FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Though Travis Welpott wasn’t quite the happiest driver inside the Allen County Memorial Expo Center following Saturday’s finale to the 20th annual Rumble in Fort Wayne, it was easy to see that he was pretty close to it.
The Pendleton, Indiana veteran had a career night at the Rumble, not only qualifying for his second career A-Main, but starting from the pole and leading 21 of the first 22 laps before being passed for the eventual win by Nick Hamilton.
While it wasn’t the victory Welpott was hoping for, he did manage to hang on to a top-five finishing position, crossing under the checkered flag in fifth for a career-best mark at the one-seventh mile oval.
Welpott’s finish also capped off a resurgent weekend for the famed Munchkin midgets at the Rumble, after Tony Stewart and Mike Fedorcak swept the fast-qualifying honors for the weekend.
“It’s been a long weekend, but the Ernie Gorman Racing family gives us a great car to go play with,” said Welpott. We had a rough night on Friday … I think I may have broken my thumb in the heat race, actually … but Saturday was a new day and we got everything figured out.”
“It took us a couple laps to get the car to come in, but once I passed Nick I thought ‘We’re gonna win this.’ After halfway, though, I had to start pumping my brakes and realized they were just about gone. I was hanging on at the end, but all in all, this was a great moment for us.”
Welpott’s Munchkin is the same car that was driven from 2008 to 2012 by Timex Morgan, and then in 2013 and 2014 by Russ Belt before the Gorman family purchased it in June of 2015.
– After years of bad luck at the Rumble in Fort Wayne, Austin Nemire and his Tom O’Connell-owned No. 19 team began to turn the corner over the weekend, as Nemire made both main events for the first time in his career.
Nemire raced in through his heat race on Friday and scored a 10th-place finish, while having to transfer in through his B-Main on Saturday after contact with an infield tire in turn three during his heat.
The Ohio teenager’s rally continued in the main event, as he charged from last (16th) to seventh and was running right behind Tony Stewart when he suffered a flat tire and eventually retired following a lap 29 restart.
Despite the disappointing ending, Nemire took plenty of positives away from his best showing at the Rumble to-date.
“This was a step in the right direction, for sure,” Nemire said. “The last couple of years, we’ve had a lot of stupid stuff happen and we haven’t been able to make the show, but this weekend was different and we finally had some breaks go our way. It’s a shame that we had the flat tire, because I felt we had the car to beat tonight, but at least we had a shot. Sometimes that’s all you can ask for.”
– John Ivy has written plenty of Rumble in Fort Wayne history over the years, but Saturday night during the finale, he accomplished another pair of firsts inside the Allen County Memorial Expo Center.
Ivy led every lap of both the non-winged and winged 600cc mini sprint main events, becoming the first driver in history to win both 600 features in the same night since the non-winged class debuted at the Rumble in 2013.
In sweeping the non-winged victories Friday and Saturday night, Ivy also became the first driver in non-winged class history to sweep the weekend.
– Two-time Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals champion Rico Abreu was more than a slightly interested spectator Saturday during the Rumble in Fort Wayne finale.
Abreu could be found in Stewart’s pit area most of the night, and at one point was overlooking the ‘Our Gang Poker’ No. 2 Munchkin with visible excitement.
Asked if that meant he would be interested in trying to find a ride for the 21st running of the indoor classic next winter, Abreu grinned and looked up from his perch aside the cockpit.
“I definitely want in after seeing these guys race,” he smiled. “That’d be really cool.”
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 23-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 the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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