Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – SYRACUSE, NY – Dirt Modified pilot Ryan Bartlett had an amazing night on Friday night in the Salt City.
Bartlett had one fast Can-Am Speedway-sponsored TQ midget during qualifying night for the 2022 Indoor Auto Racing Championship finale in Syracuse, NY Friday. While he didn’t lock himself into his 20-lap event during time trials, there was no lack of speed in his machine, and he proved it.
With a little bit of luck, he made the most of every opportunity thrown his way and came away with the $1,000 victory. However, a green-white-checkered restart with Timmy Solomito nearly spoiled the party.
“I was super happy to see Timmy pull up next to me for the restart,” Bartlett said. “I knew he’d race me clean and he got just a great restart. We were dead even going through (turn) one and I didn’t want to run him up the track or anything. I wanted to hold my line on the bottom.”
For the final two laps, the two veteran racers ran nerf bar to nerf bar, both not giving an inch, but giving the utmost respect for the other.
“I was a little squirrelly on the bottom because the rubber was starting to peel up down there,” he said. “When we came off of two, he was still with me and I was like, man, I have to hit this corner right. I did, but he was still there and luckily, I hit it better on the last lap and we got him.”
The major turning point of the race was when leaders Anthony Sesley and Andy Jankowiak collided while racing for the lead. Sesley went around and Andy J was sent to the rear of the field for his part in the accident.
That gave Bartlett the lead and his golden opportunity, which he made he most of. Did he think he had anything for the two leaders had they not been involved in the incident?
“I was good there early, hanging with them,” he said. “I kind of got hung up there when I finally passed to get into third, and they got out ahead a ways. I started to just ride for a bit, trying to save tires and keep the car straight. I probably was set to finish third but we were fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.”
Now, Bartlett has an amazing opportunity to pick up his first career Indoor TQ main event win on Saturday night. Does he think he has a car good enough to can come away with the victory?
“We’ve got the equipment to get the job done,” he said. “Our program has really come around, going to this Lafler Chassis a few years ago. We’ve got a great piece under the hood and it’s just a phenomenal motor. We definitely could win this race.”
The Watertown, NY driver knows, however, he needs everything to go his way for that to happen.
“You can be the fastest car in here, but you need luck to go your way,” he said. “We need a lot of luck, hit our marks and keep in mind, this is a long race. Forty laps is a long race in these cars and we just need have everything go our way.”
Bartlett’s machine was one of the fastest cars on track the entire day on Friday. Through practice, time trials and his heat race, the #93 race car was quick and he put it to good use.
“We had a top six or seven car all day,” he said. “I was actually a little too conservative during time trials knowing we had a fast car. I didn’t want to screw it up and I was a little too cautious picking up the throttle in the apex of the corner. I truly think we should have timed in the top 10.”
Ryan complimented series officials for how well the track was Friday in Syracuse. Actually, he was complimentary about all three of the indoor events this season.
“The racing this year, in all three races we’ve had, has arguably been the best it’s ever been,” he said. “For side-by-side racing, it’s been awesome. The way they do the track now is great. They don’t leave the track alone.”
What did Ryan mean by that?
“The whole time you’re practicing, officials move the inside tires around,” he said. “That sets things up so that later, there’s an outside groove. Then, they bring the (infield marker) tires in lower than we’ve ever raced on, from the beginning of the night. That means there’s a green bottom groove and it’s kind of dicey to go down there, but there’s a good outer groove. That makes for great racing.”
With the win, Bartlett was quick to thank the people that helped him get to victory lane.
“I really have to thank my brother and my father and my whole family for the effort they’ve put into this deal,” he said. “They work hard to get us down there year after year after year. It’s been some 20 years supporting this series and it feels really good to get some results for them.”
Can Ryan Bartlett take the family-owned Midget to victory lane? He’s ready, but so will everyone else in the field. However, luck may be on his side!
The fun starts again on Saturday night as everything kicks off at the New York State Fairgrounds Expo Center with FanFest in the pits at 5:30pm. Racing will begin at 7pm with the final race of the night being the 40-lap TQ main with 24 cars starting.