Jankowiak Victorious In Thrilling Feature At Hillside
Holland, New York, July 21st, 2018- Driving the #88x TQ midget out of the Casey’s Truck Salvage stable, Andy Jankowiak captured the victory at the Track at Hillside with a bold charge early in the race. Throwing caution to the wind, Jankowiak scoffed at the racing Gods and attempted to win the race on the first lap. Jankowiak moved from fifth to the lead with a daring dive deep inside the first corner forcing his teammate Kyle Hutchinson to decide what kind of teammate he was going to be.
The predominantly local Jerry Gradl NYPA Midget Association field was invaded by two drivers from the Florida Midget Racing Association, with two drivers from the southern series making the trek to New York to compete at Hillside. Jimmy Wilkins, known best in his native series for winning nine feature races in a row, took over the 02 machine, while fellow Floridian Mike Nelson was behind the wheel of the 01 TQ Midget. The two drivers had to adjust to the different rules of the Jerry Gradl NYPA Midget Association, and focused on keeping their cars in good shape throughout the feature. Wilkins and Nelson finished the feature 16th and 17th, respectively.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity Jim Smith gave us,” Nelson said with a grin before strapping in for the feature, “the priority is bringing it back in one piece. I’d hate to go home and leave things for them to fix.”
Another entry in the field that turned heads was the 88x, piloted by eventual race winner Andy Jankowiak, who was pulling triple duty in the Sportsman Modified, Jerry Gradl Motors NYPA TQ Midgets, and the Race of Champions Modified features. Jankowiak wound up playing spoiler during the feature amid a dramatic points battle between Hutchinson and Wollaber. When asked about whether or not Jankowiak had a shot at pulling off the feature win after a heat victory, a confident crew member simply responded, “why not?”
The feature began with the 71 of Tony Petrea on pole, but the lead was quickly taken over by Jankowiak after he made an incredible three-wide pass from fifth going into turn one, followed by a move for the lead on the opposite end of the track. Following him through on the outside was none other than teammate Hutchinson. A quick yellow after an incident with visiting Wilkins bunched the field back together, this time with Wollaber closing in on the Casey’s Truck Salvage cars.
Jankowiak, Hutchinson, and Wollaber ran almost nose-to-tail for the rest of the feature, pulling away from fourth place Andy Nye. Lap cars quickly became a factor, with slower cars occupying the inside line effectively closing off the bottom lane when the top three came through traffic. Hutchinson, despite making several attempts, was unable to make a successful pass on Jankowiak, but nonetheless persevered despite Wollaber pressuring from third place.
By the time the white flag flew Hutchinson looked to be en-route to second despite a white-knuckle battle for the lead, but through the last corner a piece of his rear suspension gave out, causing him to lose second at the last moment to Wollaber. Hutchinson finished third, with Nye and AJ Hessler rounding out the top five.
After taking the checkered flag, Jankowiak rode around the Track at Hillside in reverse, doing a signature “Polish Victory Lap” made popular by the late Alan Kulwicki to the delight of the crowd. Jankowiak winning ways didn’t end after the Jerry Gradl NYPA Midget Association race, as he found himself in victory lane in the Race of Champions Modified 100 later that night.
The old adage that one can’t win a race on the first lap was challenged. “That was one race you could win on the first lap,” Jankowiak said after the race. “Our cars are pretty even and with him (Hutch) knowing the track and the cars he was probably a tick better. I had the preferred line and figured he wouldn’t dump me.”
“I could get underneath him getting into three,” Hutchinson recalls, “but driving it in that hard got the car a little loose. We were so close in speed that basically whoever had the lead had the preferred line.”
Next week the Jerry Gradl NYPA Midget Association will race again at the Track at Hillside on Saturday, July 28th. Not only is next week First Responders Night, but fans are also encouraged to dust off vintage racing t-shirts and proudly sport them at the races as well. Tickets at the gate are $10 for general admission, $5 for seniors 65 and older, $1 for members of the military, and $5 for all first responders. Gates open at 3 PM, heats begin at 4, and features will follow after the heat races.
About NYPA Midgets: The Jerry Gradl Motors NYPA Midget, series sanctions three-quarter midget racing in western New York and Pennsylvania. TQ midgets are known for high stakes, wheel to wheel, short track racing action and have thrilled crowds across the country for over fifty years. The NYPA Midget Association carries on that tradition of excitement at tracks like The Track at Hillside (formerly Holland Speedway), Lake Erie Speedway and Lancaster National Speedway. Check the NYPA Midget Association website www.NYPAMidgets.com for the schedule, points, and news. Find us on Facebook for up to date event information, photos, and more. Be sure to like and share with your friends.
About Jerry Gradl Motors: Since 1958 Jerry Gradl Motors has provided exceptional sales and professional service to western New York motorists. Half of their customers are referrals or repeats, which means they provide outstanding customer service. The Gradl name is a staple in WNY motorsports and will be for years to come. Jerry Gradl Motors has two locations to choose from, one at 711 Niagara Falls Blvd, North Tonawanda NY and the other located at 6704 Transit Rd. Williamsville.
7/21/2018 Final Results:
#1 – 88x Andy Jankowiak
#2 – 1 Dave Wollaber North Tonawanda, NY
#3 – 88 Kyle Hutchinson Alden, NY
#4 – 66 Andy Nye Lancaster, NY
#5 – 90 A.J. Hessler Tonawanda, NY
#6 – 6 Erik Musto Lockport,NY
#7 – 2 Vinnie Christiano Tonawanda, NY
#8 – 3 Vinnie Christiano III Tonawanda, NY
#9 – 44 Tim Nies Lancaster, NY
#10 – 5 Ted Jones Jr West Valley, NY
#11 – 42 Chad Haywood West Valley, NY
#12 – 71 Tony Petrea Tonawanda, NY
#13 – 29 Cameron Ruggiero Lancaster, NY
#14 – 05 Jamie Pew Lancaster, NY
#15 – 14 Kevin Wilson Alden, NY
#16 – 02 Jimmy Wilkins, FL
#17 – 01 Mike Nelson, FL
#18 – 19 Jeremy Conklin Pittsfield, NY
#19 – 11 Chester Haywood Orchard Park, NY
#20 – 00 Ryan Hessler