This past Saturday night the full attention of the racing community in the Northeast was centered on Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley for the inaugural Allentown Indoor Race, in what was billed as the largest motorsports event in the area since the last event at the late Nazareth Speedway in 2004.
The driver lineup for the headlining TQ Midgets lived up to the hype with a bountiful 72 drivers cramming the PPL Center to make the field of 24 for the TQ Midgets A-Main feature. Dirt Modified standout Erick Rudolph had the best time of all, leading 40 laps of the main event to win the first of three races in the 2016 Indoor Auto Racing Championship. For his competitors, the night was all but smooth sailing.
CONTACT WITH BLEWETT ENDS JANKOWIAK’S BID
Andy Jankowiak was one of the promising contenders at the start of the night setting fast time in time trials with a fast lap of 7.5 seconds. Follow time trials he would go on to finish second in the first heat and start the 40-lap feature fourth after the redraw.
Jankowiak, who had won features at both the Atlantic City and Trenton events in 2015, put an early move on Jimmy Blewett on Lap 5, but the two made contact resulting in a spinning Andy J. This would lead to multiple incidents in the race, with Jankowiak finishing three laps down in 15th.
BONSIGNORE MEETS MISFORTUNE
Justin Bonsignore was another potential winner to meet misfortune after a great run to start the night. Following a win in the first heat race, Bonsignore lined up for the feature to the outside of Rudolph on the front row, but soon fell back through the field after sliding out of the groove on an early restart.
On a subsequent restart, Bonsignore made contact with Jonathan Reid forcing his No. 51 to pop a wheelie and slide to a stop with a broken left front tie-rod. The damage was enough to force the Tour-Type Modified driver to retire just eight laps into the 40-lap feature.
VETERAN TEAMMATES SEE RACE END EARLY
A pair of veteran racers who teamed up for Saturday’s race both saw their night end early. Modified legend Ted Christopher came to a stop on the track during the lap 8 caution for Bonsignore and retired from the event due to an engine failure.
Christopher’s teammate and former ISMA Supermodified champion Lou Cicconi did not fare any better, as he spun around on the very first lap of the race before finishing three laps down in 14th.
EMERLING WORKS HARD FOR TOP 10 FINISH
One of the best recoveries on the night had to belong to Tour-Type Modified racer Patrick Emerling. While running second in his heat race, Emerling collided with lap traffic, snapping his right front tie-rod.
From that point on Emerling had to work hard for every position he gained. He transferred into the A-Main with a second-place finish in a B-Main before fighting hard from the 21st starting spot. Emerling would crack the top-five before eventually finishing eighth.
BIG NAMES DON’T MAKE THE SHOW
With 72 drivers in the pit area, just making the A-Main feature was a feat in itself. A handful of drivers including some big names from the asphalt racing world failed to make the show. Zane Zeiner, David Calabrese and Joey Payne were three of the 48 drivers that did not advance through to the main feature.
INAUGURAL ALLENTOWN EVENT A HUGE SUCCESS
Len Sammons Motorsports Productions walks away from Allentown with a lot to be proud of. The promotion team announced a sellout with upwards of 8,000 fans making their way inside the PPL Center on Saturday.
There are expectations that the event will return once again in 2017, possibly with two days of racing.
The Indoor Auto Racing Championship will continue on January 29-30 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Atlantic City is recognized as one of the biggest events on the indoor racing schedule each year with upwards of 100 TQ Midgets expected to enter.
2015 Chili Bowl Nationals winner Rico Abreu is set to make his first attempt at the race.
Following the race in Atlantic City, the three-race series will host its finale in Trenton, New Jersey on February 27-28.
There is $10,000 bonus that Erick Rudolph can claim, should he sweep the feature event races in the final two rounds.
The Slingshots will return for both rounds with Ed Reeder trying to pull a sweep of his own after claiming the win in Allentown. The Champ Karts will join the TQ Midgets and Slingshots for the final two events as well.
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Correspondent – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Daryl Canfield/Speed51.com