TJ’s Notes and Quotes from Rumble in the Expo 2002

By T.J. Buffenbarger

Mike Fedorcak became the first driver to win midget features at both the Memorial Coliseum and Exposition Center in Fort Wayne after his victory on Friday night. Fedorcak may limit his racing now to the confines of indoor arenas, but he is still a threat to win every time he straps in a car. Fedorcak uses the indoor races as motivation to keep in shape all year.

“I do four sets of push-ups every day, and in the last set I do 70”. Said Fedorcak. “I imagine I’m stronger now at age 48 then when I was at age 32”.

Having Tony Stewart run and win with his car in 2002 Fedorcak learned to become more aggressive racing indoors.

“He (Stewart) didn’t wait around. Where there was an opening, he went for it”.

Even though the now Winston Cup champion put the Munchkin in victory lane last season, Fedorcak considers this win more special.

“This is more gratifying because of her (his daughter). Last year was gratifying for the guys that work on the car and myself. We came prepared for Tony to have a good time, provide a good ride for him, and we did it. Aside from having a spare car we have spares for everything. We have all these scenarios we talk about before hand. It’s just fun and trying to do it 100% at a professional level is a lot of fun.”

Fedorcak is still very motivated and out to have fun racing during the winter. So much so he turned down five different drivers, one of which would have paid him more to run the car than he made winning the feature. For Fedorcak being out there and having fun means more than any price tag someone can put on his prized ride.

As for Fedorcak’s original Munchkin creation, “The original is in a heap in the corner of my garage. My daughter and I are going to restore it this year”.

Fedorcak has an additional carrot in front of his this year with the Rumble in the Dome event coming up in February.

“That is kind of a thorn in my side because for years I have tried to get invited to that race, but couldn’t do it. Finally I won the night before the 500 and the promoter said ‘Well, I guess I’ll have to invite you now’, and that just really fried me. So anytime I’ve had a chance to go down there with my own car and take money out of that place I’ve done it. Whither it’s me or someone else in the car we like to go down and try to win that deal”.

Looking at the determination in his eyes, it might be easy to misunderstand Fedorcak’s intentions. When asked if he was on some sort of mission with the upcoming racing, he smiles and spoke quite on the contrary.

“I’m not on a mission, I’m just out to have a good time. It something I can look forward to doing pushups for another year, get ready again, and go from there.”

Notes & Quotes…

  • Another feel good story was Saturday’s midget winner Michael Lang. Lang lost his ride in the Winchester Furniture special over a year and half ago and had not turned a single lap in competition since.

    The win came at the expense of Tim Jedrzejek who led from the start and was black flagged with 10 laps to go with an oil leak. If Jedrzejek had not been pulled off, he could very well have wired the entire 75-lap feature.

    “I don’t think they should have taken him off the track. However, if they (the officials) saw he had a major oil leak, then they had to do it”.

    Lang also was battling the racetrack, “The marker tire got moved and messed up my line coming off turn four and really slowed me down”.

    The other key to Lang’s victory was simple survival. “Just being able to avoid all the accidents. I probably only legitimately passed four or five cars, the rest got taken out.”

  • Johnny Heydenreich was “fashionably late” on Friday for the first day of midget action at Rumble in the Expo. Heydenreich was absent during all of hot laps and the heat races. Shortly after the heats were complete “Hot Rod” arrived with Joe Gander’s Wild Goose Racing special.

    When asked about his reason for being late, it was just “life” that includes work and a new baby at home. Heydenreich overcame his late arrival to win his semi feature and finish second in Friday night’s “A” Feature.

  • Steve Ball Sr. ended up putting the family car in the main event on Saturday during the semi feature after Steve Ball, Jr. came down with the flu. The elder Ball soldered to a 13th place finish in the feature.
  • Derek Davidson will take the seat in John Baker Excavating car for 2003. Derek will be hitting a variety of winged and non-winged races and not chasing points. The team will utilize DRC chassis for their true-outlaw type schedule. Davidson will also run Eric Robert’s midget at the Chili bowl.

    Davidson’s second place on Friday night and DNF on Saturday completed the first winless season of his career. Saturday that streak appeared to have a shot of remaining in tact before being driven over on a restart by Courtney Kirts. The incident resulted in the most impressive steering wheel toss witnessed by this writer during the 2002 season as the wheel ejected the cockpit with good height and distance.

  • Auto Value Super Sprints and dirt standout Jason Blonde made his first midget start aboard the Kalamazoo twister #56 car. Blonde experienced mechanical troubles on Friday early on, but seemed to have the car sorted out more as the day went on. Saturday found Blonde on the pole for his heat race and ended up taking a big upside down slide down the front stretch at the start. Blonde also encountered one of the marker tires in the infield during the semi to take him out of action. Even without making the feature nobody could wipe he smile off his face the entire weekend.
  • 600 cc standout Ryan Leek from Warsaw, Indiana was thrilled with his third place finish in the munch box #75 car. Leek had a rough weekend up until that point going through three steering arms, a multitude of radius rods, and even hit a crane driving up from the basement with the wing of his machine. Leek drove to an impressive third place finish.

    Leek is one of the brightest young talents in 600cc micro sprint racing, but has no plans for 2003. Leek’s championship ride has been sold to a gentleman in California and plans for a new house are in Ryan’s future. Leek hopes to come up with a ride in the new Ford Focus midget series.

  • Mel Kenyon proved once again he is the “King of Midgets”, and still has what it takes to get the job done indoors. Kenyon finished seventh on Friday and second on Saturday racing each feature until the bitter end. To put it in perspective Kenyon won indoors at Fort Wayne in 1965.
  • Gas City I-69 Speedway promoter Jiggs Thomason was on hand with some excellent news. The popular Indiana track has secured a second USAC Sprint Car Date on Friday May 30th, 2003. The Ford Focus midgets and street stocks will join the USAC Stoops/Freightliner Sprints. Indiana Sprintweek and the GLOSS sprint cars will also be returning to Gas City in 2003.

    The GLOSS sprints will race Thursday July 3rd at Gas City so the Speedway can remain quite for the city fireworks on Friday July 4th. The Speedway management has also come to an agreement to allow for four dates to run over the track’s curfew. The dates can be used at any time during the season.

  • Canadian Sean Stafford had a strong run going on Saturday until striking one of the marker tires. Stafford is still looking for sponsorship for ARCA deal after making a handful of starts in ARCA last season.
  • Both nights of racing were done at very reasonable hours during the entire weekend. Fans and competitors alike enjoyed the early ending hour.

    Much of the reason for the smooth running show was from Eldora Speedway’s Larry Boos running the kart portion of the program. Boos kept the kart races moving at a frantic pace that onlookers thoroughly enjoyed.

  • Sprint Car stars Kyle Sauder, John Ivy, and Jonathan Stevens competed in karts at the Rumble.
  • Dynamite Chassis builder Danny Williams, Jr. made his first start indoors aboard one of his own pavement midget creations with a Potter V6. Williams ran the very unique car at Grundy County with UMARA earlier this season.
  • Brandon Petty had a very short weekend after his Bill Benefiel entry seized up in hot laps. Petty was disappointed but looking forward to his first Chili Bowl start in a couple of weeks.
  • Sprint car standout Kevin Briscoe was on hand Friday to help his son Chase in the quarter midget event. When asked what it was like to watch his son race, Briscoe called in simply “nerve racking”.
  • Jedrzejek strong run on Saturday came after setting what might be the altitude record for a midget indoors in prelims on Friday when he launched over a wheel and ended up getting some serious airtime.
  • Jessica Ianuzzi had another rough weekend at Rumble in the Expo. Ianuzzi’s car was having more mechanical troubles, similar to when her car had problems running in 2001. While pushing off during Friday’s second session of hot laps Ianuzzi’s car took off and stalled only to be drilled by a push truck. Ianuzzi’s team thrashed to get the car ready tearing apart the rear end of the car, and was able to get her car running strong for Saturday. Ianuzzi was unable to make the main event.
  • Courtney Kirts was unable to run the preliminary events Saturday at the Expo due to attending her brother’s wedding. Bryce Kenyon ended up putting the car in the feature event, and Kirts took over the controls for the feature.
  • Jason Hyde had a scary moment when his car caught fire during Winged Outlaw Midget preliminary events on Friday. The PTS safety crew quickly extinguished the fire, and Hyde’s crew got the car back into competition later that evening. Jason is the grandson of legendary NASCAR crew chief Harry Hyde.
  • Other drivers seen walking the pit area include AVSS and midget star Jimmy McCune, former SOD champion Steve Irwin, and 600 and sprint standout Matt Hardin.
  • Brian Beaman made his midget debut indoors during the Rumble weekend moving up from the 600’s and was impressive all weekend. Saturday Brian was able to make the feature event.
  • Davey Ray showed great sportsmanship on Saturday. After retiring from the event he was one of the first people on the scene after his teammate Derek Davidson hit the fence to check the car to see if it was still raceable.
  • For those that were worried about not seeing a USAC Weld Racing Silver Crown series event on the schedule for Eldora, fear not. Eldora sources tell us the Silver Crown schedule was just released early and look for their date to be added in the near future. Also look for the USAC Opening weekend to be possibly pushed back to the first weekend in April rather than the last weekend in March due to the All Stars no longer using that date. If Eldora does run without USAC in March look for a Late Model,360 sprint car, and other support classes show in that slot.
  • Look for several different drivers in cars that competed at Fort Wayne to compete at the Rumble in the RCA Dome in February.