ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series crew member and indoor racing veteran Ryan Flores was, at long last, crowned the Indoor Auto Racing Championship Series champion on Saturday night inside Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall.
Flores beat out defending series titlist Erick Rudolph in the points standings on the strength of a win, two podiums and three top-10 finishes in the three-race 2016-2017 winter season.
However, his road to the championship wasn’t as easy as planned at the start of the weekend.
Flores had to overcome a mid-race tangle with Ted Christopher and a rough driving penalty (which sent him to the back), having to rally while watching his championship rival Rudolph dominate the event.
Rudolph did ultimately take the win, but Flores claimed the trophy that really mattered in the end by rallying to finish 10th.
“I knew the situation, I knew that we just needed a solid night. We couldn’t finish last,” Flores said. “When I got into Teddy, he broke … (and) I didn’t see he broke. I was going underneath him [and we tangled]. Then I drove a little crazy on restarts and got into the fence one time … and the No. 66 just got out of shape down here at the tires and I couldn’t check up fast enough and spun him out.”
“I understand the penalty box rule, I went there and took my penalty. Once I did that, I got back past and realized I was in the top-10 and knew I could just ride there and finish it out. It sucked going to the back but it’s part of this game.”
For Flores, a tire changer on Ryan Blaney’s No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford at the Cup level, the championship — his first as a driver in any professional series — was a monumental moment.
“It’s a huge deal to me,” he smiled. “I’ve always wanted to do this. I tied for this championship a couple of years ago the first time I got to run it. I didn’t get to compete for it last year and I haven’t won a championship since quarter midget racing in 2001.”
“I won (the) Turkey Derby championship, but that’s just a two-race deal. To be able to come here, race against the very best racers of the Northeast and pick up a championship is great.”
Flores’ title run saw him collect a win in Allentown, Pa. and a second-place finish in Trenton, N.J. earlier in the indoor racing season.
But, a top ten sufficed on Saturday and earned Flores the championship, something he looks forward to celebrating with his NASCAR teammates.
Soon enough though, it will be back to work and time for Daytona Speedweeks.
“All those guys [at the Wood Brothers] are super supportive,” Flores said. “We’re not going to have a party or anything because there’s work to do to get to Daytona. All those guys watch this though. They love it and it’s great to have that support team back home.”
“I’m excited to go to Daytona and get the year started.”
About the Writer
Marshall Gabell is the Mid-Atlantic Correspondent for Race Chaser Online, and handles public relations needs in multiple outlets of motorsports, including for tracks and drivers. Gabell is currently attending Stephen Decatur High School in Ocean City, Maryland, completing his junior year. He is just 16 years old.
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