Gambler’s Classic at Atlantic City

(Updated throughout the day)

Anthony-Sesely-2016-Boardwalk-Hall-Win

 

What Won the Race:  Anthony Sesely fended off numerous challenges to lead flag-to-flag and win a record third Gambler’s Classic.

 

The Finish:
1) Anthony Sesely
2) Andy Jankowiak
3) Justin Bonsignore
4) Kyle Lick
5) Mike Lichty
6) Zane Zeiner
7) Jimmy Blewett
8) Nick Ladyga
9) Tim Buckwalter
10) Erick Rudolph
11) Rob Neely
12) Matt Janisch
13) DJ Shaw
14) Matt Roselli
15) Ryan Flores
16) Brad Lamberson
17) Pat Bealer
18) Scott Kreutter
19) Patrick Emerling
20) Ryan Tidman
21) Joey Payne
22) Tony DiMattia
23) Bob Baker
24) Ryan Susice
25) Andrew Krause
26) Rob Vivona

Slingshot Top 10 Finishing Order:
1) Dan Spellman
2) Cody Kohler
3) Kyle Herve
4) Simon Egan
5) Demetrios Drellos
6) Nick Shaw
7) Matt Stangle
8) Kevin Van Valkenburg
9) Joe Kata
10) Frank Yankowski

Champ Kart Top 10 Finishing Order:
1) Danny Bouc
2) Donnie Nall
3) Chris Daley
4) Joe Pacovich
5) Zack Myers
6) Jonathan Cash
7) Anthony Colandro
8) Mike Perry
9) Jerry Mullis
10) Richie Davidowitz

 

The Skinny:  A six-car invert placed Anthony Sesely on the pole, but it was not clear sailing until the end.  Jimmy Blewett and Zane Zeiner presented the first challenge until the two Modified aces got together and as a result restarted in the back.  Then Ryan Flores came from 14th starting position to make a bid on the outside before spinning in the third turn.

RoC regular Andy Jankowiak, who overcame a weekend full of ups and downs, made one last effort on a final two-lap dash but had to settle for second.  Justin Bonsignore turned in his best indoor racing effort to date rounding out the podium.

 


Winning Quote
:  “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.”

 

 

 

Notebook:  Allentown fast qualifier Andy Jankowiak and Erick Rudolph set times fast enough to break the track record on Thursday’s optional practice.NASCAR and RoC Modified Tour regular Patrick Emerling has been battling some engine problems, but was cautiously optimistic with the way the TQ ran in the initial practice session.

D.J. Shaw makes his first indoor start after skipping the Allentown event due to work obligations.  The New Hampshire driver admitted he still some things to learn with the open wheel machines, but was pleased with his early practice run.

RoC competitor and Holland Speedway (NY) track champion Tommy Catalano is making his first ever start in a TQ this weekend.  The teenage racer has high expectations with his Joseph Brainard prepared Lafler Chassis and is looking for a qualifying run in the teens to help in making Saturday’s feature.

Andy Jankowiak will line up first for time trial attempts, he decided not to practice in either of the Friday sessions after being happy with his car on Thursday night.

Ryan Preece returns to Indoor Racing for the first time in 2016, the new Lafler Chassis he will be piloting this weekend is less than a week out of the shop, despite just making in practice, Preece is confident he has a winning car.

Justin Bonsignore is happy with the top five practice run he posted on Friday, but is a bit weary of the new qualifying procedure as he believes “There more opportunities for a wreck”.

Clarification on Andy Jankowiak – we were informed that officials found a 55 gallon drum of diesel fuel in the team’s trailer in the building which is against New Jersey state policy.  As a result, he was not permitted to participate in Friday’s practice and had to go out first in time trials.

The new qualifying procedures for Atlantic City were one of the major talking points on Friday, with the top 40 in time trials being inverted after being sorted into four 20-Lap qualifiers. The top four fastest will each start tenth, but Erick Rudolph was up for the challenge after qualifying second.

“Car feels racy. It’s different for everyone for sure. Starting back there, we’ll try to keep our nose clean, but I think we’ll be okay.”

Zane Zeiner clocked in fourth on the charts, and reflected a similar confidence.

“It’s going to be interesting, I guess I’m the guinea pig because I’m going to be in the first qualifier  starting tenth. I think we’re just going to play it smart, keep the front end underneath us. But I feel like we got a good car today and keep backing it up. 20 laps is going to be a good test for tomorrow night, so we’ll see what happens.”

Former CASCAR racer Rob Neely was disappointed with his qualifying run after being near the top in practice, but will start up front in his qualifier as a result of the invert.  He and the team are currently thinking of a game plan in order to stay up front.  Neely believes that it will be difficult to pass in Friday night’s qualifiers.

RoC Modified regular Bobby Holmes was deep in the time trial order and is “trying anything” to make his TQ faster.  The Upstate New York driver finished 11th in Allentown earlier in the month.

2006 and 2010 winner Lou Cicconi has been showing frustration after a 45th fastest time trial run.  The former champion simply shook his head while work continued on his car and commented “nothing seems to be going right.”

David Calabrese returns to the Indoor circuit after failing to make the show in Allentown, but a solid time trial effort places him third on the grid for his qualifier, and feels confident in making the show on Saturday.

It was a tough Friday night for Ryan Flores, after a promising start claiming fast time in time trials, Flores got caught in traffic and damaged his right front suspension in his 20-lap qualifying race. The team broke the car down Friday night and reassembled the right front Saturday morning, they expect to make it out for TQ Saturday practice.

Friday night was a night full of upsets with a few near misses. The best near miss was in the third 20-lap qualifier, after current Indoor Championship points Erick Rudolph went from tenth to first in three laps he soon had company from New Hampshire Super Late Model driver D.J. Shaw who hounded Rudolph for the lead in the final half. A caution with two laps to go deflated Shaw’s shot after the car tightened up, he fell to fourth. Shaw has some confidence and is ready for heat racing Saturday night.

Two former race winners will not be driving in Saturday’s Gambler’s Classic.  Ted Christopher packed up and went home early, which also leaves Lou Cicconi without a ride.  Although not in the best of spirits, Cicconi is sticking around in an owner role for his two remaining TQs.  Jeff Strunk had a part failure yesterday and was done and Alex Bright’s car broke as well.  That leaves Midwestern talent Russ Gamester and John Ivy left to get one or both of his remaining cars in the show.

One of the hot terms on Friday was ‘bicycling’, the description of the cars going up on two wheels at times due to the frequency of grip on the concrete surface.  After Saturday’s final practice, numerous competitors are reporting that the track has loosened up, which shows with the slowing down of lap times of at least a half second.

Jack Conover has been making a name for himself in last chance races after trying a different setup in Friday time trials which did not work.  He advanced into Saturday night’s heat races by winning the first last chance race over Dakota Kessler.

The second last chance race resulted in controversy after the checkered flag.  New Jersey racer Andrew Krause won, but behind him second and third place finishers Mike Tidaback and James Michael Friesen’s TQs were disqualified.  Tech officials deemed that the rear tread width was too wide from the 55.5 inch maximum in the rule book.

Andy Jankowiak starts second in heat one. He feels his team missed the setup a bit last night and despite some contact with Jimmy Blewett which took him out of an automatic transfer spot last night, he shrugged it off saying it comes with the territory of Indoor Racing.

Zane Zeiner is one of the happiest drivers in AC after advancing to the Gambler’s Classic on points last night after troubles in Allentown, but also commented on how he will have less time to see how his car operates under racing conditions.

Ryan Flores described his car after its repairs from last night with one simple word before heading to accept his fast qualifier award – ‘fast’.  It was noticeable that his car could get through the corners easily compared to others when fastest during practice in the early afternoon.

Demetrios Drellos was a contender for the win in the Slingshot A-Main and despite graduating to the Dirt 358 Modified ranks decided to come back to Atlantic City to compete.  After making it through the afternoon last chance race he will line up in dead last, but mentioned that “if you’re in the show here, you can win.”

A home state favorite during the on track Fanfest was the “Jerzy Jet” Joey Payne.  Although not yet qualified, the two-time Gambler’s Classic winner is very optimistic heading into Saturday night’s heats, explaining that the engine was redone and the TQ has been in the top 10 on the charts all week.

The driver with one of the biggest turnarounds after Allentown was Ryan Tidman, winning his qualifying race on Friday night to advance to A-Main Saturday. Tidman was relieved to have the pressure of making the field off his shoulders and not having to deal with heat race chaos. As for track time leading up to the event, Tidman is plenty happy with watching track conditions from the stands before heading out for the feature.

Anthony Sesely is no stranger when it comes to starting from the pole for the Gambler’s Classic as being in the front-running spot aided in his 2013 and 2014 victories.  Sesely said they’re getting there when it comes to the setup, but admitted that despite being an asphalt racer the track changes so much that it has to be treated similar to a dirt track.

After finishing second in his heat, Brandon Knupp’s run appears to have been disallowed.  Matt Janisch instead transfers and Knupp starts at the rear of B-Main 2.

Champ Kart pole starter Donnie Nall won last year’s event.  The North Carolina resident earned the top spot after the top eight qualifiers were inverted.

Notable drivers failing to qualify for the Gambler’s Classic included Earl Paules, Ryan Preece, and Bobby Holmes.

 

 

Car Count:  92 TQ Midgets are on hand for this weekend’s festivities.  A large amount of Slingshots and Champ Karts are in the spacious pit area as well.

Title Fight:  After one event in the Indoor Auto Racing Championship that was held in Allentown, PA, winner Erick Rudolph holds the lead over Ryan Flores and Mike Lichty.  Rudolph and Flores tied for the 2015 championship with Rudolph breaking the tie with his win in Atlantic City a year ago.

Winning Chassis: Hyper 600cc

Winning Engine: Dave Orange Engines

Winning Shocks: ‘Fast’ Freddie Linder

Starting Line-Up:
1) Anthony Sesely
2) Mike Lichty
3) Zane Zeiner
4) Ryan Tidman
5) Tim Buckwalter
6) Jimmy Blewett
7) Erick Rudolph
8) Rob Vivona
9) Tony DiMattia
10) Andy Jankowiak
11) Joey Payne
12) Matt Roselli
13) Bob Baker
14) Ryan Flores
15) Ryan Susice
16) Justin Bonsignore
17) Brad Lamberson
18) Matt Janisch
19) DJ Shaw
20) Kyle Lick
21) Andrew Krause
22) Patrick Emerling
23) Nick Ladyga
24) Pat Bealer
25) Rob Neely
26) Scott Kreuter

NOTES:  Top nine starting order was determined by a five lap dash consisting of the drivers that locked themselves into the feature on Friday night.  10th-21st were decided in six Saturday evening heat races, while 22nd-24th were set in three B-Mains.  25th and 26th were provisional starting positions.

Fast Qualifier: Ryan Flores set fast time in TQ Time Trials with a 7.937 second run. Flores knew he had at least a top five lap, and was extra happy to find he set fast time. However, under the new qualifying procedures, the top 40 qualifiers will be inverted after being divided into four 20-Lap qualifying races later on Friday, meaning Flores will start tenth. But a provisional and a strong car have Flores brimming with confidence.”I feel fine, we started eighth a couple weeks ago in Allentown, and I haven’t really started up front that much. We can pass cars really good, but you get a provisional if you’re the fastest qualifier so if we have a rough night tonight, we’re still in the show.”

 

TQ A-Qualifier #1 Top 5 Results:
1) Tony Dimattia
2) Zane Zeiner
3) Tim Buckwalter
4) Andrew Nye
5) Ryan Fraser

TQ A-Qualifier #2 Top 5 Results:
1) Mike Lichty
2) Andy Jankowiak
3) Jimmy Blewett
4) Luke Thomas
5) Patrick Emerling

TQ A-Qualifier #3 Top 5 Results:
1) Erick Rudolph
2) Shawn Nye
3) Jon Reid
4) DJ Shaw
5) Rob Vivona

TQ A-Qualifier #4 Top 5 Results:
1) Ryan Tidman
2) Rob Neely
3) Matt Roselli
4) Matt Janisch
5) Anthony Sesely

TQ Time Trials Results:
1) Ryan Flores – 7.937
2) Erick Rudolph – 7.980
3) Jimmy Blewett – 8.000
4) Zane Zeiner – 8.073
5) Anthony Sesely – 8.074
6) Rob Vivona – 8.104
7) Mike Lichty – 8.104
8) Ryan Susice – 8.117
9) Ryan Tidman – 8.128
10) Kyle Lick – 8.145

 

Qualifying Events:  A newly designed points system will be used to reward the TQ Midgets for time trial performance and finishing position in Friday night’s qualifying races.  The top 80 TQ Midgets from time trials will be split into four 20 car, 20 lap qualifying events. The winners of those events and the top five combined point earners from time trials and the qualifying races will lock themselves into Saturday night’s A-Main.

The winners of the four 20-lap qualifying events were Tony Dimattia, Mike Lichty, Erick Rudolph, and Ryan Tidman; these drivers secure spots in Saturday’s Gambler’s Classic. Also advancing with the most combined points from time trials and racing are Zane Zeiner, Jimmy Blewett, Anthony Sesely, Rob Vivona, and Tim Buckwalter.

TQ Heat Race 1 Transfers: Andy Jankowiak, Justin Bonsignore

TQ Heat Race 2 Transfers: Joey Payne, Greg Lamberson

TQ Heat Race 3 Transfers: Matt Roselli, Matt Janisch

TQ Heat Race 4 Transfers: Bob Baker, DJ Shaw

TQ Heat Race 5 Transfers: Ryan Flores, Kyle Lick

TQ Heat Race 6 Transfers: Ryan Susice, Andrew Krause

TQ B-Main 1 Transfer: Patrick Emerling

TQ B-Main 2 Transfer: Nick Ladyga

TQ B-Main 3 Transfer: Pat Bealer

 

 

 

Practice Results:  The upper groove was used only for initial Friday practice for the TQs  in order to lay some rubber down:
1) Jimmy Blewett – 8.725
2) Ryan Flores – 8.730
3) Justin Bonsignore – 8.833
4) Matt Janisch – 8.873
5) Neal Williams – 8.878
6) Anthony Sesely – 8.887
7) Matt Roselli – 8.918
8) Brandon Knupp – 8.936
9) Ted Christopher – 8.936
10) Tim Buckwalter – 8.948

Speeds picked up in the final Friday practice prior to time trials with some sub-eight second laps:
1) Ryan Flores – 7.962
2) Erick Rudolph – 7.997
3) Zane Zeiner – 8.027
4) Ryan Tidman – 8.055
5) Jimmy Blewett – 8.075
6) Ryan Susice – 8.099
7) Justin Bonsignore – 8.106
8) Joey Payne – 8.107
9) Ryan Fraser – 8.108
10) Matt Janisch – 8.109

Saturday TQ Final Practice Top 10 Times:
1) Ryan Flores 8.163
2) Shawn Nye 8.243
3) Zane Zeiner 8.260
4) Erick Rudolph 8.264
5) Jimmy Blewett 8.269
6) Matt Roselli 8.318
7) Jon Reid 8.329
8) Andy Jankowiak 8.333
9) Kyle Lick 8.349
10) Ryan Fraser 8.351

 

 

 

Who To Watch For:  The Mark Lafler built cars have been the ones to beat lately in indoor racing.  Erick Rudolph comes in as the most recent winner at Allentown and is the defending Gambler’s Classic winner.  Ryan Flores is hungrier than ever after another runner-up finish behind Rudolph earlier this month.  This will be his final indoor race of 2016 as he will return to his day job as a crew member at the NASCAR level the weekend of the Battle of Trenton in late February.

 

Former winner Lou Cicconi will once again be fielding a fleet of uniquely assembled machines in Atlantic City.  With John Bodnar’s engineering expertise, the BJ MacDonald-built TQs will be headlined with recent Chili Bowl preliminary night winner Alex Bright behind the wheel.  Cicconi will be driving as a teammate to another former multi-time winner Ted Christopher.  Pennsylvania Dirt Modified ace Jeff Strunk as well as Midwestern Rumble in Fort Wayne indoor race winners Russ Gamester and John Ivy look to make a Gambler’s Classic feature start as teammates to Bright.

 

Former Winners: 

2015 – Erick Rudolph

2014 – Anthony Sesely

2013 – Anthony Sesely

2012 – Erick Rudolph

2011 – Ted Christopher

2010 – Lou Cicconi, Jr.

2009 – Ted Christohper

2008 – Mike Tidaback

2007 – Joey Payne, Jr.

2006 – Lou Cicconi, Jr.

2005 – Jeff Hotezler

2004 – Joey Payne, Jr.

2003 – Andy Mackereth

 

Green Flag: Racing begins at 7:30pm ET at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey Friday.  There will be non-qualifier events first on the bill, followed by qualifiers for the Slingshots and Champ Karts, followed by the TQ Midgets.  Saturday, racing begins at 7pm with TQ heats, Dash, B-Mains and the A-Main.  Also Saturday are the A-Mains for the Champ Karts and Slingshots.

 

Weather: Boardwalk Hall is an indoor venue along the eastern seaboard of New Jersey.

 

Next Series Race: The next northeastern indoor TQ Midget event, the third of a series of three promoted by Lenny Sammons and Area Auto Racing News, is the Battle of Trenton.  It will be held February 27 and 28 at the Sun National Bank Center in Trenton, New Jersey.

 

Speed Central: TQ Midgets Gambler’s Classic in Atlantic City