TRENTON, NJ – Ryan Bartlett could not have been happier when he won his first Indoor Auto Racing Series TQ Midget victory inside the New York State Fairgrounds Exposition Center on Saturday, March 12. On Friday, March 25, the veteran dirt Modified driver from Watertown, N.Y. couldn’t have been more disappointed after Indoor Auto Racing Series officials notified him by phone that he was disqualified for a tire that failed a post-race test.
“When I first received the phone call the team and myself were completely dumbfounded on the situation. We openly deny the use of any chemicals to alter our race program to gain any sort of unfair advantage,” said Bartlett in a prepared statement.
As a result of Bartlett’s disqualification, Anthony Sesely from Matawan, N.J., who finished second, was declared the winner of the Saturday night TQ Midget feature.
“I feel really bad for him,” said Sesely by phone after hearing the news of his win, the fourth for him on the Indoor Series.
Tire samples were taken from the three Triple 20 winners (Bartlett, Tim Buckwalter and Briggs Danner) after the Friday features. Only the right-rear tire on Bartlett’s No. 93 failed to meet Hoosier Tire benchmarks after an independent laboratory analysis was completed.
Samples of Bartlett’s right-front tire were taken following his Saturday win and it passed the test as did right-rear tires on TQs driven by Sesely and third place Scott Kreutter.
“We can’t understand how this could have happened. We have retained a lawyer and are pursuing legal action to fight the situation because we feel this isn’t right,” said Bartlett in the statement.
Bartlett was stripped of $1,000 for a win on Friday night in one of three 20-lap qualifiers that earned top three finishers starting spots in the top nine positions in Saturday’s 40-lap main event.
In exciting fashion, Bartlett won Saturday’s feature which would have paid him an additional $3,000.
“Saturday night’s winning tires passed with no issue at all and we have passed several other previous tire tests in past events with the series. We fully understand the consequences upon doing anything to alter the tires and have always stood by our morals and reputation and have supported the series in having the tests completed,” Bartlett added.
Because the qualifying events on Friday were linked to the Saturday feature, Bartlett was disqualified for the entire weekend by series rules and forfeited $4,000 in purse money.
The win for Sesely, came aboard a brand new TQ Midget built by Jeff Ulrich and Rick Kluth. Sesely, who led the race early was forced to pit under a red flag on lap 13 when he noticed his car was leaking fuel.
“We had a really great car and might have gotten him (Bartlett) if the race was a lap or two longer, but he drove an excellent race and has tried so hard for so long. I really do feel bad for him,” said Sesely sincerely.
During a lengthy delay to clean the track after another car had dropped fluid, Sesely’s team replaced a fuel line and a shut-off valve. The three-time Atlantic City Gambler’s Classic winner then drove back to the front.
With the checkered flag waving at lap 40 on Bartlett, Sesely drove under Kreutter off turn four to take second place which now grants his team the victory.
Timmy Solomito, who drove Frankie Caprara’s TQ Midget for the first time in Syracuse and finished second to Bartlett on Friday, will now collect that Triple 20 win and $1,000.
Bartlett and his family team have competed on the Indoor Auto Racing Series since its first race was held inside Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall in 2003. This past season, however, has been their best.
After opening the series inside Allentown, Pa.’s PPL Center the first week in January with a 14th place finish, Bartlett returned to Atlantic City to score an impressive fourth in a Friday qualifier and seventh in Saturday’s Gambler’s Classic.
Had Bartlett’s win been made official, he would have finished third in the point standings behind Kreutter and Tim Buckwalter. After the disqualification, Bartlett slipped outside the top- ten in the points.
“This has caused myself and others to be mentally physically and emotionally tore up about this and worst of all attacked our character and morals in the motorsports world,” finalized a “sincerely confused” Bartlett in his statement.
Briggs Danner will now be third in the standings, with Joey Bailey moving up to fourth and Sesely finishing fifth.
Ryan Flores of Mooresville, N.C. was also stripped of an Indoor Series victory in January after he failed a tire test following his victory in the Gambler’s Classic inside Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall. Tim Nye was the first series tire disqualification when he failed a test following qualifying at the series opener in Allentown, Pa.
“Disqualifying any driver is hard, calling them to inform them of the failed tire test is especially hard,” stated series promoter Len Sammons.
“The entire Sammons family and everyone involved with the Indoor Series was generally happy for the Bartletts to get their first series win in Syracuse. It was too similar to the phone call we had to make after Atlantic City to Ryan Flores. Both drivers scored big wins, close to their home towns.
“But we must rely on the findings of the respected laboratory testing. The drivers agreed to eliminate the use of chemical treatments on tires which once was legal on our series. All the drivers sign a tire contract with the series each season agreeing to the process. In fairness to all the other drivers who competed, we had no option but to disqualify them. There is no gray area, either the tire meets the benchmark or it doesn’t.”
As per the Indoor Series tire agreement, the Bartlett team took the option to pay for further testing to be done by the laboratory to find what chemicals were present. This process doesn’t change the results, but does give the car owner which specific chemicals had been found. The chemicals found are not present in any Hoosier Tire compound.
While the team is not arguing the test results, they plead innocent to having knowingly done anything to have altered the chemical make-up of the tire in question