Barhorst and Calabrase Brought Indoor Racing Back to Fort Wayne 25 Years Ago

From Larry Boos

FORT WAYNE, IN (December 27, 2023) – “Returning indoor racing to prominence at the Memorial Coliseum” was the goal that Ohio native Tony Barhorst announced when he and Jack Calabrase joined forces to present their first Rumble in Fort Wayne in 1998. This weekend, Dec. 29 and 30, will mark the silver anniversary of that venture that has indeed kept Fort Wayne, and the Memorial Coliseum in the forefront of the off-season indoor racing.

Continued Barhorst, “Jack and I were aware of the history of indoor racing on the hockey rink floor of the Coliseum, which came to an end in 1989 as construction began on the adjoining Expo Center. He owned the popular NAMARS Midget group, and I came from a promotionally oriented family, so the two of us got together after seeing the completion of the Expo Center and agreed that it was time to get the wheels back turning during the winter in Fort Wayne.”

It took several weeks of banter between the two before it was finally determined that the duo would tackle the venture which has turned into a welcome and anticipated mid-winter event for starved race fans.

It was a challenge, for sure. “The biggest obstacle for me was literally constructing a race track on an empty concrete floor inside of a massive building. Concrete barriers and fencing with posts and cable had to be obtained and trucked in,” recalled Barhorst.

It was Russ Gamester winning the final event on the hockey floor in 1989 and Tony Ellliott capturing the first race inside the Expo Centers in 1998. The daring venture has survived.

“Special moments that stand out are when Tony Stewart came in to observe and ended up competing when John Heydenreich let him borrow his Wild Goose midget,” remembers Barhorst. “We started Tony as a promoter’s option at the rear of the field. The feature was 100 laps back then, and Tony sliced his way through traffic to take the lead. The exhibition brought a tear to the eye of many a veteran driver watching. However, he hit an infield tire and flipped the car on lap 64. Tony Elliott went on to win his 2nd in a row of the first two races in 1998 and 1999.”

Tony Barhorst sold his dream to Larry Boos in 2015, who continues the Ft. Wayne tradition into this year’s 25th round, with two full days and nights of action presented by Jason Dietsch Trailer Sales on the purpose-built 1/6-mile concrete oval inside of the Expo Center.

Both Tony and Larry agreed, “these are special moments: watching the Quarter Midget, Kart, 600cc Midget and even young Midget drivers competing indoors, in Fort Wayne as they forge their way to NASCAR, USAC, World of Outlaw and other notable series.”

Tickets for the race may be purchased on race days at the Coliseum. Complete event information may be found on the Rumble’s website and for those unable to attend in person, the event will be live-streamed on Pit Row TV.