this summer to get the feel for running on something different from asphalt. It will be a big adjustment. Dirt is a different animal.”
To his credit, Brandan said while having his grandfather and father giving him advise means a lot, he is stubborn and doesn’t always listen like he should.
Brandan calls himself a hand’s on guy, and said he is starting to look into college or trade school.
“I have not totally decided, but I have been leaning toward metal fabrication and welding,” he said. “I like getting my hands dirty taking things apart and putting them back together.
“I have a great pit crew, but I like to help. I like knowing what the adjustment is and how that will affect the car. Working on and driving are two different worlds.”
By Christina Dunmyer – Daily American Sports Editor (27 April 2019)