By Bob Koorsen
Since 1937, the state of Indiana has proclaimed itself as the “Crossroads of America.” For the past 21 years, auto racing competitors and fans know, that on one special weekend, nestled between Christmas and New Year’s, ALL roads lead to Allen County War Memorial Coliseum Expo Hall for the 22nd annual “Rumble in Fort Wayne” presented by Jason Dietsch Trailer Sales.
When the racing takes place with two complete shows on Friday, December 27 and Saturday, December 28, it’ll mark the 59th year of racing at the corner of Coliseum and Parnell, in a building that has been recognized as the most historic indoor auto racing venue in the world. That history has turned a simple race on a 1/6th-mile track, into an event that will draw more than 250 racers, ranging in age from 4 to 71, from at least 14 states and Canada.
As they have done since racing began in the Arena in 1953, the open-wheeled Midgets will headline the Rumble card, with a complete program of qualifying, heats, last chance races and Feature each night. Leading the field of at least a record-tying 10 former winners will be nine-time Rumble winner, NASCAR and IRL Champion, and now NASCAR Hall of Fame member TONY STEWART. Now seven years removed from his last win, “Smoke” looks to rebound from a disappointing 2018 Rumble which saw him set quick time on the opening night, only to suffer a breakdown in the Feature that would sideline him for the rest of the weekend. Challengers to the all-time leading winner will include 5-time winner Billy Wease; 4-time winner Russ Gamester; 3-time winner Justin Peck; 2-time winner Rich Corson; and 1-time winners Mike Fedorcak, Derek Bishack, Kyle Hamilton, Jim Anderson, and Nick Hamilton.
Leading the charge of those seeking their first Rumble win will be California rookie RICO ABREU. The former USAC Champion, NASCAR Truck Series competitor, World of Outlaw winner has become one of the most popular drivers in America. After coming to the Rumble as a spectator in 2017, Abreu joined the Tony Stewart Racing team in 2018, only to have the car suffer a terminal parts failure after only a handful of practice laps, sidelining him before he could officially compete. Others seeking their breakthrough win will be 3-time runner-up Bryan Nuckles; 3-time podium finishers Joe Liguori and Matt Westfall; former runners-up Cory Setser, Aaron Pierce, and Cap Henry; winged sprint winner Troy DeCaire; and sprint and stock car standout Tyler Roahrig.
Joining the Midgets on the racing card will be the Non-Wing Dirt 600 Mini Sprints and Outlaw Modified Winged Midgets. Two divisions of motorcycle-engine powered cars which have become the personal playground of Ohio’s John Ivy, who’s’ 2017 & 2018 weekend sweeps of both divisions give him an incredible 20 Rumble wins. Among Ivy’s main expected challengers will be former winners Larry Joe Sroufe, Jason Ormbsy, Blane Culp, Josh Ross, Cap Henry, and Clay Sanders. The seven classes of go-karts will be headlined by 14-timw Rumble winners Brandon Dunn of Kentucky and South Dakota’s Zach Axlen, both looking to reclaim sole possession of the all-time win mark. Featuring some of the youngest competitors and possibly the largest geographical footprint, six classes of Quarter Midgets will round out the racing card.
Each day will see a full program of qualifying, heats, last chance races and Features for all classes. 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 4:00; 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.