With two races complete this season for the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series, the Leaty family race team is distinguishing itself from the competition already. The RoC’s last round out at Spencer Speedway (NY) saw Patrick Emerling come away with the race win, while Mike Leaty took over the points lead by seven markers over Chemung (NY) race winner Andy Jankowiak.
However, Leaty’s first two outings have been far from easy, with consistency coming after tough starts at each of the two events. Despite the troubles, the Williamson, NY pilot is happy with his team's results heading to Lake Erie Speedway (PA) this Saturday night, June 15.
“I feel like our cars have good speed. It’s just that in both of the first two races we’ve run into some early trouble and had to rebound to come back up through the field," Leaty told Speed51. "We were able to do that in both events, so that gives us a lot of confidence in the racecars and our teams. I think we’ll be strong for the year."
With 10 races remaining in the 12-race schedule, the 2017 RoC Modified Series champion is pushing for race trophies, rather than the big one at year’s end at the moment.
“It’s too early, I try not to race for points at this point in my career, I want to get to winning more races," said Leaty. "The points are always fun to win, we did it in 2017, but if we can go out and win races, they’ll take care of themselves.”
This Saturday will mark the first of two stops to the northwest Pennsylvania oval on the shores of its namesake Great Lake. The distance will be 75 laps this weekend, a sprint race compared to the season-ending 250 laps they will face come Race of Champions weekend in late-September.
Whether it’s a sprint or a marathon, Leaty is always a fan of coming to Lake Erie Speedway, despite some less than fortunate results in past races.
“I like Lake Erie a lot, it’s probably my favorite racetrack on the series, but it’s also probably the one I’ve had the least success at, which is kind of funny," explained Leaty. "We finished second in the Race of Champions to Matt Hirschman in 2017 to clinch the championship, but other than that our track record at Lake Erie had been less than stellar. Going into this weekend’s event, I think we’ll have a good piece, but because we have struggled there the last few years, especially in the spring event, there’s a little doubt to overcome.”
Speaking of ‘Big Money’ Matt Hirschman, Leaty suspects that the No. 60 team will be the ones to beat again at Lake Erie as they go for five straight wins. He is also confident that the 25 crew is more than up for being the ones to beat him to victory lane.
“He’s always the guy to beat it seems," Leaty said of Hirschman. "When we finished second to him two years ago, we had a car that could run with him, and that’s not easy to do. If we just put all of the pieces together, I think we can beat him. But, it still won’t be easy.”
Since its opening in 2002, Lake Erie Speedway has gained a great reputation as being one the most competitive paved short tracks in all the land. That said, Leaty believes qualifying will be paramount prior to the 75-lap race, with cooler weather affecting how the Modifieds drive under the lights.
“It’s a racetrack you can pass at, but we see a pretty big difference from day to night there from past experience. So, it’s going to be important to qualify good and make the right adjustments for the race, that’s the key to winning. Lake Erie is one my bucket list places I want to win at, I think it might be the only one on the series besides Jukasa I haven’t won at. It would be great to do that for sure.”
Fans unable to make it out to Lake Erie Speedway this Saturday can see the RoC Modifieds live on Speed51.com along with the RoC Four-Cylinders, RoC TQ Midgets, and Must See Racing Winged Sprint Cars. The broadcast will be available free for all Speed51 monthly and yearly subscribers. Click here to sign up for your Premium Membership to the Speed51 Network today.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com photo