This and That: Notes From the 2014 Rumble in Fort Wayne

Jacob Seelman Featured, Indoor Racing, Micro Sprints, Midwest, Other Midgets, Sprints & Midgets 0 Comments

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Story by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — Chris Seelman photo —

Now that I’ve gotten home from Indiana and gotten one good night’s sleep, I’m finally processing what all actually happened at this year’s Rumble in Fort Wayne.

It was a mammoth event as always, and with the Night Before The 500 becoming a USAC Silver Crown event in 2015 after being a National Midget event for many years, the race has truly become the premier indoor and pavement/concrete midget race in the country.

There were far more stories from the event than I could cover on my own during the course of the three days, but here’s a look at some of the highlights from the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.

Brother Act: Up until this weekend, a pair of brothers had only qualified for one Rumble in Fort Wayne A-feature.

Then, Kyle and Nick Hamilton showed up. The pair made both the Friday and Saturday night feature events, with Kyle also qualifying for the Sunday main and finishing fourth, his best run since a second place finish to Tony Stewart in 2011. While Nick did not make it to the grand finale, the younger of the two brothers finally qualified for the 50-lap feature after four years of trying.

The duo will continue to compete in the National Midgets in 2015, with Kyle also making a run at the Little 500 in May. Keep an eye on both of them, because I think they’re finally blossoming into the drivers we expected them to become.

New Winners: Okay, so I admit I screwed up on this one. I honestly didn’t expect a new face to make it to Rumble Series victory lane over the weekend.

But of course, the only thing predictable about the Rumble is its unpredictability. New Englander Anthony Nocella and North Carolina native Brandon Knupp both made stellar runs to the top of the podium and took the winners’ hardware, with Nocella becoming the first-ever true rookie to win at Fort Wayne.

Ben Quinones also grabbed his first win at the Rumble in the winged 600cc midget class, after many years of he and his family trying to seal the deal in Fort Wayne.

All in all, it was a history-making weekend, and one of the reasons why this event is always so much fun to watch.

The Mike and Mike Show: The Widow Wax No. 19 Munchkin was the most fun car to watch all weekend long.

Both of its storied car designers, Mike Fedorcak and Mike Streicher, took turns behind the wheel after normal driver Russ Belt was injured in a Friday night consolation race crash. Streicher posted an 8-flat second time in Saturday hot laps before Fedorcak took over after qualifying and wheeled the car for the Saturday and Sunday feature programs.

Fedorcak made the Sunday A-main and started fourth before looping the car twice, but afterwards got out with a huge grin on his face and said that he had more fun over the weekend than he had in a long time. Streicher echoed Fedorcak’s comments, despite his turn in the car being the first seat time he had in race conditions in 13 years.

I know the youth movement is still prevalent in all forms of motorsports, but it was nice to see a couple of veterans having some fun and still being able to get the job done. I hope the Mike and Mike Show, as Belt referred to it on Saturday, returns in 2015 in some capacity.

A Winless Champion: Everyone thought to win the Rumble Series title it was going to take at least one race victory.

Bryan Nuckles proved all the naysayers wrong. Nuckles cobbled together finishes of second, seventh and third to claim the crown on a tiebreaker over Saturday race winner Justin Peck, despite having to run the Saturday and Sunday features in a backup outdoor car after his primary machine blew up in Saturday hot laps.

The emotion was prevalent in Victory Lane and until he was summoned over the PA, Nuckles had no idea he had even won the championship. His family-owned team will take the $1,000 back home, and probably start replacing parts to get ready for next year’s Rumble.

A Future Star: Justin Peck’s star has shined very brightly at the Rumble in Fort Wayne the last two years, with two wins in his last four A-mains and a streak of seven straight feature starts.

He’s got five top-four and six top-seven finishes in those seven races as well, with only a DNF in last year’s opening race as the blemish on an otherwise spotless record. That’s starting to look as consistent as some guy nicknamed Smoke, and he traded sliders with Bryan Clauson just as aggressively as the three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion as well during the POWRi Battle at the Center earlier in the month as well.

Peck challenged Stewart to return to the Rumble, and I hope he does, because if not? I think the 16-year-old superstar might be on his way to rewriting some of the crafty veteran’s biggest records at the Fort Wayne Coliseum.

More Than Just The Midgets: 2014 brought more stories than just the National Midgets to the table.

The non-winged class was extremely competitive in its second year on the card, and the quarter midgets saw young Aaron Leffel grab his 12th career Rumble victory and cement his legacy as one of the greatest drivers ever to compete in the class. Korbyn Hayslett dominated the Junior go-karts en route to a perfect record of four wins in four features and the whole kart field was as parity-filled as I’ve ever seen it, with Hayslett being one of the only drivers able to string together consistent victories across multiple classes.

I know people only usually talk about the big show at this event, but there’s always much more going on at the Rumble besides when the big names and big cars are on the concrete, and this year was evidence of that. Here’s hoping the great action continues at the 2015 Rumble in every class.

Three Days and Car Counts: This year’s Rumble was the biggest on record as far as car counts and track time – with three days of racing for the first time in history. Fans definitely got their money’s worth this year, especially with the non-winged 600s and the National Midgets competing all three days.

Car counts in almost every division were up, including 40 National Midgets on hand for two of the three days of racing. With 38 in attendance during last year’s event, the field was larger in 2014 despite some of the big names like Stewart, Darland and Stanbrough not being in attendance.Imagine what the field could be like in 2015 with the big guns back?

I’m not sure the Rumble will again be a three-day affair in 2015 just yet, with Sunday’s crowd being slightly sparse, but the racing was fantastic all three days and the title fight was titanic. I know event promoter Tony Barhorst could not have hoped for more to come out of the decision to implement the points system for 2014, and it paid off in a big way.

With the Rumble over, the focus now turns to 2015. It’s been a phenomenal season from my stand point, and I can only hope the excitement and momentum we’ve built in the racing world over the last 12 months rolls over into the new year because if so? It’s going to be a whole lot of fun.

Keep it off the wall, have a safe and blessed New Year, and we’ll see you at the race track in 2015!

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