ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Thanks to a date conflict, Ryan Flores is expecting to give fans on Feb. 1 an extra thrill inside Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall.
The 2018 Gambler’s Classic TQ Midget winner will miss pre-race practice on Jan. 30 and qualifying races on Jan. 31 that open the NAPA Know How race weekend. The Troutman, N.C., driver will arrive in Atlantic City on Saturday and start last in a qualifying heat race, yet he still plans to win the 40 lap main event later than night.
Flores, the most recent Indoor Auto Racing VP Series feature winner inside Allentown, Pa.’s PPL Center, will be following a long and winding path just to get to historic Boardwalk Hall. He’ll be spending Friday in Texas attending the wedding of his brother-in-law. The ceremonies will conclude too late for Flores to fly to Philadelphia Int’l Airport that night, meaning that he will not be landing until Saturday morning.
In his absence, Lou Cicconi Jr. will practice and perhaps attempt to qualify Flores’ No. 15. Series rules, however, award qualifying and heat race benefits to the driver of the car, not the car itself, meaning Flores would still have to start at the back of Saturday’s feature.
Instead, Flores is expected to attempt to qualify on his own merits. He’ll miss Friday night action that will include four 20-lap A-Main Qualifiers for the TQ Midgets, with the winner of each earning a spot in Saturday night’s Gambler’s Classic. The next four drivers in combined points of time trials and the A-Main qualifier race will also advance to the main event.
On Saturday night, Flores will line up at the back of one of six 10 lap heat races. With the line-ups set from Friday’s combined points the fastest cars will be up front so Flores will have to hustle with just the top two finishers transferring to the A-Main.
Should Flores fail, he’ll have another shot in one of three B-Mains that transfer the winner to the big dance. These races are lined-up by how the drivers finished in the heat, so if Flores was close to qualifying he’ll be starting further forward in this event.
If involved in a crash or struggling with mechanical issues, Flores would have one more option to make the Gambler’s Classic. Series officials offer two provisional starting spots at the event, one to the most recent Gambler’s Classic winner, in this case Andy Jankowiak, who won in 2019, to be added to the feature field if he fails to qualify. Flores is second in line to get this spot.
Should Jankowiak need a provisional, there would be one option left for Flores. A second provisional starting spot will be given to the driver highest in current Indoor Series points that fails to make the race. While Flores won the last event in Allentown, he flipped in the series opener the night before. He’s currently ranked seventh, a long shot to get that second free token to the starting field.
Flores’ win in Allentown on Jan. 4 was his fifth in the Indoor Auto Racing Series, second only to Erick Rudolph and the late Ted Christopher. The part-time driver who changes tires for Team Penske’s NASCAR Cup Series teams for a living, doesn’t plan on needing a provisional. He believes he can win his Saturday night heat race from the back of the field, or at the least make it to a transfer position.
Opening Friday night’s card will be the Dr. Lowe Second Chance 15-lap event for the TQ Midgets. This race among drivers who failed to qualify at both of the opening series races in Allentown, rewards the winner at spot in Saturday’s A-main.
Saturday’s events also includes a Dash among top stars in qualifying that lines up the front starting spots in the feature field.