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 Photo by Chris Seelman.

  ‘Rumble in Fort Wayne’ to expand to three days

FORT WAYNE, Ind. – The “Rumble in Fort Wayne” indoor midget event, featuring top national drivers, will expand to three days for the 17th annual running on Dec. 26-28.

Separate programs are scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday on the 1/6-mile track inside the remodeled Memorial Coliseum Expo Center, with a matinee on the final day.

National midgets and non-winged dirt modified midgets will compete all three days, joined by winged outlaw modified midgets on Saturday and Sunday. Karts will be part of the program Friday and Saturday, while quarter midgets are included Saturday and Sunday. Gates open at 11 a.m. each day, with the main portion of the program at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Event promoter Tony Barhorst said the decision to spread the holiday event over three days – prompted by Christmas falling on Thursday – was made with fans and race teams in mind.

Usually, teams practice the day prior to the “Rumble,” he noted. Running three divisions instead of five on Friday allows for adequate practice to build up a racy track surface as well as a day of racing – without requiring teams to come in on Christmas.

“A big reason is that it gives us a more comfortable and enjoyable show for fans who want to see certain divisions,” Barhorst said. “Going to three days also allows us to not run so late on Friday.

“I think a lot of fans are going to like the Sunday matinee, which is like it was in the old days of the Coliseum.”

Last year’s event was one for the ages, with veteran Russ Gamester, just shy of his 48th birthday, and high school freshman Justin Peck, 15, becoming the oldest and youngest midget feature winners, respectively, in “Rumble in Fort Wayne” history.

Gamester, driving a family-owned car built in 1977, also joined Mike Fedorcak as the only drivers to win at both the Expo Center and the former Coliseum track, which hosted midgets from 1953-89.

In addition to the racing, the Evans Toyota Fan Zone will feature race cars and other displays. Fans may purchase pit passes the days of the event to see drivers up close as the teams prepare their cars.

More information, including the event schedule, ticket prices, entry forms and “racer’s rate” hotels, is available at

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Peck, 15, becomes youngest ‘Rumble’ winner



Classic Motorsports


FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Justin Peck is so young, he still needs his mother to tag along to sign his minor release form.

And as for post-race celebrations?

“IHOP’s where it’s at,” the 15-year-old from Monrovia, Ind., said, grinning. “I’ll stick to milk.”

At the rate he’s going, Peck may be emptying a bottle in the winner’s circle at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway one day.

The high school freshman put his name in the record book Saturday night, surviving a late-race duel with Russ Gamester to become the youngest winner in the 16-year history of the Rumble in Fort Wayne indoor midget classic.

One day earlier, Gamester, 47, had become the event’s oldest winner.

“Indescribable,” Peck said as a parade of fans asked for a photo or autograph. “Best deal I’ve ever had. I hope every young kid coming up can have the same experience I did.”

Peck made an auspicious debut at the Memorial Coliseum Expo Center last year, finishing second on Friday and third on Saturday while also sailing into the turn one fence.

“He’s been telling me all fall he’s going to win the Rumble,” his father, Steve, said.

Peck, driving a Volkswagen-powered Beast for Michigan’s Steve Clay, inherited a front row starting position because of a scratch, beat pole-sitter Lynsey Liguori into the first turn and looked like he might lead all 50 laps.

But Gamester eventually reeled him in, passing Peck on the inside with eight laps to go when the youngster got into turn two too hard.

“I thought I was done,” Peck said.

Instead, Gamester developed an engine problem, and Peck nudged his way past with just two laps remaining. Gamester’s engine finally blew in turn four on the last lap, relegating him to a ninth-place finish.

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Gamester rolls back clock with ‘Rumble’ victory



Classic Motorsports

 FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Twenty-four years ago, when he won at the old Memorial Coliseum and went on to capture the USAC national midget championship, Russ Gamester was a man on the move.

These days, the veteran from Peru, Ind., competes mostly for personal satisfaction, knowing his childhood dream of reaching the Indianapolis 500 never will happen.

Not that he’s ever slowed down enough to complain.

Gamester, less than two weeks shy of his 49th birthday, overpowered the field in capturing the 50-lap midget feature Friday on the opening night of the 16th annual Rumble in Fort Wayne at the Memorial Coliseum Expo Center.

Charging from the seventh starting position on the tight, 1/6-mile indoor track, he grabbed the lead from pole-sitter Joe Liguori on lap 16, then easily pulled away from Grant Galloway after a restart with two laps to go. Liguori settled for third, with Billy Wease and Matt Westfall completing the top five in a race that took just 11 minutes to complete.

“I am up in my age,” admitted Gamester, who broke Mike Fedorcak’s record as the oldest Rumble in Fort Wayne winner by about 11 months. “I’m looking at (racing) a couple more years, probably. That’s about all for me, anyway.

“That makes this real special.”

Gamester, from Peru, Ind., joined Fedorcak as the only drivers to win at both the Coliseum (which hosted midgets from 1953-89) and the Expo Center. Liguori was all of 3 years old – and Galloway wasn’t yet born – when Gamester won at the Coliseum in 1989, catapulting him to the national championship.

Back then, Gamester’s future seemed limitless. He finished second in midget points a year later to a kid named Jeff Gordon, then was runner-up to Ryan Newman for the USAC Silver Crown title in 1999.

Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart – still on the mend from a broken right leg suffered in August – made a point of congratulating Gamester. Stewart has won a record nine times at Fort Wayne.

“I wish Tony was out there (racing),” Gamester said. “That’s my only disappointment. You wanna beat the best. After the race, he said, ‘You’re just hooked up.’ That meant a lot.

“It’s nice for him to come out here and support this. He’s a great racer and a true friend. You couldn’t ask for a truer racer.”

Galloway felt fortunate just to make the feature after his left rear brake exploded in practice.

“I can’t thank my team enough,” the 19-year-old from Lakeville, Ind., said. “Before the heat race, my rear rotor was in pieces. They put it together in five minutes. Crazy, isn’t it?”

Liguori, driving a dirt car that he plans to take to next month’s Chili Bowl, had few complaints, either.

“Nobody was going to beat (Gamester),” he said. “He was in his own time zone.”

Gamester did it in a family-owned car – built by the late Grant King and powered by a Volkswagen engine — that dates to 1977. His emotions spilled over in victory lane as he recalled how it was the last midget purchased by his late grandparents, who got the family started in racing. His brother, George, is his longtime mechanic.

“This just means an awful lot,” Gamester said.  Read More