From Bob Koorson
FORT WAYNE, In. (December 21, 2018) — Nestled between the holidays, is a tradition that is nearly sacred to the auto racing community. For the 58th year, more than 250 racers from all over the country, from New York to California, will converge on America’s most historic indoor racing venue, the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, as the Expo Hall plays host to the 21st annual “Rumble in Fort Wayne” Friday, December 28 and Saturday, December 29.
A staple since racing began in the Arena in 1953; the open-wheeled Midgets will headline the Rumble card, racing a full program each night, with a star-studded field of veterans and impressive newcomers. This year’s field ties the record set in 2017 as ten former winners will look to pad their Rumble resume.
Topping the list is the all-time Rumble Series winner TONY STEWART. The 3-time NASCAR and Indy Racing League Champion has collected 9 wins in his 18 Rumble starts but is hungry to add to that total as he’s been shut out of Victory Lane since 2011. Among the challengers will Billy Wease, who counts 5 Rumble wins among his record 25 career Rumble starts. The senior set will be well represented by former winners Russ Gamester and Mike Fedorcak. Along with being the only drivers to win in both the Arena and the Expo Hall, they have the distinction of being the two oldest winners, a mark Gamester re-set at 52 years, 11 months, 20 days, when he, for the third-straight year, scored the opening night Feature win, giving him four Rumble wins for his career. Looking for a reversal of fortunes, will be the man known as “the People’s Champ”, Dave Darland. His vocal fan base will be out in force for the two-time winner and six-time runner-up, as he looks to reverse a recent trend of bad luck and return to the Feature line-up for the first time since 2013. Likewise, looking to reverse recent bad luck will be Justin Peck. When he scored the first of his two wins in 2013, he set the record as the youngest winner at just 15 years and 11 days old. Peck’s streak of 11-straight feature starts was snapped in 2017 when illness forced him to miss the show. The name Hamilton has found Victory Lane in each of the past two years, with Kyle Hamilton winning in 2016 and Nick Hamilton winning last year. This year, the brothers return as part of a two-car effort for the legendary Mel Kenyon. After a blown engine early on day one left him a spectator for the remainder of the weekend, 2012 winner and Angola, IN native Derek Bischak looks for redemption in 2018. When Jim Anderson scored the win on New Year’s Eve 2010, it was one of the most surprising wins in Rumble history. Not that anyone doubted the skill of the veteran Illinois driver, but because of his previous utter lack of Rumble success, having managed only once before to even qualify for the field, and that coming ten years before his win. Always a contender since then, he has added four more top-five finishes to his career tallies. In all, 15 different drivers have scored wins in the 38 Rumble Midget Features.
Among those looking to collect the first Rumble win, will be rookie Rico Abreu. The World of Outlaws veteran came as a spectating guest of Tony Stewart last year, and now returns as a third member of Stewart’s team, driving one of the venerable “Munchkin” Midgets. Other contenders include Fort Wayne’s Geoff Kaiser and Cory Setser, multi-time USAC Champion Kody Swanson, two-time former fast qualifier Cooper Clouse, 3-time runner-up Bryan Nuckles, two-time Winged 600 Rumble winner Cap Henry, former Rumble Quarter Midget winner Austin Nemire, POWERi Midget Champion Billy Hulbert, 18-time starter Joe Liguori, versatile veteran Matt Westfall, Sarah Fisher Racing driver Kyle O’Gara, 60-year-old Midget rookie Junior Gould, and 19-year-old twin-sister from northern California Toni & Annie Breidinger.
Each day will see a full program of qualifying, heats, last chance races and Features for the Midgets, Non-Wing Dirt 600 Mini Sprints, Outlaw Modified Winged Midgets, Go-Karts, and Quarter Midgets. Spectator gates will open each day at 11:00 am for two rounds of Go Kart and Quarter Midget qualifying heats; Midget, Winged, and Non-Winged 600 qualifying will be at 4:45; Go-Kart and Quarter Midget Features are at 6:00; Opening Ceremonies will be at 7:00 followed by the full program of Midget, Winged and Non-Winged 600 heats and Features. Adult tickets are $20 per day ($24 reserved) with kids 2-12 $10 ($14 reserved). Tickets are available through Ticketmaster or the Coliseum Box Office.