ATLANTIC CITY - The Atlantic City Indoor Races already were a big deal.
The featured race, the Gamblers Classic on Saturday, was first held at historic Boardwalk Hall in 1938. The midget cars draw big names from around the auto racing world.
This year, though, the event - which starts at 7 p.m. today - means a bit more.
"This is the Super Bowl," event organizer Len Sammons said Thursday.
That's because this year the two nights of races at the hall are the culmination of the inaugural Fatheadz Eyewear Indoor Racing Series, which also features events in Providence, R.I., and Baltimore.
Sammons has run the Atlantic City Indoor Races since 2003.
The Gamblers Classic had been on hiatus since 1981 before he took it over.
"Atlantic City was always the stalwart of indoor racing," Sammons said. "We took it over, this is our 11th year, and the drivers kept asking for more races."
So five years ago, Sammons started the Providence event, which this season was held on New Year's Eve.
And this season he added Baltimore for the first time, in November. With the third and fourth races today and Saturday at the Hall, there was enough for a series.
The series has Three-Quarter Midget and Champ Kart divisions.
The Atlantic City Indoor Races also include 600 Micro and Slingshot classes. The Gamblers Classic is Saturday's Three-Quarter Midget race.
"It's pretty cool," driver Ryan Smith said. "You're chasing points. You're doing three, four races. It makes almost like a little season out of it."
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour star Ted Christopher leads the Three-Quarter Midget standings with 190 points after finishing fifth at Baltimore and winning at Providence. Anthony Sesely (170) and Matt Janisch (160) are his closest competitors.
Christopher has won the Gamblers Classic twice. His team co-owner, Don Preece, said Christopher should be the favorite in both Three-Quarter races this weekend, but this year might be the toughest yet because the racers were able to use the previous two races as tuneups.
"The caliber of driver is better," Preece said. "The caliber of car is better. People are really stepping up their game."
The fact remains that for most of the drivers, this is something they do on the side. Most of them race in bigger series whose seasons start soon, such as the Whelen Modified.
The indoor races provide entertainment and a way to stay in shape in the offseason.
For that reason, Sammons said don't expect his series to expand in the future. Instead, he's focusing on developing the three events further. His goal is to eventually get at least the Atlantic City races on television.
"We're developing new fans," Sammons said. "You can have little alternate races to build the momentum up and then you come for the big race at the end of the year in Atlantic City."
In reality, drivers said, that is what the Baltimore and Providence races are: A tuneup for Boardwalk Hall.
"If I was to win one, it'd be here," Smith said. "This is the predominant race to win."
Contact Jason Mazda:
What: Midget cars and go-karts
Where: Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City
When: 7:30 p.m. today (practice starts at 1 p.m.) and 7 p.m. Saturday (qualifying starts at 3 p.m.)
Tickets: $17-$27 for today, $20-$30 for Saturday ($2 more if purchased on Saturday), available through Ticketmaster and at the Boardwalk Hall box office.