The 2018 Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series schedule is once again packed with great events throughout New York and Pennsylvania, but this season’s slate has the majority of races saved for the second half of the year.
This Saturday marks the second race of the season, 75 laps at Lake Erie Speedway in Western Pennsylvania. It should be no surprise that many drivers, including defending RoC champion Mike Leaty, are eager to get the wheels turning on their Tour-type Modifieds.
“We’ve been running some Sportsman Mod races locally and running really well, but we’ve been missing the Modifieds. It seems like the RoC schedule is all later in the year this season,” Leaty told Speed51.com.
Leaty is particularly excited about his prospects at Lake Erie Saturday after the impressive effort he and his No. 25 team put forth in last September’s Race of Champions 250, where he finished runner-up to Matt Hirschman. At the time, he felt he hadn’t put all he had on the table, as he had a lead in the championship standings to protect. This time around, he’s leaving nothing on the table.
“We went and tested there the day before of the Race of Champions last year and really got the car working well,” Leaty explained. “We had a lot of speed in the 250, but we had the points to kind of worry about there at the end of the race, but I think we were on par with Matt Hirschman, which is saying something, at the end of the race. I think we could’ve given him a little bit more of a run than I did, so I’m looking forward to going back to Lake Erie. I think we got a really good setup and we’ll be a contender.”
While 2017 ended with Leaty toasting his first RoC Modified Series championship with his team in the off-season, the title came through consistent finishes, with the second-generation star missing out on a race-winning trophy. Getting back to victory lane is the primary objective until further notice.
“Without a doubt, I think last year was the first year I didn’t win a race since 2010,” Leaty said. “That was a little frustrating. It seems like everything I race lately, there was a race at Lancaster two weeks ago, I started seventh and I made my way to the lead on Lap 13 of a 35-lap race. We had to get to halfway to make it an official race and it rained before then, so we have to go back. But I’m ready to turn it around.”
Leaty also hopes to turn around their first effort of the season in the opening round at Lancaster National Speedway (NY) back in May.
“It was a brand-new car that we debuted,” he stated. “We had a fast car, fastest in our time trial group, won the heat, we had good short run speed, but over the course of the race we wore the rear tires off. It’s a product of trying to figure out the quirks of a new race car. I think we know what we did wrong, so we know we can perform better than we did at Lancaster.”
Despite having a better feel for the new car, Leaty and his team have decided to go with what they know will run well for this Saturday in an effort to get his first win since June 3, 2016, which came at his home track of Spencer Speedway in Williamson, NY.
“We decided to bring back our old race car for Lake Erie. It’s the same one that did well with at the 250, and we have a notebook for that one. We were disappointed with a tenth-place finish at Lancaster, so we know we will be better moving into this weekend and we can get back to victory lane.”
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / MoJo Photos