Friday, January 27, and Saturday, January 28, 2023
Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall
Address: 2301 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, NJ 08401
Indoor Auto Racing Championship Fueled by VP Racing Fuels
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What: The Indoor Auto Racing Championship Fueled by VP Racing Fuels rolls into the famed Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall to crown two Gambler's Classic winners and their 2023 Series Champion at the NAPA Auto Parts Atlantic City Indoor Races. The weekend will feature the TQ Midgets, Champ Karts, Slingshots, and Dirt 600 Micro Sprints.
Where: Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City will be converted to a 1/10-mile race track on the arena floor. The concrete is sprayed with soda syrup to create a tacky surface for competitive pro-am racing.
When: Friday, January 27 at 7:30 PM and Saturday, January 28 at 7:00 PM
Tickets: Available at Boardwalkhall.com, Ticketmaster.com, or at the Boardwalk Hall Box Office
THE INSIDE TRACK ON WHAT TO WATCH AT THIS WEEKEND’S NAPA AUTO PARTS INDOOR AUTO RACE IN ATLANTIC CITY
Atlantic City, NJ – The Indoor Auto Racing Series fueled by VP Racing Fuels heads to the famous Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City this weekend, January 27 and 28. The 20th annual event sponsored by NAPA Auto Parts features a “Double Down” format consisting of not one, but two Gambler’s Classic TQ Midget 40 lap main events.
On Friday night, January 27th the BELFOR Property Restoration-sponsored TQ Midgets will compete in qualifying events followed by a 40-lap Gambler’s Classic that was postponed in 2021 because of Covid-19 fan restrictions.
The headline TQ Midgets will do it all over on Saturday, January 28th with the big night ending with the 2023 Gambler’s Classic. On both nights, the winner will raise the iconic cup trophy, and their name will be etched on future trophies. Once Indoor Auto Racing Series fueled by VP points are calculated, the 2023 champion will be presented with the TC Cup Trophy. This prestigious award is named in honor of the 2010 and 2011 Champion, Ted Christopher, who lost his life in a plane crash in 2017.
Atlantic City is known for its gambling, but picking the odds on who will win either of the two events or maybe both isn’t easy. The race for the championship is wide open as well. Here are some of the storylines that could come into play.
Matawan, NJ’s Anthony Sesely Has To Be Pre-Race Favorite
Anthony Sesely dances to a different drummer. A three-time winner of the Gambler’s Classic in Atlantic City, he got all his previous wins with a 600cc engine against a field of 750s. The only driver to have ever done so with this lesser-powered engine went with a 750cc for the first time last year in Atlantic City and nearly won the race.
In 2022, he parked his trustworthy self-owned car to drive an untested brand-new PK Chassis car. Sesely and the new team found immediate success, winning Friday’s 20-lap qualifier, and drove to the front of Saturday’s Gambler’s only to have the motor overheat. Sesely, the driver, wasn’t comfortable in the cockpit so chassis builder Rick Kluth built him a bigger one. With that car, he won the 2022 series finale in Syracuse, N.Y. He then opened the 2023 season with another qualifier win in Allentown, PA, and the 40-lap feature win.
Everyone is guessing what is different about the PK Chassis, but they know it runs around the top side of the race track to pass – yet can go to the bottom and make a move as well. If he doesn’t win, there is no doubt he’ll be exciting to watch in defeat.
Can Ryan Flores Get Sweet Redemption?
Ryan Flores comes back home to his roots in New Jersey with a desire to collect some redemption this weekend. The Davidson, NC driver took the checkered flag in last year’s race and hoisted the Gambler’s Classic trophy for a second time. Then days later, he was disqualified for a tire infraction.
When the 2023 season opened in Allentown, Flores was out to prove the naysayers wrong and knock Sesely off his perch. With a late splurge, he passed Sesely for the lead on a restart. But before he could lead a lap, Sesely passed him back and went on to win.
Finishing second isn’t good enough for Flores. If he can put two huge days together this weekend, he’ll have a shot at winning his second championship as well.
Tim Buckwalter Wants To Win Again, But This Time Sip The Champagne
In the 2022 race, Tim Buckwalter made a gallant try to go around Ryan Flores on a late race restart to win the Gambler’s Classic. The Douglassville, PA driver finished a disappointed second, but a week later was granted the win after Ryan Flores was disqualified.
Buckwalter received the winner’s trophy at the 2022 series finale in Syracuse, N.Y., but it just wasn’t the same. Drivers come to Atlantic City to star in front of the big crowd and drink the champagne. A pre-race presentation just wasn’t the same.
After entering the Syracuse race with the point lead, Buckwalter’s car lost traction late in the race and he lost the title to Scott Kreutter but just a few points. When the 2023 series opened in Allentown, Buckwalter’s Pippard-powered Laffler chassis again was missing something and he finished a disappointing 13th.
Entering Atlantic City, the eyes will be on this team to see if they can find the speed they lost. If they do, you go to know Buckwalter will be there at the finish. And it won’t matter where he starts. On January 14th in Tulsa, OK at the famed dirt indoor Chili Bowl Midget race, Buckwalter drove from a 24th starting spot to finish ninth. While that was a sterling accomplishment, nothing short of a win will put a smile on his face in Atlantic City.
Scott Kreutter Hopes To Double Down In Atlantic City
Scott Kreutter, the defending series champion from Cowlesville, N.Y, led all qualifiers on Friday at the 2023 opener in Allentown. On Saturday, before the five-lap Dash was held to set the line-up of the first nine spots in the 40-lap feature, Kreutter played a game of “Let’s Make A Deal” with announcer Steve Post.
The Dash paid $500 to win. As the qualifier points leader, Kreutter was the first of nine drivers to enter a blind draw for spots in the Dash. Before he did, however, Post had a deal to offer him thanks to sponsorship from Bob Hilbert Sportswear.
At first, Kreutter waved off the offer but after it was sweetened he accepted a deal to start last in the event. Hilbert paid him the $500 Deal of the Dash to do so and if he could win it, he’d get another $500. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Kruetter passed just one car in the five laps. Started the feature in the eighth position and finished seventh.
Did he make a bad deal? Look at it this way, he could have picked an eight or nine anyway and made no money in the Dash and still started outside the top five in the feature. It should be noted that Allentown race winner Anthony Sesely drew an eight for the Dash and finished fourth. He then drove quickly to the front and won the feature!
Can Pauch Get Up To Speed Quickly? Will His Teammate, Thompson, Contend?
Biilly Pauch Jr. will be making a return to a race car after being injured in a crash in October in a dirt Modified race in Georgetown, DE. It might take Pauch a few laps to get comfortable in the car again, but he’s expected to get up to speed quickly.
This will mark Pauch’s best chance to win his first Indoor Race at a spot where his legendary father won his only TQ Midget feature. He’ll be driving for Jason Simmons Racing out of Fulton, NY as a teammate with Tyler Thompson.
In Allentown, Thompson proved how great a driver he is. A former winner of the prestigious Super Modified 200 Classic at N.Y.’s Oswego Speedway, Thompson battled Anthony Sesely back and forth for the win at the series opener. In a battle that thrilled the crowd, Thompson lost the lead to Sesely, only to pass him back.
In the end, it was Sesley who took the win, but Thompson’s fourth-place finish was much heralded by everyone except the driver – he wants to win – and it would not be a surprise if it happens in Atlantic City.
If Rudolph Finds A Four-Leaf Clover – Look Out
Erick Rudolph of Ransomville, N.Y., is the all-time leading TQ Midget Indoor series winner with nine victories. In three feature starts last year, however, Rudolph failed to win a race in Mark Laffler’s No. 22. Always fast, he just had nothing but bad luck.
At the Allentown 2023 season opener, Rudolph’s weekend started badly when he spun out of the lead in a Friday night qualifier. As the true champion he is, Rudolph rebounded to qualify for Saturday’s big race. Then with a late charge, he drove the inside lane to finish fifth.
Spun out of the lead last year in Atlantic City, Rudolph’s eager to get back to victory lane. His last Atlantic City Gambler’s Classic win was in 2017, yes, he’s due.
Three Out Of Four Wouldn’t Be Bad For Andy J.
Andy Jankowiak might have been the happiest winner in Atlantic City history when he won the Gambler’s Classic for the first time in 2019. The Tonawanda, N.Y. driver was equally as thrilled when he won again in 2020.
Last year, however, he tangled with race leader Erick Rudolph late in the race and was sent to the rear. His hope for a three-peat was over. But as the song goes – three out of four ain’t bad – but can he do it?
The answer is yes. Jankowiak was in the hunt to win the 2022 series finale in Syracuse despite going to the rear after an early race tangle. Trying to pass leader Ryan Bartlett in the final laps on the outside, the two got together. Andy J. road up the wall, flipped to his side, and slid down the backstretch. When he got to turn three the car drove around the concrete wall before going back on its wheels in turn three. He didn’t win it, but he was spectacular.
At the series opener in Allentown, Jankowiak was again in the hunt. He battled up front early but faded to a sixth-place finish. If he doesn’t win on Friday, there will always be Saturday to try again. If he was to win them both, it wouldn’t be a surprise but a celebration.
Briggs Danner: So Close To Closing The Deal
The youthful 21-year-old Briggs Danner can now place a bet in Atlantic City, if it was on the race, he’d be confident enough in his abilities to place a bundle on the No. 48 he drives.
In recent events, Danner has shown he both has the speed and the driving ability to make passes and run with the best on the Indoor Series. He’s just not been able to close the deal. Like a loser in blackjack, he keeps coming up 22, not 21.
But that could all change in Atlantic City and it would be no surprise if he gets that break-out win. Honestly, once he gets his first, the second will come quickly and this weekend he could go back to back.
At the series finale in Syracuse last year, Danner made a brilliant outside pass one turn, and inside the next in hopes of taking a late-race lead. Unfortunately, he got into leader Erick Rudolph and the two spun ending both their hopes.
A similar type of problem at the opener in Allentown found Danner getting into the third turn tires early in the race. He went to the rear and came back to finish ninth. He’s had plenty of practice passing cars, his day up front as the leader will come shortly and it might be this weekend.
Band of Brothers: Four Catalanos Enter TQ Competition in Atlantic City
Despite a 50-car field of TQ Midgets, the 24-car starting field at the Indoor series opener in Allentown was made up of three Catalano brothers that road in town from Ontario, N.Y -- but now they're joined by a fourth brother, Tyler, moving up from the Kart ranks. Allentown marked the first time all three brothers qualified for an Indoor TQ Midget feature, but it likely won’t be the last.
The oldest brother Tommy Catalano continues to be the head of the family. Using the high groove to perfection at the 2022 series finale in Syracuse and the 2023 opener in Allentown, Tommy finished third in both. A star on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, he’s getting tired of podium finishes – he wants to win – and it’s a good bet Atlantic City could be the spot.
Brothers Timmy and Trevor have fast race cars as well, and adding rookie TQ Midget racer, Tyler completes the Catalano quartet.
Dark Horses Look For Back To Back Feature Starts
Qualifying for an Indoor TQ Midget feature isn’t a given. Traditionally as many fail to make the 24-car starting feature field as those that make it. Two dark horses surprised some of the veterans that watched the feature in Allentown’s opener.
Cole Mullen and Craig Pellegrini Jr. were long shots to make the show at Allentown, but the two young drivers from New Jersey did just that with outstanding performances in the Last Chance qualifiers.
After qualifying for his first Indoor feature, Mullen was excited for the 40-lap feature in Allentown, but he lost power steering in the early laps and was the first of just four to drop out of the race. It took so long to make one and it ended so quickly, he’ll be seeking another start in Atlantic City this weekend.
Pellegrini raced dirt Sprint Cars this summer. But late in the year he sold off that equipment and bought a TQ Midget. His debut came outdoors at the Turkey Derby in November at N.J.’s Wall Stadium. In Allentown, he made his indoor debut and his chances to make Saturday’s feature didn’t seem at all possible when he began that journey in practice on Friday afternoon.
But with strong persistence and help from others, Pellegrini got his car to go around the corners and he became competitive. After his confidence began to build, Pellegrini started deep in a Saturday B-Main that transferred just two cars to the feature.
As he did in Sprint Car racing on dirt, Pellegrini jumped to the outside and drove forward locking the rookie into the feature in his first attempt. While he exited the 40-lap feature before it was completed, he gained value able experience that should help in Atlantic City.
Youth Movement Look For Joe Toth and Anthony Payne For A-Main Starting Spot & Victories
Toth jumped into the Mike Iles No. 711 in Allentown but struggled to get up to speed. The five-time dirt Sportsman champion got comfortable in Saturday’s B-Main but missed the transfer to the feature by one spot. He’ll be better in Atlantic City for sure.
Anthony Payne came to Allentown to watch his father, Joey Payne, a two-time Atlantic City winner race. But when he tweaked his wrist in a crash on Friday, his son got behind the wheel on Saturday. Like Toth, it took him a few laps to get comfortable but he too made a great run to make the show on Saturday and fell short.
Anthony, a surprise TQ Midget indoor race winner in Albany, NY in 2012 is out to prove he deserves a full-time ride for the 2024 Indoor series. In that Albany win he rebounded from a back-row starting spot to pull off the upset win. If he does it again, the Payne family will become the first father and son to win the Gambler’s Classic.
Outside Lane Race Track Could Favor Sprint Car Driver Ryan Smith
Times have changed on the Indoor Auto Racing Series. Races are now being won and lost with passes on the very tacky outside groove. Sprint car drivers love a good cushion, so returning driver to the series, Ryan Smith might find that to his liking in Atlantic City.
The Kunkletown, PA driver will be behind the wheel of the No. 43 TQ Midget owned by George VanVarick for the first time. ‘The Kunkletown Kid’ has a lot of experience racing in Atlantic City, but not lately.
In 2006 and 2007, he won the Slingshot A-Main. After moving to the TQ Midgets he finished fifth in 2009, fourth in 2010, and second in 2012. In Smith’s last TQ Midget Atlantic City start he finished 13th. A recent father for the first time, you get bet he’ll be high-stepping around this weekend looking for that first win for himself and his car owner.
Joining the TQ Midgets will be the Slingshots, sponsored by Pensylvania's Action Track USA in Kutztown, the Hoosier Tire Champ Karts, and the 600cc Dirt Micro Sprints. They’ll run qualifying events on Friday and features on Saturday night.
Schedule of Events
Before Saturday’s event, Fan Fest will be held on the racing surface for those with lower-level reserved tickets from 5 to 6:15 PM. Drivers from the event as well as NHRA Funny Car champion Ron Capps will be signing autographs.
Good seats for both nights remain available at Ticketmaster, a direct link is available from the series website, indoorautoracing.com, or daily at the Boardwalk Hall Box Office where the price is increased by $5 the day of the event.
For those who cannot attend, the event will be available on DTD Pay-Per-View for $64.99 for the weekend or $34.99 for Friday, and $39.99 for Saturday.
Indoor Auto Racing PR