Indoor Auto Racing Continues inside Boardwalk Hall This Weekend, 80 Years After It Originated There
Atlantic City, New Jersey (JANUARY 23, 2024) — The glory of almost 80 years of auto racing inside Jim Whelen Boardwalk Hall continues this Friday and Saturday, January 26 & 27, when the Indoor Auto Racing Championship returns for the 21st running of the Gambler’s Classic, and stakes are high.
“Everyone wants to win in Atlantic City because the pioneers of racing all won there,” two-time Gambler’s Classic winner Joey Payne stated. “There’s prestige in it.”
While the modern-era record books show that Andy Mackereth of Ontario, Canada was the first winner, auto racing inside Boardwalk Hall has a long history dating back to 1938. Then known as the Atlantic City Convention Center, a series of Midget car races were held during the fall of that year.
With World War II hanging over the nation, many auto races were canceled to aid in the war effort and Boardwalk Hall racing was such a casualty.
It was not until January of 1965 that Pleasantville, NJ businessman George Stockinger began the first of 55 indoor racing events that would stretch over the course of the next 15 winters. The featured attraction was the Three Quarter (TQ) Midget — the same machine that the Indoor Auto Racing Championship races today.
Because of the scheduling of these races in the dead of winter, the Atlantic City Indoor Races received widespread attention among the auto racing community. The frenzy peaked in 1973 when six events were held, and through 1981 at least three events took place each year.
Twenty-two years later, in 2003, Len Sammons, publisher of Area Auto Racing News, resurrected the Atlantic City Indoor racing traditions. On January 18, 2003, a packed house saw the racing events and Andy Mackereth from Mississauga, Ontario, Canada won the Inaugural Gambler’s Classic.
Since 2003, names such as PA’s Lou Cicconi, N.J.’s Joey Payne, and CT’s Ted Christopher have cemented themselves as the new legends of Boardwalk Hall victory lane thanks to multiple visits between 2003 and 2013.
In the last decade, a new group of stars has dominated the boardwalk, with Anthony Sesely of Matawan, N.J. becoming the winningest driver with four Gambler’s Classic trophies in 2013, 2014, 2016 and just last year in 2023.
Erick Rudolph from Ransomville, NY, and Andy Jankowiak from Tonawanda, NY scored three victories in the prestigious event. Perennial contenders Tim Buckwalter (2022) and Ryan Flores (2018) each have one victory in the event, but come to Atlantic City as favorites to take home the title in 2024.
“The Gambler’s Classic is a race where, when your career is over, you want to say you won it,” Flores shared. “More importantly, you want to say you won it more than anyone else.”
While current stars of the Indoor Auto Racing Championship chase glory and the Gambler’s Classic trophy, big winners in the “Stockinger Era” are now memorialized through annual special awards during the Gambler’s Classic events. One is given out each year in Stockinger’s name, others named for racers including Doug Craig, Larry Michaels, Tony Romit, and Sonny Saunders.
As they did nearly 80 years ago, the TQ Midget stars, along with drivers in support divisions including Slingshots, Champ Karts, and Micro Sprints will do battle around an oval built on the concrete floor of Jim Whelen Boardwalk Hall.
Racing kicks off on Friday, January 26 at 7 PM headlined by the Black Jack 21 feature race for the TQ Midgets, and continues on Saturday, January 27 at 7 PM headlined by the Gambler’s Classic.
Tickets are available at the Jim Whelen Boardwalk Hall Box Office and at ticketmaster.com. For more information on the Indoor Auto Racing Championship and the NAPA Auto Parts Atlantic City Indoor Races visit www.indoorautoracing.com