Top right: Andrew and Joe Aquilante after a win in quarter midgets. Bottom right: Joe and Andrew at Sebring in 1999.
Above: Andrew Aquilante’s Subaru #35 WRX STI race car in 2011.
Top: Andrew Aquilante conferring with Don Knowles and Kristian Skavnes,
studying driver telemetry. Bottom left: Joe Aquilante takes an active role
in the pits on race day. Bottom right: Joe and Jeanne Aquilante at Lime Rock
Drive Performance talked with Joe Aquilante about his family, Phoenix Performance, and racing: "It's a family business," he said. "It's like the old family farm. You have to lean on it and stay with it."
And you have to have a passion for it. For Joe, that goes back to high school. "I really got started in 1970 when, as a graduation present from high school, my brother took me to Watkins Glen to see the six-hour endurance race that featured the John Wyer Porsches and Ferraris. There was a Can-Am race there at the same time, and I got hooked.
"My brother and I talked about doing this for a long time. All we wanted to do was race. I started by going to races with him and being his crew guy." Joe and his brother began road racing and club racing in the 1970s – Joe receiving his Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) racing license in 1978 – and that's where Joe stayed most of his racing career. That led to several regional championships in the SCCA and invitations to more than 10 SCCA Runoffs®. "I won 52 races at Pocono – that was always my favorite track," said Joe.
Along the way, Joe Aquilante became a CPA, met his wife, Jeanne (also an accountant), and had a son. "There's a picture on my wall of Andrew at 1-and-a-half years old rolling a tire into the trailer at Sebring, Florida. He used to come with us to all the races, and he usually fell asleep. But he was inoculated with the racing bug."
Joe continued: "Andrew started racing quarter midgets when he was 7 or 8. I used to take him to a local dirt track on Wednesday nights. His first win was his third or fourth race out."
Andrew raced quarter midgets until he outgrew them (too tall) at approximately age 12. Then he focused on working on Joe's race crews, but vowed to return to driving when he got his driver's license. According to Joe, "He wanted to race real cars when he turned 16. I said, 'OK. All you have to do is get good grades in school, take out the trash, and don't piss off your mother.' As soon as he got his driver's permit, I took him to the Bertil Roos Racing School, where he went from a beginner's safety school right into a competition school."
Andrew attended an SCCA driver school and got his license, then started racing Corvettes. Today, according to Joe, Andrew races anything that comes along. "He wants to be a professional race driver.
"Andrew's first GRAND-AM race was 2007 at Lime Rock, racing a BMW. Never having been in the car, he missed qualifying for the pole by something like a 10th of a second. Then he started the race, and he was racing against Kristian [Skavnes] and Chuck [Hemmingson – Subaru team drivers at the time], and he was leading the race. [Subaru Motorsports Marketing Manager] James [Han] turned to me and said, 'How come he isn't driving for us?'"
In 2008, Andrew shared driving chores in SRRT's #141 Subaru Legacy GT 2.5 GT spec.B. Joe Aquilante said, "Andrew's co-driver couldn't make all the races, so we brought Don Knowles in to substitute. Don was Andrew's teacher at the driving school."