Andy Kwitowski has always needed an outlet to free his mind from the rigors of his job as the owner and president of AK Construction, a licensed general contractor and construction management company based in Morgan Hill. Over the years, Kwitowski tried things to get his adrenaline fix, including triathlons.
“I used to run and cycle for triathlons, and literally the whole time all I could think about was work,” said the 39-year-old Kwitowski, who was born in Poland but has lived in Morgan Hill since he was 10. “We have 15 to 16 projects going on at any time, and sometimes you just have to unplug and go focus on something else. I have a hard time letting go, and there are times I think through the night of everything going on with the company and work. Nothing had been able to clear my mind.”
Until he got into motor sports racing four years ago. When he’s not running one of the most successful construction companies in the Bay Area, Kwitowski is racing in his super modified 2004 BMW M3 or his 1979 Porsche 911 SC Carerra. Despite having just four years of racing experience under his belt, Kwitowski recently won the biggest race of his career when he captured the Super Touring 4 Class race in the National Auto Sport Association Championships in Austin, Texas on Sept. 16.
Kwitowski is no stranger to success; in fact, he teamed up with three other drivers to win another prestigious race, the 25 hours of Thunderhill Race in Willows as part of the RK Motorsports TC Design race team. Both races were equally fulfilling in their own way, but nothing beats the satisfaction of winning a race as the solo driver.
“As far as individually, this (national championships) is definitely the biggest one,” Kwitowski said. “The 25 hour race was a huge deal, whereas this was an individual race and all on you.”
Kwitowski credited the TC Design Shop out of Campbell for building a great race car for him to drive to the win in Austin. Kwitowski won the shortened 45-minute timed race and was effusive in his praise for brothers Tony and Joe Colicchio, who are the owners of TC Design.
“The TC Design Shop had everything perfect mechanically,” he said. “When you just put fuel in it and change tires, which is the simplest thing you can do on the track, you know things are going good. A lot of preparation and thought goes into something like this. We were strategizing quite a bit (because of rain throughout the week), and everything lined up and went according to plan.”
Not only did Kwitowski win a national championship, he did it on perhaps the best motor sports race track in the country, the same 3.4-mile course that Formula 1 drivers will run for the only Formula 1 event in the U.S. at the end of this month. The Circuit of the Americas Road Course tests drivers with a series of elevation changes and turns that are challenging for even the best drivers in the world.
“It was a treat to be on a track and facility like that,” he said.
Kwitowski got into racing four years ago after conversations with his friend, Skip Rebozzi, who has been racing for over 30 years. One day, the two friends rented a couple of Mazda Miatas and did a track day at Thunderhill.
“He wanted to make sure I liked this,” Kwitowski said. “He drove the first session with me and said, ‘OK, you’re good.’ You have to connect with driving, and I never had a doubt I would. When I was younger, I rode dirt bikes and had a passion for driving.”
After completing a series of practice sessions and races, Kwitowski earned his competition’s license, “and the rest is history.” Kwitowski averages about 12 races a year, and this season is his best yet. If Kwitowski can earn a top finish in the race at Sonoma Speedway at the end of October, he’ll win the NASA NorCal Series Championship.
Single and with no kids, Kwitowski said, “racing is my wife and kids.” It’s a love and passion that he has invested plenty of time in and motivates him to continually work hard and succeed with his business. Few sports, if any, are more expensive than racing, but Kwitowski’s business affords him the luxury of being able to invest a lot of money in a sport that has given him a respite away from the job.
“I love the competition it provides, the adrenaline and the thrill of racing,” he said. “The competition feeds me. Racing is the first thing I’ve done where I can truly unplug (from the rigors and demands of work).”
The danger element actually plays a huge role in Kwitowksi being able to totally free his mind from work when he’s on the race track. After all, when you’re driving a modified race car, one small lapse of concentration can be life-threatening.
“A missed step can lead to hurting yourself and hurting your car (which often results in expensive repairs),” he said. “If you don’t have a clear head and are not focused, you’ll make mistakes in racing, and usually they’re pretty painful. If you’re going to be good at this, you certainly have to have a lot of focus.”
Focus is one way to describe Kwitowski, whose uncle was a general contractor. Kwitowski has always had a passion for building and creating things, and started AK Construction at just 24 years old. The same focus, grit and passion he has shown in developing a successful construction business has been evident whenever he puts his helmet on and gets in the race car.