Anthony Sesely is not a stranger to bringing his Hyper chassis into the mix with the recent Lafler TQ Midget indoor racing dominance inside the Boardwalk Hall. Despite accomplishing a flag-to-flag record third Gambler’s Classic win in the 2016 running, what will set this one apart from the Mattawan, New Jersey driver’s 2013 and 2014 victories was the steadily increasing cast of talent he was required to fend off.
“Getting that first place start meant a lot tonight,” Sesely, who gained the pole after a six car invert, told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “With the competition the way it is here, it’s getting tougher and tougher each and every year. The level of competition here is just intense. Right down from Andy (Jankowiak) to Jimmy Blewett to Ryan Flores; these guys are just tough. You get guys from all different forms of racing and they’re all champions in everything that they do so it’s difficult just to come in here and win a race.”
Each of those drivers that were mentioned by Sesely had an opportunity to gain the top spot throughout the course of the 40-lap A-Main. Jankowiak, a preliminary night winner a year ago in Atlantic City, had the final shot on a two-lap dash to the finish.
“We were losing a little bit of oil out of the breather and it was getting on the left rear,” Jankowiak explained. “Not bad, but it made the car a little erratic. We had our shot and Anthony was having a brake issue so we were both hobbling a little bit. We were going to race for the win and I was going to try to do it on the top.”
Despite coming up a position short, the range of emotions after some setbacks on Friday were noticeable in the effort Jankowiak and his team put in to get to second place. Ending the weekend on a high note has the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour regular even more poised to earn the Gambler’s Classic Trophy next year for his childhood mentors.
“I’m proud of how we hung in there and stayed positive,” Jankowiak noted. “I’ve been helping them with their racecars since I was 10 years old running around the shop. To be racing for Trey Hoddick and Karl Hehr, it’s a dream come true for me and I wouldn’t trade it for any situation in the world. This is exactly what I want to be doing.”
Although, Jankowiak enjoyed the wheel-to-wheel show he and Sesely put on for the fans in attendance, a couple other contenders were not so satisfied.
Ryan Flores climbed from 14th starting position to alongside Sesely at one point, but it was all derailed during a spin in turn four.
“All of the rubber came off the bottom and there was no entry stability at all,” Flores documented. “Everybody knew that we were in the rubber and we had them beat. He packed it in there into three, knew there was no rubber there, he got free, and used me to slow him down and spun me out.”
A longstanding friendship going back to their teenage years will not change between Flores and Sesely, but the full time NASCAR crew member was not pleased with what occurred on the track. A mishap on Friday night turned his track record breaking fast qualifying effort into a mid-pack starting position.
“When you’re going for the win I understand it, but he’s ruined our weekend twice now,” Flores said. “You’ve got to wait a whole year to do this again. I don’t get to race again until next year. That one was pretty rough. The frustrating part is I like Anthony. We’ve been friends a long time, but he isn’t going to get any breaks and they were booing him for a reason.”
Another fellow Garden State-born racer, Jimmy Blewett, challenged early for the lead but ended up with similar circumstances coming to the green flag on a restart.
“I felt like I gave it probably the best shot out of anybody on the outside,” Blewett stated. “It’s just unfortunate. I had position on Anthony and I don’t know if he realized it or I don’t know what the case was, but we came up there and drove up on the outside of the car and got me all bent up. Once I got all out of shape there I got hit by five or six cars on the wheels while the caution was out. When I restarted I still had a great car but just needed a couple inches there.”
Although the particular altercation did not completely take Blewett out of winning contention, a spin racing for second with Zane Zeiner did. He would eventually finish in seventh.
Additional normal favorites for the victory struggled with traffic as well, namely Allentown winner and Gambler’s Classic 10th place finisher Erick Rudolph. Sesely again stressed the importance of being able to defend by having the lead position.
“By no means did I have a winning racecar that I could say I could have driven through this field,” Sesely admitted. “I made a mistake last night and went to the back of my heat and I got back through fairly well with what I had, but I know I didn’t have a dominant car like Andy J. or Ryan Flores or Erick Rudolph, even Jimmy at that point of the race had a good car. With the track condition the way it was and the starting position that I had it kind of played to my favor because I don’t know if anyone could get it to stick out there.”
Looking ahead, the northeast Indoor Racing Series travels for their final event of 2016 in late February. When asked, Sesely used the name of the event in his simple description and also explained the major difference it has from Boardwalk Hall.
“Trenton is a battle. Every time I go there it’s a rough one. It’s scary to say, but this is like superspeedway racing compared to Trenton.”
On-demand coverage of the Gambler’s Classic can be found by visiting Speed51.com’s Speed Central. Highlights from the event can be seen soon on the Speed51 Network.
-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Central NY & PA Editor – Twitter: @aaron_creed
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
|14th Annual Gambler’s Classic Results|