RPW Column: Jim Hajkowski Drives Away For Eastern States Street Stock Victory At Orange County

Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – MIDDLETOWN, NY – Jim Hajkowski may have started in the ninth position in the 20-lap Eastern States Street Stock Championship, but by the time the feature was complete, car 45 was number one.

Hajkowski made quick work of the race, getting to the top five by the second circuit.  He was then in a battle for the runner-up spot two laps later, taking the position away from early-race leader Bobby Sleight Jr.

He then began to chase down leader Jim Maher in a battle of the Monte Carlos.  Hajkowski saw his opening on lap six as the leader slipped up entering turns one and two.  He move to the inside and grabbed the lead.

However, the pass was negated as the caution came out for a car that spun in turns one and two, putting Maher back in front.

On the restart, Hajkowski wasn’t going to let the lead slip through his fingers again as he drag raced Maher in to the first turn side-by-side.  The two stayed door handle to door handle for the entire lap with Hajkowski squeaking out a lead by a radiator cap at the line.

From there, the top spot was a position he’d never relinquish as Jim Hajkowski went on to score another Eastern States victory by a full straightaway.

“I don’t realize I was that far ahead at the end,” Hajkowski said.  “I knew we had a good handling car.  This thing just handles and it just ‘went’ tonight.”

The car Hajkowski won with on Friday night was the car he began 2022 with at Orange County, but not the machine he ran most of the season.

“This is the car I should have been racing in every event,” he said.  “We lost the motor in it early in the season but now we got it back.”

Did he know he had a car that could contend for the win when he was able to move around 2022 OCFS Street Stock Champion Bobby Sleight Jr.?

“I saw he was pushing and having some troubles with the handling of his car,” he said.  “I knew that was a good opportunity for me.  I had to get by him.  It was just good timing and we were able to get up to the front.”

The win was extra special to Hajkowski and his family.

“Earlier this season, I lost my dad,” he said.  “I want to dedicate this win to him.”

Jim Maher brought his #M1 home in the second position, giving the Monte Carlo contingent a 1-2 finish on the night.

“Yea, it’s a little different than the Camaro behind us,” Maher said.  “It’s good to see some Monte’s up front.”

Maher’s car really took the low groove around Orange County in the 20-lapper.

“This thing just seemed to work on the bottom tonight,” he said.  “That’s not usual for me but you just have to run where the car wants to go.”

Unfortunately, just passed halfway, things began to go south for the Maher machine.

“The motor started going south on this thing,” he said.  “It happened right around lap 11 and I was just kind of taking it easy on it.  I didn’t want to push it but I knew I didn’t have anything for Jim.”

Even though it wasn’t a win, third place finisher Bobby Sleight Jr. was happy with his night.

“I kept on loosening the car and loosening the car tonight,” Sleight said.  “I said to myself, should I go a little bit more, and I was like I don’t know.  I should have though but it’s okay.  I’m real happy.”

Once the sun went down and track officials added some water to the surface, the conditions changed drastically and that almost fit into Sleight’s setup.

“It was like night and day,” he said.  “It was a total difference and I kept watching them work on the track.  We loosened this thing up but it just wasn’t enough tonight.”

Dillon Gannon brought the Cole Trickle look-alike #46 home in the fourth position with Ray Tarantino completing the top five.

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