ALLENTOWN, PA – When the Indoor Auto Racing Series fueled by VP takes the green flag this weekend inside the PPL Center in downtown Allentown, many lingering off-season questions will be answered.
The Ironton Global sponsored two-day event on Friday and Saturday, January 6 and 7 is just one of two race weekends that make up the BELFOR Property Restoration series this year. It leaves little time for mistakes, mechanical failure, or bad luck.
Here’s the inside track on what to watch this weekend at the Indoor Auto Racing Championship Series.
Can Scott Kreutter Score Back-to-Back Championships?
Scott Kreutter of Cowlesville, N.Y. and car owner Trey Hoddick won their first ever series championship last year – and they scored the championship without claiming a single race win.
Kreutter has just one series win to his credit, and it came at Allentown on January 6, 2018. Can they end the five-year winless drought this weekend and get a jump start on defending their championship?
They think so, but only time will tell.
Is Ryan Flores the Pre-Season Championship Favorite?
Many believe the favorite to win the TC Cup, the trophy that is presented to the series champion, this season is Ryan Flores. The Davidson, N.C. driver took the title in 2017 and he’s won multiple times in both Allentown and Atlantic City. Last year he took the checkered flag first at both venues. His victory in Atlantic City, however, was taken from him because of a post-race infraction.
Because of his full-time job as a tire changer for Roger Penske’s NASCAR Cup team, Flores has not been able to run the March events in Syracuse. With the event at the New York State Fairgrounds Expo Center not on this year’s schedule, Flores now can chase a second title. This week will be a big first step to see if that is possible.
Run, Run, Rudolph
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.
It wasn’t a lack of speed nor talent, but luck. In position to win both, in Atlantic City and at the 2022 series finale in Syracuse, N.Y., Rudolph’s good luck that had followed him for so many years left him, and he got spun around and went to the rear both times.
A two-time winner at Allentown in the past, Rudolph’s hopes for a fifth title could begin to be assembled this weekend with a victory in Saturday’s Future Home sponsored program headlined by a 40-lap feature.
Tim Buckwalter Wants to Win it on the Track
Tim Buckwalter of Douglasville, Pa., would like nothing better than to win again in front of his home-town fans in Allentown this weekend. Buckwalter is returning as part of a three car Laffler-Pippard race team this year that includes Rudolph and the addition of talented Bobby Holmes of Lockport, N.Y.
Buckwalter was a Friday night 20-lap race winner last year in Allentown. He backed that effort up with a strong fourth place finish in Saturday’s 40-lap main event. A disqualification handed Buckwalter the 2022 Gambler’s Classic during NAPA KNOW HOW Weekend last year inside Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall, he entered Saturday’s series finale in Syracuse with the series point lead.
In a position to clinch the title late in the race, he got shuffled back on a late restart and lost the title to Scott Kruetter by just three points. The versatile Buckwalter, who races dirt Modifieds, Sprint Cars, Micro Sprints and SpeedSTRs during the outdoor season, is a proven winner. Finding out last year that every point matters, his chance for the TC Cup will begin to take focus this weekend.
2020 Champ, Andy Jankowiak, Wants that Championship Back
Andy Jankowiak lives in Tonawanda, N.Y., not far from Buffalo. Despite being saddled with two large snowstorms in December, his eye has remained focused on getting back to victory lane and being crowned champion in front of a huge Saturday night crowd inside Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall.
In dramatic fashion, Jankowiak won the NAPA KNOW HOW weekend Atlantic City finale in both 2019 and 2020. The excitement of ‘Andy J’ in victory lane was memorable. With his most recent series win in late January of 2020, Jankowiak took the series point lead going into the series finale schedule in Syracuse, N.Y.
Little did Jankowiak or the world know at the time that Covid-19 would soon strike. That resulted in the series finale being cancelled 24 hours before Friday night’s event, after the track had been set-up. Jankowiak drove to the New York State Fairgrounds the next day and was presented with the TC Cup inside the empty building!
In a position to win all three races last year, Jankowiak couldn’t close the deal. He finished second in the Allentown opener a year ago to Ryan Flores. Despite his every effort, he just couldn’t find a way by.
He then tangled while racing for the lead with Erick Rudolph in Atlantic City. At the series finale he got upside down trying to pass Syracuse race leader Ryan Bartlett with three laps left stripping him not only of a sixth series win, but of back-to-back championships.
While the snow had been falling back home, Jankowiak has been reinventing the front suspension on his home- built TQ Midget. If his good fortune returns, will there be a win and another championship in his future this year?
Matt Janisch and Briggs Danner Race for Hometown Glory in Allentown, PA
Two local drivers have their eyes set on victory lane and a first ever Indoor Racing Series championship. Matt Janisch of Nazareth and Briggs Danner of Allentown are out to prove they can accomplish both. A good start in Allentown would go a long way toward that goal!
This year Janisch will be in a new No. 2 TQ Midget, owned by Mike and Denise Glaser. In the series finale last year in Syracuse, Janisch was involved in a hard crash that damaged his race car. Feeling a bit sore from the crash, he waved off offers to drive another TQ Midget and watched the series finale.
Back this weekend with high hopes, Janisch wants to win for the second time in the series and clinch the championship TC Cup that has been slipping from his grasp for so many years. Six times he’s finished in the top-five in the final standings. In 2020 and 2014 he finished second, losing by a combined three points!
Danner, the 2022 USAC East Sprint Car series champion, returns in the No. 48 owned by Janisch but it will look much different. The car carries a new eye-catching paint scheme and sponsorship from E. Schneider, one of the sponsors of the Allentown race weekend.
The hometown pressure is on the 21-year-old Danner, but he’s proven before that will not bother him. Last year he came close to winning his first ever Indoor Series feature in Syracuse, N.Y. but got tangled up with Erick Rudolph racing for the lead. Sent to the rear of the field, he finished a disappointing 14th.
Big Shoes to Fill for Mike Christopher Jr.
Talented young driver Mike Christopher Jr. returns to Indoor TQ Midget competition this weekend as Kreutter’s teammate with high expectations. The series championship trophy is named after Christopher’s late uncle, multi-time winner and series champion Ted Christopher, so he’d like to have a ‘TC Cup’ one day.
In his Indoor TQ Midget debut last year in Allentown, Christopher never got the experience he needed. Mechanical failures wouldn’t allow the car to get up to speed all weekend.
This season he’s hoping to go fast right from the start during Friday’s competition that includes time trials, heat races and three 20-lap $1,000-to-win qualifiers sponsored by Ironton Auto Body. If the second-generation driver from Wolcott, Ct., can get comfortable in the No. 88 TQ Midget, we’ll see if he can’t win one, something his uncle TC did seven times in his career.
Outside Lane for Indoor Racing?
The Indoor racing surface was a story last season. Changes made after Friday night’s feature in Allentown made the outside groove on the flat concrete surfaces much more competitive.
In the races that followed in Atlantic City and Syracuse, the race leader began to choose the outside lane on restarts because it had so much tack. Drivers like Anthony Sesely and Briggs Danner were among those that used the outside to make many of their passes.
Track prep director Davey Sammons is determined to give the racers the same great outside lane again this year. Others, however, will be looking to find a way to be just as fast on the bottom lane.
Which lane the leader picks on a double-file restart late in the race could decide winners and losers. Will find quickly on Friday night when the Triple 20 qualifiers are held. What happens that night, could help the drivers decide what to do on Saturday during the 40 lap feature.
Tommy Catalano With Indoor Win in his Sights
Tommy Catalano comes to Allentown from Ontario, N.Y. loaded for bear. Catalano, a proven top contender on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, really stepped up his game last year on the Indoor series.
During the series final 40-lapper in Syracuse, N.Y., in March of 2022 he waged a torrid early race battle for the lead with series champion Scott Kruetter. In the hunt for his first series win, he ended the year with a very strong third place finish.
Wanting to win badly in Allentown, Tommy comes to town with his two younger brothers, Timmy and Trevor, as teammates again this year. During the past Indoor season all three had shining moments and Allentown has proven in the past to be a place where a first ever TQ Midget Indoor victory is registered.
All three Catalanos are among a group of young drivers are counting on it happening again this weekend.
Joey Bailey aboard the Boyd No. 1B
Veteran TQ Midget car owners Lenny and Donna Boyd proved they had found their driver last year when Joey Bailey got comfortable in his yellow No. 1B.
After going to the rear late in the series finale, the multi-time champion of the outdoor ATQMRA series impressively marched back forward to finish fifth, rewarding him with fourth in the final series point standings.
The 25-year-old Monroe Township, N.J. driver is now comfortable in the close action of indoor racing and ready to take his game to the next level.
Will Ryan Tidman Bring his Outdoor Streak Inside?
Another one to keep an eye on is Ryan Tidman. The Southampton, Pa. driver really got going late in the season on the ATQMRA outdoor circuit, ending the campaign with an impressive victory at Wall Stadium’s Turkey Derby.
Returning in Rick Tolerico’s No. 83, this veteran of indoor competition could be primed for a first indoor victory.
Keep an Eye on the Dark Horses – Stephen Kemery, Kyle Lick, and Tyler Wagner
Dirt Sportsman racer Stephen Kemery of Sicklerville, N.J. continues to race his family-owned No. 69 with a 600cc engine against a field of 750s with success. In 2020, Kemery pulled to the bumper of race winner Ryan Flores late in the race but couldn’t compete the pass.
The second-place finish was the best of his career in the series, he’s eager to advance one spot further this weekend. He will have to wait and see if he can put himself in a position to do so!
Kyle Lick abandoned his 600cc powered TQ Midget this year. Instead, Lick has picked up a Laffler Chassis TQ Midget with a 750cc engine he hopes will take him to victory lane.
Lick has always been strong, but he might now be a winner. He’s gotten added power and his dirt track experience will likely find him on the outside lane that last year became the place to pass on the series.
Tyler Wagner of Chester, N.J. was a rookie on the series last year, but he drove more like an experienced veteran. With long-time TQ Midget car owner Blu Metz by his side, Wagner qualified for each feature last season and was very impressive.
Back with this low-dollar team this year with laps under his belt, you must wonder just how much better he can be.
Only time will tell what happens when the Indoor Auto Racing Championship Fueled by VP Racing Fuels kicks off this weekend.
Good seats remain for the Allentown race weekend. They can be purchased online through a link on the show website, indoorautoracing.com
or at the box office on the day of the event. For those who cannot attend, the event will be available on DTD TV Pay-Per-View for $64.99 for the weekend or $29.99 for Friday and $39.99 for Saturday. Visit www.dirttrackdigest.tv
to buy your pass.
In Allentown on Friday night racing begins at 7:30 PM with the TQ Midgets headlined in three Ironton Auto Body A-Qualifier main events. The top three in each event locks into Saturday’s main event and the Dash. The winner of each of these races will now receive $1,000 thanks to Ironton Auto Body and the Dash winner another $500!
Saturday’s events, sponsored by Future Homes, begin with FAN FEST when the doors open at 5 PM. Racing begins at 7 PM headlined by a 40-lap TQ Midget feature. The Champ Karts and Slingshots run complete shows with features on both nights.
After Allentown the series then moves to Atlantic City for the 20th year under Len Sammons Productions. The NAPA KNOW HOW weekend will feature a first ever “Double Down” schedule, with two Gambler’s Classic races for the TQ Midgets being held, one on Friday night and another on Saturday night.
For more information, including ticket information, host hotel rates and racer entry forms visit the series website www.indoorautoracing.com