ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Erick Rudolph is a betting man, and it showed once again on Saturday night inside Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall.
For the third time in four seasons, Rudolph rolled to a Gambler’s Classic win, claiming the spoils of victory during the finale for the Len Sammons-promoted Indoor Auto Racing Championship Series.
Rudolph, who earned the pole for the 40-lap feature after winning the dash earlier in the evening, led wire-to-wire en route to coming even with veteran Anthony Sesely for the most victories (three) at Boardwalk Hall.
“This means a lot, especially after the last outing here … where we weren’t able to get any wins when we were in really good contention and had the best car,” Rudolph said. “Tonight, maybe (we weren’t) the best car but nevertheless, got it here in victory lane.”
Even though he led the entire event, Rudolph had to fend back challenges from Zane Zeiner, Tim Buckwalter and Matt Janisch throughout the race, including a final corner burst that ended in a photo finish.
Following a late race caution with just five laps remaining, Rudolph and the field were reset, making for an interesting finish in the 15th annual Gambler’s Classic.
On the last circuit, Zeiner cut underneath Rudolph exiting the final corner and drag raced him to the checkered flag — just .003 of a second separating the two and marking the closest finish in series history.
“The last couple of laps there, they’re going to give it their all,” Rudolph added. “No one’s here for second. I was just doing my best to park it here in victory lane.”
“I felt them there for a better half of the race, near the end the race. I tried adjusting my line, tried adjusting some things in the car. It helped a little bit but still I don’t think I had the fastest car at the end. A lot of times it doesn’t matter.”
Behind the top two, Janisch, after an up-and-down weekend, closed the podium.
“Before that caution came out with five laps to go, I felt like we were in good position,” Janisch said. “I felt like we were just pushing each other around the track. [Erick Rudolph] was running right around the bottom, even off the car, so it was impossible to pass.”
“If he had slipped up once, I would have been there during that run. He just never did.”
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour regular Jimmy Blewett and ISMA supermodified champion Mike Lichty completed the top five finishers.
Despite a rough driving penalty that sent him to the rear of the field early in the event, points leader Ryan Flores rallied back to finish 10th and claim the Indoor Auto Racing Series championship.
For more on Flores’ historic title, click here.
In other divisions during the night, Cale Ross dominated the Champ Karts feature en route to winning both the race and the championship. For the Slingshots, Gary Hieber made his return to racing and triumphed after missing last season due to his grandfather’s passing.
Danny Buccafusca took the championship for the Slingshots.
Full results can be viewed on the next page…