ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – official series release — Tiffany Payne photo —
Andy Jankowiak and Erick Rudolph broke into uncharted territory Thursday night inside Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall by running the first laps ever recorded by three-quarter midgets on the historic track in the seven second bracket.
Jankowiak’s 7.906-second lap was the fastest lap while Rudolph answered with a 7.943.
The top two were followed on the time charts by Jimmy Blewett, Tim Buckwalter, Rob Neely, Ryan Susice, Zane Zeiner, Justin Bonsignore, Scott Kreutter and Anthony Sesely. Ryan Preece may have been just as fast, but he chose to run the Thursday practices without a transponder, thus his times were not recorded.
The official one lap record of 8.029 seconds, recorded during time trials for the 2015 Gambler’s Classic by Rudolph, is seemingly there for the taking in Friday time trials.
“I had a problem in the first practice with the ignition. The car kept shutting off,” Jankowiak said. “But it was fixed. We also some chassis and that made the car a whole lot faster.”
Jankowiak’s car is the same a one-of-a-kind creation that won the Friday night TQ feature race in 2015.
All but 20 of the nearly 200 three-quarter midget, Champ Kart and Slingshot teams entered in this weekend’s Len Sammons Motorsports Productions (LSMP) Indoor auto racing program took advantage of the Thursday night test-and-tune period inside Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall.
Zach Myers, at 9.458 secconds, was fastest in Champ Karts and Dan Spellman, at 9.904, was fastest in Slingshots. Both class records are expected to be broken Friday in time trials along with the TQ official standard.
“The track looks like its coming in pretty well,” said Bonsignore. “We should have two grooves by tomorrow. That’s what we want for sure.”
Bonsignore’s car carried a Go Pro camera in its first practice session that recorded TV footage for an Atlantic City area sports program.
One driver taking no chances was perennial victory threat Blewett, who is the only driver in the TQ midget field to have a ready-to-race back-up car should problems befall his primary car.
“We’re ready,” Blewett said. “I’ve done everything there is to do in a TQ midget indoors except win one.”
Bonsignore and Blewett were among a dozen and a half drivers racing cars designed and built by Mark Lafler.
Erick Rudolph, driver of Lafler’s personal car, is the defending Gambler’s Classic champion and the winner of the first 2016 VP Racing Fuels Indoor Series race at Allentown, Pa.
Buckwalter is another driver, like Jankowiak, bucking the Lafler trend for this race. He is racing a prototype car designed and built by former driver Paul Lotier Jr.
“The car handled perfectly in practice,” Buckwalter said. “We have something for these guys this weekend. Paul has built a very fast race car. So fast I caught up too quick to the guys ahead of me and didn’t get enough clean laps.”
The nearly five hour test session was slowed a few times for on-track mishaps. Ronnie Mullen skidded into the third turn wall, his car receiving minor suspension bending. Mike Iles averted a possible disaster when he spun in oil dropped by a competitor in front of him. His car did a high speed, 240 degree spin before crashing into the concrete barrier with its left front wheel. Iles’ crew made repairs that allowed him to continue with later practice sessions.
Ted Christopher, veteran and a two time past winner of the Gambler’s Classic, was an early practice session victim of engine woes. His crew changed power plants during the practice.
The Thursday practice was the first of three days of NAPA Know How Racing Weekend action at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall with qualifying time trials, heat race and B-Mains scheduled for Friday night. Spectator gates open at 6:30 p.m. Escalating speeds and track records are expected.
It all leads up to the 14th running of the Gambler’s Classic, the climactic event of NAPA Know How Racing Weekend. Gates open Saturday at 5 p.m. with racing starting promptly at 7 p.m.
CREDIT: Len Sammons Motorsports Productions