FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Race Preview by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — Chris Seelman photo –
After 358 days, 51 weeks and countless hours and laps, the 2015 racing season comes down to one final, two-day spectacular to close the book on an incredible year — the 18th annual Rumble in Fort Wayne indoor racing championships at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum and Expo Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
This year, the annual classic on the concrete will again feature the National Midgets as the headline class, along with the 600cc winged outlaw modified midgets, non-winged dirt modified midgets and a full slate of go-kart and quarter midget racing over a two-day schedule, Dec. 26-27.
With more than 200 confirmed entries across all the classes, fans will see numerous battles on the tight, flat sixth-mile concrete bullring, and it may be tough to pick out the favorites across the board. Not to mention, some fans may not be familiar with the intricacies that come with the race track seen once a year in the Hoosier state.
We’ve got you covered — with a look at the track, the favorites, and the biggest variables to watch over the course of the post-Christmas weekend!
What do Coke syrup and concrete have in common?
They go into making the Rumble in Fort Wayne track possible.
The tight, racy one-sixth mile bullring begins as a flat concrete slab covered with the sticky substance, and takes its ‘look’ as a track as rubber is laid down over the course of practice and race laps. By the time the event is complete, the nearly-pitch black oval looks as if it has been there the entire year, only to be scrubbed down in the days following the Rumble so that the Expo Center can be used for other events throughout the year.
The entry to the track splits the turn three and four bleachers, while pit-in is off the entrance to turn three. For the fans who might like to see a yellow or two, look no further than “Calamity Corner”, or turn one, and you’ll see the “give-and-take” theory turn simply to take as drivers try to dive bomb the far inside lane in an effort to pass on the tight course.
In short? It’s Martinsville, with exactly zero degrees of banking and about a third of the surface area. And it’s indoors. Sounds fun, right?
Drivers to Watch
Go-Karts and Quarter Midgets
A lot of people may not pay the “undercard” classes much attention, but they often produce some of the most exciting and wheel-to-wheel racing at the entire event.
This year, both the karts and quarter midgets will compete during the early hours of the Saturday and Sunday program, and as far as the kart field goes, there’s only one name to keep in mind — Brandon Dunn. The Frankfort, Kentucky native has competed in as many as five of the assorted kart classes at the Rumble in years past, but will compete in three for the second year in a row (Senior Caged, Clone Heavy and Clone Medium).
He’s a perennial winner in the karts at the Coliseum, and won three of his five races on finale night in 2013. Don’t be surprised to see Dunn sweep all three of his races at least one of the two nights that the go-karts race, and if he can net a perfect score over both days? Well, then he’d match a feat that only he has accomplished in the past in a go-kart at Fort Wayne — a perfect batting average across three or more classes.
And I won’t pretend to be shocked if he does it.
For the quarter midgets, the name to watch in years past was 12-time winner Aaron Leffel, but with the talented teenager graduating out of the quarter midget class this year, the focus moves elsewhere — and truly blows the field wide open.
Multiple division competitors tend to shine at the Rumble, so look out for drivers including Bobby Elliott, Noah Dininger and Aiden Ewing.
Non-Winged 600cc Dirt Modified Midgets
This is a hard class to try and pick a winner for, simply because it’s one of the newer classes at the Rumble and there’s not a ton of data to go by.
The class has run for two years now at the Expo Center in Fort Wayne, with Tom Fraschetta and Blane Culp picking up the victories in 2013 and Jason Ormsby, Erick Rudolph and Larry Joe Sroufe each grabbing wins last winter.
This year, the class returns for their third year and will compete once again on both days of the Rumble program. I anticipate Ormsby to be strong again, as well as Sroufe, but watch out for the double-duty drivers in the field as well. National Midget stars Russ Gamester and the legendary Mike Fedorcak will be in the non-winged 600cc field and their advantage will be track time. The more you can get at this race track, the better.
My votes are on Ormsby and Gamester for the wins, but not necessarily in that order. We’ll see how it plays out.
Winged 600cc Outlaw Modified Midgets
Over the last three years, there’s been one driver in the winged class who has stood out above the rest.
Ransomville, N.Y. pilot Erick Rudolph won opening night in this division in 2012 and 2013, and he charged from the back after a spin on lap two on finale night in 2013 to finish second behind Matt Janisch. Add to that a win on finale night a year ago, and you’d think you have a recipe for an instant favorite.
Not so, however. Rudolph is not competing at the Rumble for the first time since starting his three-year winning streak, blowing the field wide-open and leaving a myriad of doubt as to who will go home with the trophies.
Ben Quinones scored his first-ever Rumble victory in this class on Saturday a year ago, and perennial Rumble competitor and victor John Ivy is back for another shot at glory in the winged class as well, along with Quinones’ sister Amanda and National Midget regular Chris Jagger.
The veterans will have the run of the stage in this class, I think, and watch out for Ben Quinones in particular. He led laps in both his win last year and the finale feature, and he comes in looking like the favorite to win at least one of the two nights again in 2015.
At long last, it’s the headline class — the National Midgets — based off of similar specs to the USAC National Pavement Midget Series, but not identical.
As of the released pre-entry list a week ago, 35 cars and drivers have signed on to do battle at the Expo Center — with eight former feature winners and a former champion (Bryan Nuckles, 2014) among the entrants. Among the feature winners are three of the last four Rumble victors, including defending winners Justin Peck and Brandon Knupp, as well as veteran Russ Gamester, who won on opening night in 2013.
Anything is always possible in these indoor classics, with the Gamester/Peck battle on the final night two years ago (when Gamester broke with two to go), Jim Anderson’s New Year’s Eve shocker in 2010 and Derek Bischak’s 2012 victory among some of the stunning upsets. That means it’s hard to pick the favorites, but there are always the numbers to go by.
Billy Wease is the second-winningest driver in Fort Wayne history, with four wins at the Coliseum to his name (including a sweep in 2009), and Peck has two wins, five top fives and six top 10s in seven career starts dating back to the 2012 Rumble. Neither of those records holds a candle to Tony Stewart’s all-time record of nine wins in 14 A-Mains at the Rumble, but those two are arguably the most accomplished of the pack when it comes to recent history. One can never count out veteran driver and car builder Mike Fedorcak either — Fedorcak was victorious in the indoor midget classic in 2002.
The added variable of new faces in new places — including rookie Nick Landon in a Chris Jagger-prepared car and young Nick Hamilton in Mel Kenyon’s famed No. 61 — will make the field interesting, but I expect that the former winners will be the ones who shine this year and keep a new winner from being crowned at the Coliseum.
With Stewart not competing at the Rumble for the third consecutive year, the floodgates are thrown wide open for getting to the checkered flag first, but my vote is for Peck to repeat his Saturday success for the third consecutive year and Wease to get his first win at the Rumble since 2011 during the Sunday afternoon matinee.
However, keep an eye on late model ace Tyler Roahrig, piloting a Randy Burrow car for the first time; quarter-midget graduate Austin Nemire, looking to race in the Rumble for the third time after mechanical issues kept him out of both features last winter; and young Austin Prock — son of famed NHRA Drag Racing crew chief Jimmy Prock — who is poised to attempt his first-career Rumble.
The young guns and veterans alike have proven time and time again that anything can, and probably will, happen at this race track; meaning you just don’t know who will pull out the victory until the checkered flag falls on Saturday and Sunday nights.
With all of that prognosticating out of the way, there’s only two things left to do — enjoy the Christmas holiday weekend and prepare for an action-packed two days of racing beginning on Saturday afternoon!
Are you ready to rumble?
The 18th annual Rumble in Fort Wayne indoor midget event takes place at the Allen County Memorial Coliseum Expo Center Dec. 26-27, and will feature some of the country’s best young and veteran talents in National Midget cars, 600cc winged and non-winged midgets, go-karts and quarter-midgets competing on a sixth-mile concrete oval.
For more information on the event, including ticket pricing, event schedules for the two-day affair and more, visit www.rumbleseries.com.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network. Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 21-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for both the United Sprint Car Series and the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
Email Jacob at: [email protected]
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