Story By: ERNIE SAXTON / SAMMONS PRODUCTIONS – ATLANTIC CITY, NJ – Only the elite teams with top flight drivers win a TQ Midget feature on the Indoor Auto Racing Series fueled by VP. Just qualifying for one of the five 40 lap features held annually is considered an achievement by many of the competitors.
When Saturday night’s NAPA Know How feature takes place inside Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall on February 1st, 26 drivers will take the green flag, but an equal will be disappointed spectators.
Thanks to long time series sponsor Dr. Williams Lowe, 15 drivers who failed to qualify for the first two events of 2020 held inside the PPL Center in Allentown, Pa. will get their own shot in racing in Saturday’s prestigious Gambler’s Classic.
For the second consecutive year, Dr. Lowe is sponsoring a Friday night non-qualifiers race which will reward the race winner with a spot in Saturday’s 40 lap feature.
The Allentown non-qualifiers will compete against one another in an added event to open the NAPA KNOW HOW weekend on Friday night January 31st. The winner of the Dr. Lowe Second Chance 15 will earn the last starting spot in the 18th running of the Gambler’s Classic on Saturday, February 1st. As a side benefit, the race winner will receive $200, the last starting spot in the race and all starters will receive added track time.
Drivers eligible to compete in the Dr. Lowe’s Second Chance 15 for the TQ Midgets are Bruce Leote, Chad Jones, Chris deRitis, Christopher Hirt, Cole Mullen, Cory Grenzy, Dakota Kessler, Derek Robbie, Jesse Maurer, Kyle Hutchinson, Rob Schultz, Ron Mullen, Shea Willis, Tim Nye and Tyler Lindsay.
Randy Cabral driving the Donnie Preece owned TQ won the inaugural Second Chance race in 2019. Cabral, who had never qualified in 10 past Atlantic City appearances, then made the show under normal merits. That gave Marc Johnson a second chance and he started shotgun in Saturday’s race.
Preece’s car is again eligible for the Second Chance race with this year’s driver Kyle Hutchinson who made his debut in the car in Allentown in January.
Ryan Bartlett, Stephen Kemery and Jeremey Haudricourt who were in last year’s Second Chance qualifier race are not eligible this year after having career best finishes in Allentown.
Two top finishes in Allentown has Bartlett second in the point standings entering Atlantic City’s race weekend. If needed, he would be eligible for a points provisional as long as current leader in the standings Matt Janisch qualifies.
Kemery finished a career best second in Saturday’s feature in Allentown while Haudricourt was thrilled with his third place in that same event.
The quick and agile Champ Karts and the unpredictable and rugged Slingshots will once again be part of the triple header along with the headline TQ Midgets.
Friday Night action will include not only the Dr. Lowe Second Chance 15 that will open the show but it will be followed by four 20 lap A-Main Qualifiers for the TQ Midgets. Champ Karts and Slingshots will also compete in qualifying events.
On Saturday night, heat races for the TQ Midgets will be followed by B-Mains, a Dash and feature events for the Slingshots and Champ Karts. The program will end with the 40 lap Gambler’s Classic.
Past Gambler’s Classic TQ Midget feature race winners include first time winners Andy Jankowiak in 2019 and Ryan Flores in 2018. Both will be in search of a second victory.
Three-time winner Erick Rudolph (2012, 2015, and 2017), the defending series champion, is coming off a win in the 2020 opener in Allentown.
Another three time winner, Anthony Sesely (2013, 2014, and 2016) will be a strong contender as well. The late Ted Christopher won twice (2009, 2011) as did Lou Cicconi, Jr. (2006, 2010) and Joey Payne (2004, 2007). The first Gambler’s Classic winner, Andy Mackereth (2003), Jeff Heotzler (2005) and Mike Tidaback (2008) are all one time winners.
Indoor auto racing inside Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall dates back to the late 1930s. Indoor racing was revived for the first time in 1965 and continued through 1981 when, with the advent of casino gambling, racing ceased. Len Sammons brought the event back to life in 2003.
Following the BELFOR “Concrete Series” event in Atlantic City, a special non-point event for Indoor Auto Racing Championship Series fueled by VP Racing Fuels, will be held on a banked clay oval. The third annual East Coast Indoor Dirt Nationals will again be held at the CURE Insurance Arena in Trenton, N.J. on Friday and Saturday nights February 21st and 22nd featuring nearly 100 wingless 600cc Sprints.
The “Concrete Series” season finale follows on Friday and Saturday March 13th and 14th in a second year return to the brand new Expo Center located on the grounds of the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse. N.Y.