From Ernie Saxton
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ – Mike Stefanik can’t wait for the Gambler’s Classic indoor Three-Quarter Midget race at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J.
Stefanik, 51, of Coventry, R.I., is the latest entrant for the prestigious two-day indoor race on January 29-30, 2010.
The seven-time NASCAR Modified Tour and two-time NASCAR Busch East champion will make his debut TQ-Midget run in Boardwalk Hall, but it won’t be his first indoor TQ-Midget race.
Stefanik enters as a favorite in the Colin Martin-owned No. 36 as he captured the Coffee Cup trophy at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, R.I., in early December.
“I went to an Atlantic City race (as a fan) in 2007, and it seemed like the track was extremely difficult to pull off passes,” Stefanik said. “I read that they’re planning to alter the turns to make for wider corners, and it got me thinking that I would to give Atlantic City a try.”
Martin, who currently has one of the Coffee Cup trophies, agreed to field a car for Stefanik in the Gambler’s Classic, which has become of the most prestigious indoor racing events since its inception in 2003.
“Colin said he’s bringing a better car than the one we had in Providence,” Stefanik said. “It’ll be one fast race car if it’s better than what I had at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.”
Getting to Atlantic City, N.J., will be quite an adventure for Stefanik and his family.
“There is a lot of buzz up here about the race in AC,” he said. “We got thinking about it, and we wanted to make a big deal about it.
“So rather than drive down to New Jersey, we are coming down via train. We talked to a lot of race fans about the race, and they’re coming down by train too. We’re making it into a fun trip with some racing thrown in at the same time.”
Stefanik’s entry in the TQ-Midget race guarantees that he’ll be competing with one of his racing mentors, Billy Pauch.
Pauch won the preliminary feature at Boardwalk Hall last year, and the Frenchtown, N.J., native is one of the reasons why Stefanik did so well in December’s Coffee Cup.
“Billy kept giving me hand signals after he dropped out of the Coffee Cup race,” Stefanik said. “He is an awesome driver and person.
“It was a big deal to me when I saw his name on the entry list. I was so excited to race against him. Then, we were in the same heat race. We were side-by-side for a few laps and I thought, ‘Man, this is so great. I am racing against Billy Pauch.’”
In fact, one of Stefanik’s Christmas gifts was a signed picture from Pauch of the two racing side-by-side in Providence.
“I love racing indoors,” Stefanik said. “I love competition and new challenges.
“I enjoyed racing against Davey Hamilton, Lou Cicconi Jr. and a bunch of the other drivers. In fact, we have a picture of Lou and I racing side-by-side, and we sent him a copy to sign.”
The high-powered, TQ-Midget cars will headline the two-day card. Some 100 drivers are expected to contend for the Gambler’s Classic title.
The Slingshot and Champ Kart race cars, which provide just as much entertainment as the TQ Midgets, will be on the card each night as well.
Defending champions are Paul Lotier Jr. of Lebanon, Pa. (Slingshots) and Ryan Kendall of East Greenbush, N.Y. (Champ Karts).
Fans can purchase tickets by calling Ticketmaster at (800)-736-1420 or online at www.ticketmaster.com.
Information on the event is available at aarn.com or by calling (609)-888-3618.
Fans can also purchased tickets at the Boardwalk Hall Ticket Office. Tickets will be $2 more at the door on the day of the race.