All in the family: For Samantha Anderson, racing is in her blood

Sami Anderson is carrying on the family tradition at Stafford Motor Speedway.

By EDITIONS EDITOR

MIKE CHAIKEN

From a genetic perspective, Sami Anderson’s decision to pursue auto racing at Stafford Motor Speedway this summer isn’t that unexpected.

Her father, Bill Anderson—who owns First Class Automotive in Forestville—used to race. Her cousins, Tony Membrino Jr. of Southington and Tommy Membrino Jr. of Prospect, are also third generation racers in the SK Modified division at Stafford. Her uncle Johnny Anderson, who recently passed away, raced. Her grandfather, Gary Membrino, was a regular on the state raceways as well.

“It runs in our blood,” said Sami Anderson.

However, while she is at home in her rookie year at the speedway, Sami Anderson also was the 2016 Miss Connecticut’s Outstanding Teen in the Miss America Organization pageant system. Additionally, she regularly finds time to be a fashion model.

But before there was crown or a fashion catwalk, racing stole Sami Anderson’s heart.

“As a kid, I watched my dad race,” said Sami. With her dad on the circuit, Sami said she traveled up and down on the East Coast to watch the cars speed by.

“It was really fun,” said Sami.

Then at age 9, she said, “I started in quarter midget racing at Silver City, Meriden.”

After several years of racing, Sami took a break from racing. Pageants and fashion then took hold of her life.

But when her uncle John Anderson passed away earlier this year, and while they were rubbing elbows with the race community again at her uncle’s memorial, both Sami and her father Bill got the itch to race again.

And her father, Sami said, made it happen.

Sami Anderson, above, is dressed for success in her No. 99 street stock racecar. The 2016 Miss Connecticut’s Outstanding Teen in the Miss America Organization has been burning up the track at Stafford Motor Speedway, and she is keeping alive a family legacy that has strong Southington connections. (And, no, she doesn’t usually circle the track in an evening dress.)

Although many years had passed since her quarter midget days, Sami said the skills she needed to race came back like learning a bicycle. That’s not to say, there wasn’t a learning curve.

“The track is totally different (for Street Stock),” said Sami, who drives modified blue and yellow Monte Carlo emblazoned with the number 89. “This is something totally different than anything I did in my life.”

Quarter midgets are smaller and go 50 miles per hour on a short track, she explained.

“Now I’m on a half mile track, and I’m in a full-size car going 100 miles per hour,” said Sami.

As of June 29, Sami had six races under her belt—including one baptism under fire in the fourth race when she crashed her Monte Carlo—forcing her father and crew to complete rebuild the back end of the car at the Forestville shop before the fifth race.

Thus far this summer, Sami said her best finish has been sixth.

“I’m progressing and getting better and better,” said Sami, who was hoping for a fifth place finish in the sixth race (she finished 13th). “I think we’re doing much better than we expected.

Her bloodline also got Sami into the world of pageants. She said her sister, Alyssa, already had been competing in the Miss America Organization for many years.

“I always wanted to be like my sister and that always drove me to want to do a pageant.”

But the final call to enter her into a pageant was her mother’s, said Sami.

Sami said while the family lived in Florida, where her father was racing, she was being homeschooled. Sami said she was on the phone with a teacher and whenever the teacher asked a question, she would just nod, which the teacher couldn’t see or hear.

Sami said she didn’t know how to speak to people.

Her mother, Tara, watched this exchange with her teacher and told Sami, “I’m throwing you in a pageant. You need to learn to speak and learn to develop interview skills.”

Sami’s attraction to the fashion world—which ran parallel to her rise in the world of pageants—was due to an observation.

“You look at anything today, it’s all about advertising and marketing… Everybody is involved in the fashion industry,” said Sami. Even if you’re not a model, she said, “The clothing we wear, it tells a lot about ourselves, a lot about our personality, and it allows us to express ourselves.”

The various facets of Sami’s interests seem diametrically opposed. However, Sami said there is a thread that runs through everything she does.

She’s all about competition. However, her chief competition is herself, she said. Whether it’s on the race track, on the stage of the pageant, or on the fashion catwalk, Sami said she strives to do better than she has done previously.

For Sami, it’s not about winning or losing. It’s all about constant improvement, she explained.

For more information about Stafford Motor Speedway and to follow Sami Anderson’s race results, go to www.StaffordMotorSpeedway.com.

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