John “Whiffer” Ondrejko was introduced to Drag Racing by a neighbor who took him to New England Dragway for the first time. John quickly realized he had a passion for Drag Racing. At the age of 18, John began working on cars of his own and showed up at the track with a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro that ran in the 9-second range. In the early 1970s, that was FAST, and John was soon being asked to help other racers make their cars go that fast.
John had a number of jobs to pay for his racing habit, including as a paperboy, repairing garbage trucks, and tow truck driver. John was also able to get a job working with Chick Brignolo, who was a premier chassis builder of the time.
In 1977 John’s fabrication talent, attention to detail, and spirit to succeed brought him to open John’s Racecraft in a small garage behind his home in Roslindale. After several years John expanded that garage and in the mid-1990’s John relocated the business to a much larger facility in Brockton, where he operates from today. That small shop in Roslindale produced many winning race and show cars including his friend Richie’s Corvette that won nine Best of Show Awards. John has owned a few race cars himself over the years, but with one understanding; his Wife Karen would not allow him to drive. So he and his friend Peter would load up the Camaro and head to New England Dragway where Peter would drive and John would tune. After several months had passed John’s wife Karen discovered John had been driving not Peter. That permanently ended John’s driving career and may have been the last time he didn’t do what Karen told him too.
John’s talent for chassis tuning brought him into the NHRA Pro Stock ranks as crew chief for New England native Chuck Harris. John traveled the country with Chuck and in 1992 won the coveted “Crew Chief of the Race Award” from NHRA after he and Chuck had won the 1992 Pontiac Excitement Nationals in Columbus, Ohio.
When Chuck retired from racing, John was tapped by longtime friend Vincent Barletta to be crew chief on his son Tim’s NHRA Pro Stock. Along the way, John worked closely with Jim Yates Racing and Dick Maskin Engines and was able to field an NHRA pro stock car of his own with his son Ryan driving.
John’s accomplishments in racing have always come second to his family. He and Karen have raised two great sons, Jonathan and Ryan. Many in the racing world know Ryan for his success as a driver who has won three NHRA Top Sportsman Championships with John by his side. What people may not know is that John was very active supporting his son Jonathan in spelling bees and the academic world. There is no question that John’s family is paramount to him. Karen, Jonathan, and Ryan have supported him through the years as he has supported them. John has also given back to the racing community by sponsoring the New England Dragway Top Sportsman Series for many years.
The Orientals Hot Rod Club is proud to induct John Ondrejko into the 2019 class of the New England Hot Rod Hall of Fame.