Craig Murto: Racing in January? You bet!

Craig Murto

The Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals at the Tulsa, Oklahoma  Expo Raceway isn’t the only open-wheel racing in January.

In fact, it’s not too far to go see the Jan. 5-6 Indoor Auto Racing Series inside the PPL Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The Three-Quarter  Midget races feature many top drivers from the Northeast.

A lot of talent competes indoors in TQ Midgets. Proven winners include defending series champion Ryan Flores of Mooresville, North Carolina, who won both events in Allentown last year. Erick Rudolph, whose 2017 Atlantic City win gave the Ransomville, New York  driver a series high eight indoor victories can never be counted out. His win total also includes a win in Allentown the previous season.

Anthony Sesely, three-time Atlantic City winner, will compete in his own No. 16 full-time this season.

Indoor TQ Midget racing attracts drivers of all types. Reportedly, Canadian Super Modified ace Mike Lichty, a former series winner, rejoins the series this year with a brand new car. Tim Buckwalter of Royersford, Pennsylvania, comes to Allentown after winning both the SpeedSTR and 600cc Micro Sprint titles in 2017 at the Kutztown Action Track.

Top pavement Modified drivers entered include Pennsylvania favorites Earl Paules and Zane Zeiner. Nationally known drivers in the field include Connecticut NASCAR stars Ryan Preece, Justin Bonsignore and Keith Rocco, as well as New York star Andy Jankowiak.

Preece, a NASCAR Xfinity series winner in 2017 for Joe Gibbs Racing, wlll drive the same car that was designed and built by Donnie Preece and the late Ted Christopher. It will be repainted white and will carry the same No. 6 that Preece drove for Ed Partridge to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Touring Series car owner title. Bonsignore finished second to the team in the NASCAR standings.

Ted Christopher, who was killed in a plane crash while traveling to compete in a Modified race in Long Island this year, will be missed. His “three bump rule” was utilized while racing a TQ Midget just as it was in a Modified. The first bump was to let you know he was behind you. The second bump was to tell you he was faster, so you’d better pick a lane. The third bump was to move you out of the way because he was going to get past you one way or another.

Dirt Modified racing will be well represented at Allentown also. New York state DIRTcar drivers Ryan Bartlett, Mike Maresca and Billy Whittaker will get behind the wheel. New Jersey dirt Modified driver Danny Bouc, a winner at New Egypt Speedway this year, will be moving up indoors from a Champ Kart to TQ Midget competition. Mike Iles, a former indoor series winner, will also be full time.

The Allentown event schedule calls for racing to start at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 5, and 7 p.m. on Jan. 6.

TQ Midgets will run a full program of racing with feature events on both nights. Champ Karts will race a complete show on Friday night, with the Slingshots racing as the under card on Saturday.

If you’ve never attended indoor racing, you’ll be in for a treat if you choose to go to Allentown. Last year’s race was a sellout, so plan to order your tickets and hotel room early.

For tickets, contact the PPL Center Box Office by phone at (610) 347-8499, or online at pplcenter.com. To avoid online fees, purchase directly from the Box Office, but do it soon as tickets are going quickly.

Allentown is the first of the three-race Indoor Auto Racing Series, and any of the events are worth seeing. The series moves next to Atlantic City. For tickets, contact Ticketmaster, the Boardwalk Hall Box Office, or the Area Auto Racing News office at (609) 888-3618.

The final event in the series will be the inaugural event in the state of New York on Feb. 9-10, in the Times Union Center in downtown Albany. For choice tickets, contact the Times Union Center Box Office, charge-by-phone at (800) 745-3000, or visit online at ticketmaster.com.

Allentown may not be Tulsa, and the Indoor Racing Series may not be the Chili Bowl Nationals, but it’s exciting racing nonetheless, and close enough to attend.