Matt Janisch knows his way around the track in a three-quarter midget. With more than a decade of experience in these lightning fast machines, the Nazareth, Pennsylvania driver has conquered two ATQMRA titles, most recently in 2016 with six feature wins and no worse than a third-place finish during the points-paying events held at various facilities in the northeast.
Nevertheless, a win indoors during the winter time is something Janisch still wishes to accomplish. Following a wreck in a non-points event at the Wall Stadium Speedway (NJ) Turkey Derby in November, the open-wheel car designed by the Mechanical Engineering college graduate himself was in need of extensive repairs. Arising was an opportunity that allows him to keep a streak of 11 straight Gambler’s Classic starts inside Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall alive.
“A friend of mine was in the stands (at the Turkey Derby) and he was asking about how bad the car was,” Janisch recently explained to Speed51.com. “We started texting back and forth that night and he told me that there might be a car available. I kind of inquired about it a little bit and turns out it was a Lafler car, the old Neal Williams No. 323, from last year. A private owner from New Jersey bought the car and had turned it over to Mark Manieri out of MMF chassis out of Easton (Pennsylvania).”
Paired with Manieri, a friend and former car builder of Janisch’s, they began preparing the No. 2 TQ, a different look from Janisch’s signature No. 48. They organized a group to get the Lafler Chassis, a manufacturer which has won multiple indoor features in recent years namely with Erick Rudolph and Ryan Flores behind the wheel, in competitive form during the month of December.
“He actually called me that Monday and we started putting plans together to have the car ready for Allentown,” Janisch said. “He had the car basically down to the frame and had to make some repairs to it. I went over there and got fitted in the seat, and ever since then have just been working on getting the thing together. Having the TQ experience helped out with the whole deal, and Mark’s an excellent fabricator so anything the car needed he was able to make it happen. It was down right to the wire with getting the car ready.”
Things did not go entirely as planned inside Allentown’s PPL Center over New Year’s weekend, missing the Saturday A-Main feature by one position, but the speed they showed has Janisch optimistic going into the late January weekend.
“We definitely could have been a little more prepared for Allentown, but for as last-minute as the deal was I think we were all happy with it at the end of the weekend even not making the race Saturday,” Janisch indicated. “We were in the top three in practice times Saturday morning, so I think we have a pretty good handle on it going into Atlantic City. I know they’ve got a bunch of ideas on how to make the car a little better. They want me to focus on driving the thing, so if I can kind of ease my mind a little bit and just focus on driving then I think we’re going to be in pretty good shape.”
Janisch finished runner-up in the Gambler’s Classic in 2011, and along with several additional strong finishes has certainly proved he can run with some of the strongest that invade during indoor season. A win with the newly formed team would be icing on the cake.
“It would be wild,” Janisch said. “The crazy thing is the competition is as tough as it ever was. Back when I finished second in 2011, that was just when the competition was starting to ramp up. There are so many guys out there with great equipment, so it would mean even more now to do it. With the increased competition it gets a lot of attention. There’s really nothing else going on this time of the year. It’s just a neat event.
“It would really mean a lot. It would be my biggest win without a doubt.”
-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Central NY & PA Editor – Twitter: @aaron_creed
-Photo credit: Speed51.com