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.
East Coast drivers Erick Rudolph and Tom Fraschetta also posted impressive victories in 600cc midgets.
Rudolph, from Ransomville, N.Y., claimed a winged outlaw modified midget feature for the second year in a row, while Fraschetta, from King of Prussia, Pa., won the new non-winged dirt modified midget division in his Fort Wayne debut.
Preston Oberle, Zach Axlen, A.J. Geren, Kobe Allison, Gene Gregoric III, Ryan Moran and Dustin Lundgren all won kart features, while Zeb Wise won twice in quarter midgets. Also scoring quarter midgets wins were Bennett Lushin, Daylan Karnes, Jackson Lee, Koulten Herbert and Nicole Cannon.
Starter Tom Hansing escaped serious injury when Nick Hamilton’s midget flew into the fencing near the flagman’s stand at the start of the fifth midget heat race.
Hansing, also a starter for the IndyCar Series and United States Auto Club, suffered bruised ribs and was transported to Lutheran Hospital as a precaution, race organizer Tony Barhorst said. He was awake and alert when removed on a stretcher.
The Rumble wraps up on Saturday with another full program. Spectator gates open at 11 a.m., with the main portion of the show beginning at 7:30 p.m.
16th annual Rumble in Fort Wayne
Friday, Dec. 27 and Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013│Memorial Coliseum Expo Center│Fort Wayne, Ind.
MIDGETS (National/Ford Focus/Kenyon)
Qualifications – 1. Cooper Clouse, 14, Clouse, 7.820 seconds; 2. Derek Bischak, 31, Bischak, 7.959; 3. Billy Wease, 99, Burrow, 7.967; 4. Russ Gamester, 46, Gamester, 8.016; 5. Chris Jagger Jr., 32, Jagger, 8.090; 6. Bobby Santos, 1g, Gormly, 8.178; 7. Justin Peck, 5x, Clay, 8.178; 8. Lou Cicconi Jr., 2, Stewart, 8.189; 9. Geoff Kaiser, 10, Moore, 8.210; 10. Grant Galloway, 84, Grant, 8.279; 11. Matt Westfall, 19, Ryder, 8.330; 12. Austin Nemire, 19a, 8.346; 13. Bobby East, 61, Kenyon, 8.353; 14. David Gough, 6, Gough, 8.357; 15. Bryan Nuckles, 59, Nuckles, 8.363; 16. Chris Jagger, 27, Jagger, 8.365; 17. Joe Ligouri, 67, Williams-Sexton, 8.369; 18. Jim Anderson, 99a, Guess, 8.401; 19. Rex Norris, 63, Norris, 8.406; 20. Isaac Chapple, 52c, Chapple, 8.408; 21. Lynsey Ligouri, 8up, Williams-Sexton, 8.422; 22. Billy Hulbert, 88, Hulbert, 8.449; 23. Brian Gerster, 98, Burrow, 8.450; 24. Kyle Hamilton, 41, Williams-Sexton, 8.466; 25. Patrick Wilda, 22, Grskovic, 8.475; 26. Dave Darland, 52, 3-K, 8.483; 27. Jarett Andretti, 15k, Chambers-Knupp, 8.539; 28. Russ Belt, 19, Belt, 8.561; 29. Joey Burrow, 49, Burrow, 8.639; 30. Nick Hamilton, 33, Hamilton, 8.643; 31. Basil Hicks, 01, Hicks, 8.820; 32. Stratton Briggs, 2b, Briggs, 8.890; 33. Mike Fedorcak, 97, Stewart, 9.047; 34. Cory Setser, 24, Setser, 9.590; 35. Alex Malycke, 0, Malycke, 9.956; 36. Taylor Jagger, 97j, Jagger, 11.239; 37. Justin R. Lindemann, 07, Lindemann, 11.424; 38. Steve Myers, 20m, Myers, NT; 39. Rich Corson, 15, Corson, NT; 40. Brandon Knupp, 78k, Chambers-Purpus, NT; 41. Mike Wallace, 10, Wallace, NT.
First heat (10 laps) – Westfall, Santos, Darland, L. Liguori, Hicks, Clouse, C. Jagger, T. Jagger.
Second heat (10 laps) – Nemire, J. Ligouri, Bischak, Peck, Hulbert, Andretti, Briggs, Lindemann.
Third heat (10 laps) – Wease, Anderson, Gerster, East, Knupp, Belt, Cicconi.
Fourth heat (10 laps) – Gamester, Norris, Kaiser, K. Hamilton, Setser, Burrow, Gough.
Fifth heat (10 laps) – Galloway, Nuckles, Wilda, Chapple, C. Jagger Jr., N. Hamilton, Malycke, Corson.
First semi-feature (10 laps) – Clouse, Peck, Gerster, East, Darland, Knupp, Briggs, Malycke.
Second semi-feature (10 laps) – Bischak, Cicconi, L. Liguori, K. Hamilton, Andretti, T. Jagger, Gough, N. Hamilton, Fedorcak.
Third semi-feature (10 laps) – Kaiser, C. Jagger, Setser, Hulbert, Lindemann, Hicks, Wilda, C. Jagger Jr., Wallace.
Feature (50 laps) – Russ Gamester, Grant Galloway, Joe Liguori, Billy Wease, Matt Westfall, Austin Nemire, Cooper Clouse, Geoff Kaiser, Jim Anderson, Derek Bischak, Rex Norris III, Chris Jagger, Lou Cicconi Jr., Bryan Nuckles, Bobby Santos, Justin Peck. Lap leaders: Liguori 1-15, Gamester 16-50.
WINGED OUTLAW MODIFIED MIDGETS (600cc)
Qualifications – 1. Erick Rudolph, 22, Rudolph, 7.887 seconds; 2. John Ivy, 94, Henry, 7.950; 3. Chase Ridenour, 11r, Ridenour, 8.079; 4. Cap Henry, 04, Henry, 8.098; 5. Trent Stephens, 19, Cicconi, 8.102; 6. Ben Quinones, 20, Advanced Products, 8.191; 7. Drew Dorsett, 11b, 8.192; 8. Howard McCormick, 26, Sager, 8.303; 9. Tim Neal, 19, Dunigan, 8.322; 10. Matt Janisch, 43, Janisch, 8.336; 11. Tyler Fitzpatrick, 57, Fitzpatrick, 8.420; 12. A.J. Lesiecki, 14, Lesiecki, 8.432; 13. Amanda Quinones, 007, Advanced Products, 8.435; 14. Mark Zumbrun, 35z, Zumbrun, 8.445; 15. Larry Joe Sroufe, 21, Sroufe, 8.448; 16. Jason Ormsby, 51, Ormsby, 8.495; 17. Bill Dunham, 84, Dunham, 8.506; 18. Butch Hamilton, 1h, Hamilton, 9.078; 19. Steve Myers, 86, Myers; 20. Rusty Strausbaugh, 29, Strausbaugh, NT.
First heat (10 laps) – Janish, Rudolph, Dorsett, Henry, A. Quinones, Ormsby, Myers.
Second heat (10 laps) – McCormick, Stephens, Ivy, Fitzpatrick, Dunham, Zumbrun.
Third heat (10 laps) – Lesiecki, Neal, Ridenour, Sroufe, B. Quinones, Hamilton.
Semi-feature (10 laps) – B. Quinones, A. Quinones, Zumbrun, Dunham, Ormsby, Myers.
Feature (30 laps) – Erick Rudolph, John Ivy, Trent Stephens, Tim Neal, Chase Ridenour, Howard McCormick, Ben Quinones, Bill Dunham, Mark Zumbrun, A.J. Lesiecki, Larry Joe Sroufe, Amanda Quinones, Cap Henry, Matt Janisch, Tyler Fitzpatrick, Drew Dorsett. Lap leaders: Neal 1-13, Rudolph 14-30.
NON-WINGED DIRT MODIFIED MIDGETS (600cc)
Qualifications – 1. Blane Culp, 21, Culp, 8.328; 2. Tim Nye, 42, Nye, 8.432; 3. Clay Sanders, 21, Sanders, 8.524; 4. Mike Fedorcak, 97, Olson, 8.573; 5. Joe Barker, 99, Barker, 8.621; 6. Tom Fraschetta, 12, Cicconi, 8.655; 7. Russ Gamester, 49, Gamester, 8.669; 8. Jason Ormsby, 51, Ormsby, 8.672; 9. Daniel Robinson, 77, Robinson, 8.728; 10. Jonathon Lesiecki, 24, Lesiecki, 8.761; 11. Richard Smith, 12s, Smith, 8.825; 12. Bill Unglert, 5, McClure, 8.842; 13. Spencer Bayston, 23, Bayston, 8.874; 14. Jim Sipe, 2, Sipe, 8.886; 15. Tyler Ransbottom, 29, Allen-Coleman, 8.894; 16. Dennis Veach, 1, Veach, 8.899; 17. Darek Snyder, 16w, Wheeler, 8.999; 18. Kim Hughes, 6, Hughes, 9.123; 19. Austin Creamer, 38a, Creamer, 9.334; 20. Blake Lamb, 69, Lamb, 9.337; 21. Shayne Riley, 57r, Riley, 9.460; 22. Nick Eastin, 93, Eastin, 9.530; 23. Shawn Grace, 77x, Woods, 9.782; 24. Nick Richards, 23r, Chaudion, 9.820; 25. Kyle Pollock, 14, Chaudion, 11.052; 26. Steve Myers, 88, Myers, NT; 27. Ethan Foster, 48, Foster, NT; 28. Gary Klein, 68, Klein, NT.
First heat (10 laps) – Bayston, Culp, Riley, Robinson, Snyder, Barker, Pollock.
Second heat (10 laps) – Fraschetta, Lesiecki, Nye, Sipe, Hughes, Eastin.
Third heat (10 laps) – Smith, Gamester, Sanders, Ransbottom, Creamer, Grace.
Fourth heat (10 laps) – Fedorcak, Lamb, Unglert, Veach, Richards.
First semi-feature (10 laps) – Robinson, Ransbottom, Barker, Snyder, Grace.
Second semi-feature (10 laps) – Ormsby, Veach, Hughes, Eastin, Sipe.
Feature (30 laps) – Tom Fraschetta, Shayne Riley, Spencer Bayston, Dennis Veach, Blane Culp, Richard Smith, Tim Nye, Clay Sanders, Mike Fedorcak, Jonathon Lesiecki, Blake Lamb, Jason Ormsby, Bill Unglert, Daniel Robinson, Tyler Ransbottom, Russ Gamester. Lap leaders: Smith 1-9, Fraschetta 10-30.
SENIOR HEAVY KARTS
Fast qualifier – Jake Shelley, 8.095 seconds.
First heat (8 laps) – Jake Shelley, Mike Markle, Matt Dimit, Zach Axlen, Alleca Kerker, Justin Sondergrath, Nick Chiapetta, Ronnie Niehaus, Cole Rhoton.
Second heat (8 laps) – Preston Oberle, Brandon Dunn, A.J. Roderick, Dustin Hammond, Josh McKnight, Zack Loe, Brock Anderson, Brock Wilson, Cass Kemp.
Semi-feature (8 laps) – Kerker, Anderson, Loe, Sondergrath, Rhoton, Niehaus, Kemp.
Feature (18 laps) – Preston Oberle, Brandon Dunn, Jake Shelley, Zach Axlen, Mike Markle, Alleca Kerker, A.J. Roderick, Matt Dimit, Justin Sondergrath, Brock Anderson, Dustin Hammond, Zack Loe.
SENIOR MEDIUM KARTS
Fast qualifier – Zach Axlen, 7.977 seconds.
First heat (8 laps) – Zach Axlen, A.J. Roderick, Josh McKnight, Ronnie Niehaus, Nick Chiapetta, Kevin Dibble, Cass Kemp.
Second heat (8 laps) – Mike Markle, Brandon Dunn, Justin Sondergrath, Alleca Kerker, Dustin Hammond, Derek Lilly, Michael Day.
Third heat (8 laps) – Jake Shelley, Matt Randall, Nate Randall, Preston Oberle, Zach Wolff, Lance Mitchey, Brock Wilson.
First semi-feature (8 laps) – McKnight, Hammond, Wilson, N. Randall, Dibble, Click, Day, Chiapetta.
Second semi-feature (8 laps) – Oberle, Kerker, Wolff, Niehaus, Mitchey, Kemp, Lilly, Sondergrath.
Feature (18 laps) – Zach Axlen, Mike Markle, Jake Shelley, Preston Oberle, Josh McKnight, A.J. Roderick, Dustin Hammond, Alleca Kerker, Brock Wilson, Zach Wolff, Matt Randall, Brandon Dunn.
SENIOR CAGED KARTS
Fast qualifier – Brandon Dunn, 8.503 seconds.
First heat (8 laps) – Brandon Dunn, Sam Longanbach, Breanna Deckard, John H. Miller, Ron Vandermeir Jr., Joe Warner, John Kline, Brandon Schnittke.
Second heat (8 laps) – Zack Myers, John Ventrello, Cole Rhoton, Dave Polak, Ty Conrad, Kyle Dager, Brian Barnett.
Third heat (8 laps) – Dylan Woodling, A.J. Geren, Michael Giachetti, Kyle Henry, Aric Vandermeir, Nathan Myers, Kyle Kinney, Dustin Gumley.
Fourth heat (8 laps) – Dan Bouc, Ryan Moran, Rick Dukes, Brad Schieber, Ryan Ball, Anthony Myers, Mike Villena, Wayne Huffman.
Fifth heat (8 laps) – Cameron Deckard, Cole Roberson, Shanon Chiddister, Kevin Wall Jr., Steve Berlin, Steven Webb, Michael Ernsberger.
First semi-feature (8 laps) – Schieber, Henry, Ernsberger, Barnett, Chiddister, Villena, Berlin, Dager, Schnittke.
Second semi-feature (8 laps) – Wall, Vandermeir Jr., N. Myers, A. Vandermeir, Ball, Warner, Huffman, Kline, Conrad, Webb.
Third semi-feature (8 laps) – Gumley, Rhoton, Dils, Deckard, Giachetti, A. Myers, Miller.
Feature (18 laps) – A.J. Geren, Dan Bouc, Zack Myers, Cameron Deckard, Brandon Dunn, Cole Roberson, John Ventrello, Kevin Wall Jr., Sam Longanbach, Kyle Henry, Vandermeir Jr., Dylan Woodling, Ryan Moran, Brad Schieber.
JUNIOR HEAVY KARTS
Fast qualifier – Justin Lewis, 8.393 seconds.
First heat (8 laps) – Justin Lewis, Gene Gregoric III, Kobe Allison, Sheldon Oberle, Ashley Kaye Marqueling, Myles Morrolf, Noah Henderson.
Second heat (8 laps) – Joey Pendergrass, Dylan Anderson, Sam Weaver, Gage Etgen, Hannah Galitz, Amanda Bohn, Kaitlin Randall.
Feature (18 laps) – Kobe Allison, Joey Pendergrass, Dylan Anderson, Gene Gregoric III, Gage Etgen, Sheldon Oberle, Ashley Kaye Marqueling, Sam Weaver, Justin Lewis, Hannah Galitz, Amanda Bohn, Kaitlin Randall, Noah Henderson, Myles Morrolf.
JUNIOR CAGED KARTS
Fast qualifier – Tayte Williamson, 8.765 seconds.
First heat (8 laps) – Gene Gregoric II, Breiden Mooney, Jakeb Boxell, Paige Rogers, Tayte Williamson, Aaron Mulrooney Jr.
Second heat (8 laps) – Korbyn Hayslett, Harrison Hadley, Owen Houpt, Andrew Castelucci, Kyler Bowlby, Madison Bland.
Feature (18 laps) – Gene Gregoric III, Tayte Williamson, Harrison Hadley, Andrew Castelucci, Paige Rogers, Aaron Mulrooney Jr., Kyler Bowlby, Jakeb Boxell, Madison Bland, Owen Houpt, Korbyn Hayslett, Breiden Mooney.
HEAVY CLONE KARTS
Fast qualifier – Jake Shelley, 8.013 seconds.
First heat (8 laps) – Jake Shelley, Damon Woodbury, Tylar Rankin, John H. Miller, Kyle DeKnight, D.J. Foos, Kyle Mills.
Second heat (8 laps) – Ryan Moran, Jacob Daugherty, Dustin Lundgren, Matt Hall, Jason Hamilton, Connor Lund.
Third heat (8 laps) – Zach Axlen, Tim Ice, Charlie Schultz, Owen Calderwood, Garrett Gosnell, Darrin Hurley.
Semi-feature (8 laps) – Schultz, Hall, Lundgren, Rankin, Foos, Calderwood, Hamilton, Lund, Gosnell, DeKnight, Miller, Hurley, Mills.
Feature (18 laps) – Ryan Moran, Zach Axlen, Dustin Lundgren, Charlie Schultz, Matt Hall, D.J. Foos, Tim Ice, Owen Calderwood, Damon Woodbury, Tylar Rankin, Jacob Daugherty, Jake Shelley.
LIGHT CLONE KARTS
Fast qualifier – Ryan Moran, 8.197 seconds.
First heat (8 laps) – Ryan Moran, Charlie Schultz, Casey Nash, Jacob Daugherty, D.J. Foos, Tim Ice, Matt Browning, Connor Lund, Dylan Kinney.
Second heat (8 laps) – Derek Hammond, Cole Jansen, A.J. Lesiecki, Dustin Lundgren, Dustin Vandermeir, Branson Dils, Kevin Mingus, Damon Woodbury.
Semi-feature (8 laps) – Dils, Ice, Woodbury, Browning, Foos, Lund, Kinney, Vandermeir.
Feature (18 laps) – Dustin Lundgren, Branson Dils, Ryan Moran, Charlie Schultz, Derek Hammond, Cole Jansen, Tim Ice, A.J. Lesiecki, Jacob Daugherty, Damon Woodbury, Matt Browning, Casey Nash.
ANIMAL QUARTER MIDGETS
Heat (8 laps) – Zeb Wise, Bennett Lushin, Lexi Pohlman, Addison Lushin, Aaron Leffel, Jacob Taylor, Chase Burda, Owen Foster.
Feature (18 laps) – Zeb Wise, Aaron Leffel, Jacob Taylor, Owen Foster, Bennett Lushin, Addison Lushin, Chase Burda, Lexi Pohlman.
HEAVY 160 QUARTER MIDGETS
Heat (8 laps) – Bennett Lushin, Evan Foster, Starla Parsons, Ben Taylor, Jonathon Lesiecki, Will Edwards.
Feature (18 laps) – Bennett Lushin, Evan Foster, Starla Parsons, Jonathon Lesiecki, Ben Taylor, Will Edwards.
LIGHT 160 QUARTER MIDGETS
Heat (8 laps) – Jackson Lee, Zeb Wise, Caden Hoyt, Addison Lushin, Chase Burda, Emerson Axsom, Trey Osborne, Michael Clancy, Dylan Norris, Steve Darling.
Feature (18 laps) – Zeb Wise, Jackson Lee, Caden Hoyt, Michael Clancy, Trey Osborne, Dylan Norris, Emerson Axsom, Chase Burda, Steve Darling, Addison Lushin.
HEAVY HONDA QUARTER MIDGETS
Heat (8 laps) – Daylan Karnes, Aaron Leffel, Bennett Lushin, Lexi Pohlman, Starla Parsons, Jonathon Lesiecki, Cindy Chambers, Will Edwards.
Feature (18 laps) – Daylan Karnes, Bennett Lushin, Aaron Leffel, Jonathon Lesiecki, Lexi Pohlman, Starla Parsons, Cindy Chambers, Will Edwards.
SENIOR HONDA QUARTER MIDGETS
Heat (8 laps) – Chase Burda, Caden Hoyt, Emerson Axsom, Addison Lushin, Jackson Lee, Dylan Norris, Jacob Denney, Taylor Nibert, Steve Darling.
Feature (18 laps) – Jackson Lee, Addison Lushin, Emerson Axsom, Caden Hoyt, Chase Burda, Jacob Denney, Dylan Norris, Taylor Nibert, Steve Darling.
JUNIOR HONDA QUARTER MIDGETS
Heat (8 laps) – Noah Dininger, Koulten Herbert, Riley Emig, Dawson Knaul, Parker Leek.
Feature (18 laps) – Koulten Herbert, Riley Emig, Noah Dininger, Dawson Knaul, Parker Leek.
NOVICE QUARTER MIDGETS
Heat (8 laps) – Christopher Schisler, Nicole Cannon, Bobby Schisler.
Feature (18 laps) – Nicole Cannon, Bobby Schisler, Christopher Schisler.