AUDIO/RECAP: Upset City; Brandon Knupp Claims Emotional First Rumble Win; Nuckles Wins Title on Tiebreaker

Jacob Seelman Audio, Dirt Track Racing, Featured, Indoor Racing, Micro Sprints, Midwest, Other Midgets, Sprints & Midgets 2 Comments

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Audio and recap by Managing Editor Jacob Seelman for Speed77 Radio and Race Chaser Online — Chris Seelman photo —

The final day of the Rumble in Fort Wayne had everything a race fan could want: drama, spectacular crashes, a first time winner and a come-from-behind, upset champion.

Mooresville, North Carolina’s Brandon Knupp started from the pole of Sunday’s matinee National Midget feature and proceeded to cruise away effortlessly from the field, leading all fifty laps to claim his first career Rumble victory in 18 starts.

The breakthrough victory comes after 17 years of trying and a best finish of second in 2003.

“I can’t tell you what it means to me and to all these guys that have been a part of this,” an emotional Knupp said in victory lane. “Last year we finally got it tuned in to where it would run consistently up front and the stars aligned and we finally got it done.”

“The car was great the first half of the race but it started getting tighter and tighter and tighter with about 15 laps to go. I started getting pretty nervous cause I started getting a few shots (to the rear bumper), so I picked the pace up and I guess we started pulling away from them. It was plenty fast enough to run up front tonight and it’s just a huge relief for us to finally have this trophy — I’ve got a special place on my mantle cleared for this one.”

While Knupp took the winner’s hardware, it was the battle behind him for the Rumble Series championship that had race fans inside Allen County War Memorial Coliseum on their feet.

Justin Peck and Anthony Nocella came into the final feature event tied in points as two of nine drivers who qualified for all three features on the weekend, however both needed to transfer in via the consolation features to have a shot at the $1,000 champion’s bonus — thereby starting at the tail of the field. Two cautions before the halfway point for a spin in turn four and Jim Anderson’s flip into the catchfence (he was okay) shuffled the deck, but left the co-leaders mired in traffic while Bryan Nuckles quietly creeped his way into the top five.

Peck finally got around Nocella right at the halfway point, and charged to eighth with ten laps to go, while Nuckles was running fourth. At that stage, the two were tied on points — meaning Peck needed one more spot to clinch the title.

The Monrovia, Ind. driver got the spot he needed inside of five laps to go, passing Rex Norris III for seventh, but coming to the white flag, third-place Kyle Hamilton’s brakes — which had been fading over the second half of the race — finally gave up enough to allow Nuckles to seize that all-important third spot, officially deadlocking Nuckles and Peck on points at the checkered flag with twelve apiece.

With the lowest score winning the title and the tiebreaker being the better feature finish on the final day, Nuckles came from third in the title race at the start of the feature to win the inaugural Rumble in Fort Wayne championship and the $1,000 that came along with it — despite Peck’s win in the Saturday night feature event.

“When I came off the track they told me we had tied, and then one of my crew guys came running up to me and said we had won it,” Nuckles said just moments after learning on pit road that he had won the title. “I can’t believe it; I’m just tickled to be here.”

“I started 11th, and it’s tough coming up through there,” Nuckles added of his spectacular run through the field. “Just kept my nose clean, worked real hard, caught some breaks with some guys dropping out and was able to win it. We’re just thrilled with all of this.”

Peck, now one of the perennial favorites with six top seven finishes in seven career Fort Wayne starts, was gutted at the end result after coming within about a half-mile of banking the champion’s trophy.

“The difference tonight was that we got stuck behind someone who kept putting us in the tires,” a frustrated Peck said pitside after the race. “My guys gave me a great car. We really had a good piece tonight; in my opinion we had a top three car and maybe could have given Knupp a run for his money, but it just took us too long to get moving forward.”

“It’s tough to swallow, but they knew we were here this year. I plan on that being the case for a lot more years to come.”

Ross Rankine finished second in the feature ahead of Nuckles and Hamilton, with Chris Neuenschwander making up the top five finishers.

Derek Bischak and Peck won their consolation features to make it to the main event. Norris III, Nuckles, Anderson and Hamilton each scored one of the four heat race victories on the afternoon.

Larry Joe Sroufe led the non-winged 600cc dirt midget feature wire-to-wire, despite spinning in turn three during the first caution and nosing a tire. Sroufe was given the point back because the yellow lights were already on when he had his troubles – and he never gave it up again from there.

The win was Sroufe’s first in the Coliseum since the 2010 Rumble in Fort Wayne.

“It may have looked like a Sunday afternoon drive, but it didn’t feel like it,” Sroufe said. “I thought they were right on me, but everybody said I was pulling away so — it was a fun deal.”

Mike Fedorcak rolled a strong car to the front but had nothing for Sroufe, settling for second. Erick Rudolph finished third, with Russ Gamester and Clay Sanders rounding out the non-winged top five.

And in the winged 600cc midget feature, Erick Rudolph took a dominant car to the front and proceeded to run away, looking at times like he might lap the entire field en route to his fifth overall victory at the Rumble. A.J. Liesecki came home as the runner-up.

The win was Rudolph’s second of the weekend after winning the non-winged 600 event on Saturday night.

“I knew we had a better chance after we missed that pileup at the beginning that took out the top five,” Rudolph said. “I think we had one of the best cars here, if not the best, and that’s something we’re really proud of. Just fortunate for us that the cars fell away — we barely made it through unscathed, but we were able to survive and pick up the win.”

Aaron Leffel (Animal, Heavy Honda), Zeb Wise (Heavy 160), Bobby Elliott (Light 160), Chase Burda (Sr. Honda) and Seth Pugh (Jr. Honda) all won quarter midget features to round out the Sunday program.

With the conclusion of the 2014 Rumble in Fort Wayne, focus now turns to the new year, the beginning of the 2015 season and of course, the 2015 Rumble in Fort Wayne. Plans are already being made for the 18th renewal of the indoor classic, with specific dates to be announced.

 

RESULTS: Rumble in Fort Wayne; Allen County War Memorial Coliseum; Dec. 28, 2014 (updating in progress)

National Midget Feature (50 laps) – 1. Brandon Knupp, 2. Ross Rankine, 3. Bryan Nuckles, 4. Kyle Hamilton, 5. Chris Neuenschwander, 6. Derek Bischak, 7. Justin Peck, 8. Rex Norris III, 9. Anthony Nocella, 10. Cooper Clouse, 11. Mike Fedorcak, 12. Cory Setser, 13. David Gough, 14. Billy Wease, 15. Jim Anderson, 16. Russ Gamester.

Lap leaders: Knupp 1-50.

Audio with race winner Brandon Knupp:

Final overall standings: 1. Bryan Nuckles, 12 points (won tie-breaker for championship); 2. Justin Peck, 12; 3. Anthony Nocella, 14; 4. Derek Bischak, 23; 5. Brandon Knupp, 25; 6. Kyle Hamilton, 27; 7. David Gough, 29; 8. Jim Anderson, 30; 9. Billy Wease, 32

Audio with champion Bryan Nuckles:

Audio with championship runner-up Justin Peck:

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