Jankowiak Wins for Ted; News, Notes and Quotes from US Open at Lancaster National Speedway – PTD Exclusive
By MIKE MALLETT
When Modified racing lost icon Ted Christopher last week in a plane crash it rocked the entire community. Those wounds are still raw and the effects are still being felt. On Sunday afternoon at the Lancaster National Speedway that was evident as the track ran its annual U.S. Open. Around every corner, drivers found a way to honor the fallen hero.
Andy Jankowiak dominated the 125-lap feature leading every lap along the way. He had a large T.C. icon on the roof of his car. Afterwards he dedicated the win to him.
“I was on a mission,” said Jankowiak. “I wanted to win a race this weekend for Teddy Christopher. He meant a lot to me. I raced him hard. We had run ins. We laughed about them but I told him I respected. I still don’t think he liked me, but I definitely made it known that I respected the heck out of him.”
Jankowiak redrew the pole for the start and jumped to the early lead. He was challenged in the early stages by Tommy Catalano before being chased by Matt Hirschman. He ran hard the entire way. There was no conservation like years past. He felt like that was what Christopher would have done.
“Usually we kind of conserve a bit and ride and play strategy,” mentioned Jankowiak. “I went out there and led every single lap because that’s what Teddy would have done. I usually do a backwards lap and I did forward lap. I got a little teared up on the victory lap thinking about him. My step kids are over here and they are going to have kids, grandkids and I’m going to tell them one day that I traded paint with Teddy Christopher. You don’t realize how special that is until after the fact. We were all thinking about him. I think everyone was thinking about him and this one is for him.”
It was his seventh win in the event and as he said afterward, “It just means I’m one more closer to eight.”
The final 10 laps of the race featured numerous cautions which bunched the field up behind him. It gave everyone a shot but no one had enough as Jankowiak refused to give up the race lead.
“I love it,” he said of the late cautions. “I like a challenge. Restarts, I knew we were fine. We were going good. I don’t want it to be easy. If it’s easy I’m going to lose my edge and I don’t want to do that. We want a challenge to make sure we earned it. Today we did. I was on a mission today. It was going to take something silly to beat us.”
Another Strong Run for Hirschman with the RoC
Hirschman gave Jankowiak everything he had but it just wasn’t enough. Hirschman was sure to give plenty of credit to Jankowiak on his strong performance. He admitted having nothing for him on Sunday.
“I drove it for everything it was worth,” commented Hirschman. “They were the dominant car today no doubt about that. You weren’t beating him on strategy or anything like that. They had the best car. I can’t complain. Every time we run with this series we’ve been first or second this year. How can you complain about that? It is a popular win. He is probably the most popular local here.”
Hirschman also had high praise for Jankowiak’s car owner Tom McGrath. McGrath helped him earlier in his career and he was glad to see him win the event if he couldn’t.
“It’s a good win for the crowd and his owner Tom McGrath,” cited Hirschman. “I’m happier for him than anybody really because he’s a good guy. When I first started coming here, this is one of the toughest race tracks an outsider can come to, he was one of the few guys here that would help me and answer questions if I had any. The other big dogs that race here, they weren’t going to help me that’s for sure. He would. I will never forget that.”
Hirschman was quick to credit his team for getting him position to challenge for the win. Hirschman won his heat but pulled 11th in the redraw for his starting position. He ran much of the first half of the race outside the top 10 before a lap 70 pit stop moved him into the top three. He took second on the next restart and that’s where he eventually finished.
“I was able to save a little early,” said Hirschman. “We were a little off bit. The pit stop helped us dial that in and my guys, they had a good stop which gave me spots. I really didn’t pass a whole lot of cars today. They passed more in pits than I did on track. They deserve more credit than I do for getting here.”
Leaty Gains Some Points
Mike Leaty is chasing Patrick Emerling in the chase for the 2017 Race of Champions Modified series points. Leaty had a solid day on Sunday in the U.S. Open finishing third. Leaty gained several points after Emerling had a tough end to the main-event.
“We have a big picture look at it,” mentioned Leaty. “I wanted to get up there on those last restarts and dice it out with the 12 (Jankowiak) and the 60 (Hirschman), but I had an equal car, but not better car. With the 07 (Emerling) getting turned around I had to be careful to not give away the advantage I currently had. It was a good solid day. I got to thank my guys. They really executed all day long. That is what you got to do on this series. There are some really tough cars.”
Early in the race Leaty was forced to make some passes he normally wouldn’t have made as a result of some overheating issues.
“I was thinking about hanging behind Patrick and doing what he was doing, but my car started to get hot,” he said. “It was such a hot day that I needed to get in some clear air so I made a pass. I got into a nice open spot where I felt I was safe. It worked out. Third, that seems to be the story of our year, but that isn’t a really bad thing either.”
25 cars were on hand Sunday afteroon for the 29th running of the U.S. Open at the Lancaster National Speedway…
Eric Beers redrew the outside of the front row for the start of the 125 only to break a rocker arm in the engine of his No. 45. He did not start the feature…
Scott Wylie ran a No. 13. The Booker Motorsports entry was the same car that Ted Christopher ran when he visited the track back in 2016…
Tony Hanbury and his Jerry Gradl Motorsports entry ran a No. 13 as well in tribute to Christopher. They time trialed and ran the heat race but failed to start the feature event…