From Ron Ware
FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Billy Wease and his team did everything but bring out the brooms following last year’s “Rumble in Fort Wayne.”
With equal measures of guts and guile, Wease pulled off a sweep of the two-day indoor racing classic, joining two-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart as the only drivers ever to win both midget features in a Rumble Series weekend.
But Wease’s task won’t be any easier when the 13th annual “Rumble in Fort Wayne” unfolds New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day at the Memorial Coliseum Expo Center. In fact, some of his toughest competition may come from his own team.
Owner Randy Burrow has entered an unprecedented four cars, with open-wheel standouts Aaron Pierce and Bobby Santos III joining Wease, along with 15-year-old rookie Joey Burrow, the owner’s son.
“I think it’ll all be fun,” said Wease, 24, who has four career indoor victories, all since 2007. “I’m really good friends with Bobby Santos. He’s dating my sister. I think it’ll be really good fun racing him. He’s never done the indoor stuff.
“Hopefully, we’ll run 1-2.”
Or even 1-2-3.
At age 25, Santos already has won many of the nation’s top midget races, including the Copper World Classic, Night Before the 500 and Turkey Night Grand Prix. This past season, he became the second-youngest champion in the 63-year history of the NASCAR Modified series.
Pierce, 36, a frequent competitor at Fort Wayne, was runner-up to Dave Darland on the second night in 2004 and twice has been the fastest qualifier at the specially constructed 1/6-mile track. He’s the fastest driver in USAC Silver Crown history, recording a lap of 174.295 mph in qualifying at Chicagoland Speedway in 2006.
Burrow, a sophomore in high school, moves up to midgets following a half-dozen years in karts.
The elder Burrow, who operates Burco Molding in Noblesville, Ind., said his enthusiasm for indoor racing, coupled with the chance to add such talented drivers, prompted his decision to expand. He fielded two cars at Fort Wayne last season.
“It just all came together this year,” Burrow said. “I’m seeing what kind of a mess I can make. I think the cars will all look good. Most of these pieces on the cars I already had. This old Edmunds car (that Santos will drive) I’ve had since the mid-‘90s. We just finally put it together.
“I like indoor racing. And you know why? Because Bob East (a top builder and owner) can’t out-spend me. This is more like traditional midget racing, where guys bring what they conjure up. I’m not going to get beat because somebody has a better engine or somebody has a better chassis.
“It’s the guy tuning the car and the guy doing the driving (that makes the difference).”
The preliminary entry list also features Rich Corson, Dave Darland, Tony Elliott, David Gough, John Heydenreich and Jon Stanbrough – all of whom have Rumble Series indoor wins – as well as National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Famer Kevin Olson, who’ll drive for Tony Stewart Racing.
Derek Bischak, David Fuhrman, Geoff Kaiser and Cory Setser will represent the Fort Wayne area in the midgets.
In all, 39 midgets and 34 winged outlaw modified midgets are among more than 280 pre-race entries in the five classes. Competition also includes Slingshot by Tobias cars, karts and quarter midgets, with complete programs both Friday and Saturday. Spectator doors open at noon each day, with the main portion of the event after 7 p.m.
The team to watch in winged midgets will be the one fielded by Kit Henry of Bellevue, Ohio. He has entered cars for John Ivy, the leading feature winner in Rumble Series history; his son, Cap Henry, the 2010 rookie of the year in the All-Star Circuit of Champions sprint car series; and reigning Fremont Speedway sprint car champion Craig Mintz.
Olson and sprint car legend Hank Lower of nearby Angola, Ind., will serve as grand marshals. Lower, 72, also will drive in the Slingshot division.
Additionally, ATV stuntman Henry “The Pit Bull” Rife will attempt a world indoor record jump of cars following Friday’s racing. Rife, who has appeared “Late Show With David Letterman,” suffered the worst crash of his career 15 years ago in Fort Wayne when he failed to clear a house trailer in a jump at Baer Field Speedway.
“I’m so looking forward to doing this,” the 42-year-old Rife said. “It’s been a long while (since the accident), and it’s time.”
Tickets for the “Rumble in Fort Wayne” are available in advance or at the door, and the event – including Rife’s jump – will be shown live on pay-per-view at racesontheweb.com.
Reserved seats, which must be purchased in advance, are $41 for both days and $22.50 for a single day. General admission is $35 for both days and $19.50 for a single day. Tickets for kids 12 and under are $16 for both days and $10 for one day (both reserved and general admission). Pit passes are $55 for two days and $30 for a single day. The pay-per-view webcast is $5.99 per day.
More information, including race headquarters hotel rates, is available at rumbleseries.com or by contacting promoter Tony Barhorst at firstname.lastname@example.org.