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FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Veteran Russ Gamester and rising star Justin Peck, who drove into the record books a year ago, head the preliminary entry list announced Friday for the 17th annual “Rumble in Fort Wayne.”
The defending winners are among nearly 40 national midget drivers entered for the expanded, three-day indoor racing classic at the Memorial Coliseum Expo Center. The event is Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 26-28, with a matinee the final day. Winged and non-winged outlaw midgets (600cc), karts and quarter midgets also are part of the program.
Gamester, who was less than two weeks shy of his 49th birthday, dominated on the opening night last year to become the Rumble’s oldest midget feature winner. Then Peck, a 15-year-old high school freshman, stunned a near-capacity crowd a night later, taking advantage of Gamester’s late-race blown engine to become the youngest winner.
But the stakes will be higher this year. For the first time, an overall champion driver and car owner will be crowned, with a $1,000 bonus on the line.
“That would be neat to do,” said Gamester, from Peru, Ind., who 25 years ago won the final indoor title at the former Coliseum track. “I’m pretty close to the end of my career. Seems like we always run good indoors, knock on wood.
“But you know how indoors (racing) is. Any given night can be your night. Racing is racing. Anybody can get hot and win. There are an awful lot of good cars.”
Peck, from Monrovia, Ind., echoed Gamester’s words.
“I think anybody can win it,” said Peck, pointing to his own debut at the 1/6-mile concrete track in 2012, when he finished second and third in the features. “I wouldn’t single out anybody (as a clear favorite). It could be somebody in their first year.
“Bobby Santos is awfully good. Russ Gamester. Billy Wease. It might be somebody who people haven’t really heard of, like (fellow teen) Austin Nemire. We have high hopes.”
Wease, who owns four Fort Wayne victories, returns as part of owner Randy Burrow’s four-car team. Jim Anderson, Derek Bischak, Rich Corson and Tony Stewart Racing’s Mike Fedorcak also are back among former winners.
Their challengers include 2014 champions Brian Gerster (Must See Racing Xtreme Sprint Series), Chris Neuenschwander (USSA Sprint Car Challenge Series), Kyle O’Gara (USAC National Pavement midgets) and Nemire (USAC HPD Midwest Pavement Midwest Dirt midgets).
National midgets and non-winged dirt modified midgets will race all three days, joined by winged outlaw modified midgets on Saturday and Sunday. Karts (Friday and Saturday) and quarter midgets (Saturday and Sunday) round out the event. 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.
Among the other 2013 feature winners who are returning in the same class are Erick Rudolph in winged outlaw midgets; Blane Culp in non-winged outlaw midgets; Brandon Dunn, A.J. Geren, Gene Gregoric III, Dustin Heath and Ryan Moran, all in karts; and Zeb Wise, Chase Burda and Koulten Herbert in quarter midgets.
In all, 232 entries were received by the pre-race deadline. Entries continue to be accepted, Rumble Series president Tony Barhorst said.
Longtime broadcaster Jack Arute will host special guests Saturday and Sunday in the Pressbox Suite Club. Purchase of a VIP package includes dinner with Hall of Fame driver Tom Bigelow on Saturday, lunch with IndyCar team owner Sarah Fisher on Sunday, pit access and pressbox-level seating. Top Rumble drivers will visit the suites on Friday. All will participate in question-and-answer sessions.
In addition, the Evans Toyota Fan Zone will feature race cars and other displays.
More information, including the event schedule, ticket prices, VIP suite seating and “racer’s rate” hotels, is available at www.rumbleseries.com. Tickets will be available at the door each day, and fans may purchase pit passes at the event to see drivers up close as teams prepare their cars.
“With the expansion of our event to three days, I think it’s fitting that we formally recognize an overall champion,” Barhorst said, looking ahead to the 17th annual indoor racing classic on Dec. 26-28 at the Memorial Coliseum Expo Center.
“This harkens back to the old USAC days, when an indoor champion was crowned. It’s going to make the whole weekend more interesting.”
The champion driver and his car owner will equally split $1,000, said Barhorst, who hopes additional sponsors will step up so the award can grow in coming years. “We’d like to add to this, but this is a good start.”
Drivers and owners will earn points solely on the basis of their feature finishes on Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon in the expanded three-day program. The winning driver and owner each day will earn one point, second place two points, third place three points and so on through the field. The driver and owner with the lowest point total – provided they start all three features – will be crowned “Rumble in Fort Wayne” champion.
Separate standings will be kept for drivers and owners. Owners who field multiple entries will earn points for each car, but the point totals are separate.
In case of a tie, the highest finisher on the final day will win the title.
Grant Galloway would have won last year’s championship on the basis of second- and third-place feature finishes. Russ Gamester and Justin Peck won the features.
Barhorst also issued a rules update for the national midget division. No cockpit shock adjustments of any kind and no remote canister shocks are permitted.
National midgets and non-winged dirt modified midgets will compete all three days of the Rumble, 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. Competition is held on a specially constructed 1/6-mile concrete track inside the renovated Expo Center.
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.
In addition to the racing, the Evans Toyota Fan Zone will feature race cars and other displays. Fans may purchase pit passes at the event to see drivers up close as teams prepare their cars.
More information, including the event schedule, ticket prices, entry forms and “racer’s rate” hotels, is available at www.rumbleseries.com.
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 www.rumbleseries.com.
Peck, 15, becomes youngest ‘Rumble’ winner
By RON WARE
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.
Gamester rolls back clock with ‘Rumble’ victory
By RON WARE
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
FORT WAYNE, Ind. – He’s still getting around on a motorized scooter, not a race car, but his badly broken right leg won’t keep Tony Stewart away from the “Rumble in Fort Wayne” indoor midget races.
The three-time NASCAR champion, some two months away from returning to driving, will be honored with a “Salute to Tony Stewart” at the 16th annual holiday event on Friday, Dec. 27 and Saturday,
Dec. 28 at the Memorial Coliseum Expo Center.
The native Hoosier will enter two cars – Munchkin chassis for longtime indoor teammate Mike Fedorcak and East Coast standout Lou Cicconi Jr. – while also greeting fans and signing autographs both days.
Rumble organizer Tony Barhorst said the recognition is well-deserved for Stewart, who has won a record nine features on the 1/6-mile track and continues to compete regularly on short tracks despite his superstar status.
For Stewart, a trip to the Rumble is something of a homecoming.
“I really enjoy competing up in Fort Wayne and having a chance to run the Munchkin,” he said Tuesday, “so not being in the car this year is a bit different for me, but I’m still looking forward to it. Lou Cicconi is going to run the car this year, and it’s going to be fun to spend time with him and watch him race.
“The Rumble event is a great time for me and the team. We get to see a lot of people that we might only see once or twice a year. It’s also nice that some of my family can make the drive up for this event.
“With the Rumble being held during the holidays, it really gives us not only the chance to race when the weather isn’t the greatest but the opportunity to see a lot of friends.”
Barhorst marvels at Stewart’s drive and his willingness to support short track racing.
“Throughout the history of major sports, it is extremely rare for a three-time champion to return to the roots of where they started,” he said. “This is a chance for us to thank Tony for coming back to short track races and not forgetting where he came from.
“Tony will be doing some interviews between races, and we look forward to hearing about the progress he has made coming back from his injury.”
Stewart, who was injured in a sprint car accident on Aug. 5, said Cicconi will drive his No. 2 Munchkin, while Fedorcak, from nearby Roanoke, will again pilot the No. 97. Both cars are fielded by Tony Stewart Racing, which also competes in the World of Outlaws sprint car series and the U.S. Auto Club’s Silver Crown and sprint car divisions.
Cicconi, who has raced at Fort Wayne twice, is the only driver to win a feature in which Stewart’s car was still running at the finish. That came on the final night in 2008, his most recent appearance, when Stewart ran second in a race that did not have a caution. Fedorcak, the builder and designer of the Munchkin chassis, likewise has one victory (2002) as well as a win at the old Memorial Coliseum track, making him the only driver to accomplish that feat.
“(Mike) and his family are great people,” Stewart said, “and it will be fun to watch him and Lou battle it out on the track this year.”
Some 300 entries are expected in midgets, winged and non-winged modified midgets, karts and quarter midgets. Spectator gates open at 11 a.m. each day, with midget time trials at 6 p.m. and the main portion of the program after 7:30.
Stewart will participate in a free, two-hour autograph session each day.
Information about tickets – including a special VIP package that includes a meet and greet with Stewart – is available at www.rumbleseries.com, along with entry forms and racer’s rate hotels. Tickets may be ordered by mail without a service charge. The event information line is (317) 418-3216. Requests for information may be e-mailed to email@example.com.
Photo credit by: Jim Morrison/Hawkeye Racing NewsThree-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart (right) shares a moment with fellow driver Cap Henry at last year’s “Rumble in Fort Wayne.”
FORT WAYNE, Ind. – The “Rumble in Fort Wayne” will expand to include two divisions utilizing 600cc-powered dirt cars, event organizer Tony Barhorst has announced.
Unrestricted and restricted non-winged 600cc modified midgets will join midgets, winged outlaw modified midgets, karts and quarter midgets in the 16th annual indoor event on Friday, Dec. 27 and Saturday, Dec. 28 at the Memorial Coliseum Expo Center. An optional practice session is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 26 on the 1/6-mile indoor concrete track.
Rules and entry forms are available at www.rumbleseries.com (click on Driver Info).
“After much discussion on our 600 classes, I have decided to add both unrestricted and restricted dirt-only 600 divisions,” Barhorst said. “When I say dirt only, I certainly mean it as these cars will be teched closely to Indiana outdoor dirt 600 rules. We will be adding rules soon to assure that these are not specialty cars.”
FORT WAYNE, Ind. Billy Wease couldn’t believe it. Neither could Tony Stewarts legion of fans. In a race in which the invincible Stewart dropped out before halfway with a blown engine, Wease charged from the final starting position to capture Fridays 50-lap midget feature on the opening night of the 15th annual Rumble in Fort Wayne. I kept on diggin, man, an almost delirious Wease said from the makeshift victory lane at the Memorial Coliseum Expo Center, his face splitting into a grin. ll tell you what, I was pretty upset I had to start last. But there was a bunch of crashes, a bunch of crap going on. I stayed in it and let everyone else put themselves out. In coming from the 14th starting spot in the 14-car field and from the rear again after being caught up in a three-car tangle on lap 26 Wease, 26, notched his fourth career victory at the 1/6-mile track and fifth overall indoors. Read More