Friday night's portion of the 12th Annual NAPA Know How Atlantic City Indoor Races were not short of excitement. In the end, only five cars remained in the 30 lap Three-Quarter (TQ) Midget A-Main on Friday night.
The most thrilling and controversy filled portion of the night started just setting the first four rows for the Friday main event. In a unique one lap one-on-one match race format between the top eight in time trials, fast qualifier Anthony Sesely knocked off one driver after another until he challenged versatile racer Ted Christopher. Christopher strategically hung behind at the green flag and nudged Sesely out of the lead and took the win.
Christopher easily outperformed his next two opponents, but it was his final battle with Tim Iulg that would prove memorable. Iulg did not give Christopher an inch and made heavy contact coming out of turn two, sending Christopher sideways onto the outside wall. Neither driver would complete the lap, but it was determined that if Christopher and crew could fix his newly built machine then he could start from the pole for Friday night's feature.
And fix it they did. It was a rematch with Christopher and Iulg starting from the front row, except this time with 22 other TQs behind them. The race started off cleanly with Christopher jumping out to the early lead and Andy Jankowiak taking second. Iulg would bring out the first of many cautions, spinning out of third place.
Steadily working his way up was 2013 Gambler's Classic winner Anthony Sesely, who worked his way to the inside of Christopher for the lead on an ensuing restart. Christopher would stay at Sesely's tail for the next several laps, but his night would end when something broke in the left front going into turn three.
Many other drivers would work their way through the field to challenge Sesely and ultimately saw their night come to an end. The final contender was last year's runner-up during both nights, Jimmy Blewett. Blewett would have his hands full with third place Mike Lichty and both got together in the closing laps, allowing Sesely to check out to victory.
Blewett attributed the late race incident to close quarters racing for the trophy, and remained optimistic about his chances for his first indoor TQ win on Saturday. Despite not running at the end of the race, Blewett placed in the top eight in the final running order which automatically locks him in for the Saturday night feature.
Sesely spoke after the race about how difficult these indoor races can be as well as Friday night's racing.
"It's getting so tough," stated Sesely. "Everybody is so close. The cars are getting better and better, and the competition is getting tougher and tougher. Everybody is fighting for every single inch. Honestly, it started in the match races and ended there."
In regards to a repeat in the 40 lap Gambler's Classic main event on Saturday night, Sesely didn't have much to say except his gratitude for his chances.
"I'm glad it's in one piece and the car is fine," said Sesely. "It's a good feeling."
TQ Midget regular Matt Janisch finished second followed by Rob Vivona. For Vivona, it was an ecstatic return to the driver seat thanks to some help from the race winner.
"He's been sick all year," Sesely mentioned about Vivona. "This is his first time out, and we spent nine days solid up at the shop to get him to come out here and have a good time."
Saturday night's racing begins with four TQ Heats and the top three from each advancing into the 26 car feature. Four more cars advance from the two B-Mains later on, followed by two provisionals. Erick Rudolph was disqualified from time trials and did not race on Friday, but will be a contender on Saturday being the last former Gambler's Classic winner not already locked into the field.
Slingshots and Champ Karts will have their own A-Mains as part of the racing action as well.
Additional stories on the 12th Annual NAPA Know How Atlantic City Indoor Races and short track racing can be found on our front page.