Story By: ERNIE SAXTON / LEN SAMMONS PRODUCTIONS – SYRACUSE, NY – This could change everything!
Ransomville, NY standout Erick Rudolph has entered the Indoor Auto Racing Series Fueled By VP Racing Fuels 2022 finale set for this Friday and Saturday, March 11-12.
The BELFOR Property Restoration series race sponsored by Indy Kart Raceway will be held at the New York State Fairgrounds Exposition Center.
The much-anticipated race weekend is the first in Syracuse since the 2019 inaugural event. Races planned for 2020 and 2021 were both canceled due to the pandemic.
Over 100 entries have been filed by TQ Midget, Champ Kart, and Slingshot teams, with the TQs accounting for about half that number.
Rudolph, who missed the 2022 Allentown, PA Series opener, then ran fourth in the Atlantic City Gambler’s Classic, had not planned on being in the Syracuse field this weekend. His intention had been to race in Georgetown, DE, in a Dirt Modified event, but that race was postponed Wednesday in anticipation of wet weather.
Thus Rudolph enacted his backup plan.
The four-time series king (2012, 2015, 2016, 2019) has won nine TQ A-Main events in his career with the Series, more than any other driver. Those include a win at Syracuse in 2019, an effort that resulted in his fourth Series title.
Rudolph’s other wins came in Atlantic City four times, Trenton, NJ twice, and Allentown, PA twice.
He was leading in the Atlantic City race this year until a tangle with Andy Jankowiak of Tonawanda, NY forced him to the rear of the field. Rudolph salvaged a top-five finish.
Rudolph will have the benefit of driving a car built and owned by Mark Lafler, also of Ransomville, NY. The bright yellow Lafler entry carries the No. 22.
Cars built by Lafler were guided to 2022 Indoor Series victories at Allentown and Atlantic City by Flores and Tim Buckwalter of Douglassville, PA, respectively.
Rudolph is hoping the Syracuse start will rejuvenate what has been a difficult Dirt Track Stock Car season for him so far, including a car-destroying crash into the wall at Volusia Speedway Park in February.
Rudolph is among several TQ Syracuse Indoor race weekend competitors who have come in late.
Matt Swanson of Acton, MA, was recently named the driver of Ken ‘Puddin’ Sebring’s TQ Midget, joining Doug Stearly of Trappe, PA, in a two-car team assault.
Also filing an entry in the days leading up to the race is Bob Reis, the promoter of Freedom Motorsports Park in Delavan, NY. Reis’ varied racing experience includes Asphalt Modified racing in New York State.
Reis debuted a radically designed TQ Midget in the 2019 Syracuse inaugural. The car showed promise, but Reis failed to make the A-Main with it. He will try again this weekend.
Joey Payne of Brick, NJ — one of the most accomplished Supermodified, Midget, and TQ Midget drivers in the northeast — entered the Syracuse race two weeks ago. Payne will drive Bobby Webber’s No. 19, last driven by Justin Bonsignore in the 2019 Syracuse Indoor inaugural.
Payne is a past ATQMRA outdoor driving champion and has enjoyed years of past success with the NEMA Midget organization in New England. His son, Anthony, won an Indoor Auto Racing Series feature in the lone Albany, NY Indoor race, driving for car owner Mike Murray. The Murray TQ is now driven by Mike Bednar.
The late entry of Payne follows the recent announcement of NASCAR Whelen Modified Touring Series standout Timmy Solomito of Islip, NY, moving behind the wheel of the new FX Caprara Cars No. FX1 TQ Midget.
Scott Kreutter, the owner of IndyKart Raceway located in Rochester, NY, and the race sponsor, is a victory threat. He will have added fans on hand to cheer him on.
Oswego Speedway and Circle T Enterprises Ready Mix Division have signed on to sponsor those exciting Friday night Triple 20s, which allows every TQ Midget competitor a chance to run in a qualifier feature event paying $1,000 to win.
The fastest 12 from Friday afternoon qualifying will also make a run for the pole at night in a special knock-out time trial session. Friday’s program begins at 7:30 PM with heat races for the Slingshots and Champ Karts.
New York State is well represented in the field of Champ Kart entrants. A large contingent of racers are residents of New York, including AC winner Dan Marsden of Mexico., NY.
However, two Pennsylvania drivers are currently one-two in points, led by Allentown winner Jonathan Keister and Jason Simmons Racing driver Tyler Brown.
The always exciting Slingshots have also been dominated by Pennsylvania drivers Brett Bieber, Jared Silfee, and Scott Neary, who have finished in the same order in both 2022 series races.
On Saturday, racing begins at 7 PM with qualifying races for the three divisions followed by their feature events. The program concludes with the 40-lap TQ Midget season finale.
Also at stake are the Indoor Auto Racing Series championships. Tim Buckwalter’s TQ Midget victory at Atlantic City, along with a fourth at the opener in Allentown, PA, brings him to Syracuse with momentum and a slim 15-point lead over Matt Janisch of Nazareth, PA
Defending series champion Andy Jankowiak will drive east to Syracuse from Tonawanda, NY. Jankowiak is fourth in the points after a disappointing AC finish, yet still in the title hunt.
Tickets are available in a range of different prices through links on indoorautoracing.com. Tickets will also be available for each race night starting at 3 PM at the Exposition Center Box office the day of the events. New York State has removed all restrictions in regards to covid-19, no masks are required.
Ticket holders on both Friday and Saturday will have the opportunity to walk the pits before the action begins to meet drivers and see the race cars up close. Fan Fest hours start on Friday at 6 PM and Saturday at 5:30 PM.
Race fans can enjoy a doubleheader weekend at the Fairgrounds with the 34th annual Syracuse Motorsports Expo and Trade Show being held at the Center Of Progress Building on the Fairgrounds on Saturday from 10 to 8 and Sunday 10 to 4.