FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Story and photo by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman —
Two years ago, Tyler Roahrig brought his firesuit and helmet to the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum and Expo Center hoping for any possible way into a National Midget seat at the Rumble in Fort Wayne.
He ultimately got that chance after Mike Fedorcak stepped out of his famed blue-and-black No. 97 Munchkin to give the then-22 year old hotshoe a shot at making the field. And while motor problems derailed the Hoosier native’s efforts before they ever truly got off the ground, he was already making plans for a return trip.
Now, after fighting through a vicious super late model crash at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway in April of 2014 and rising all the way back to prominence in the full-fendered world, Roahrig’s dreams of trying once again to make the star-studded Rumble field will become a reality on Saturday afternoon.
The 24-year-old has teamed up with respected National Midget team owner Randy Burrow in the No. 98 Burco Molding/Advanced Shocks machine normally driven by two-time Must See Racing Sprint Car Series champion Brian Gerster, hoping to make a splash in his first “official” Rumble start.
“When I came here in 2013, I brought my helmet and my suit and was basically scouting, hoping someone might have a seat,” Roahrig recalled on Christmas Day, also serving as practice day for this year’s 18th annual edition of the Rumble in Fort Wayne. “It worked out for me to hop in Mike [Fedorcak]’s Munchkin and that was such a treat, but we had motor problems that whole day and never could get it going to where I could make anything happen.”
“I never really considered that my debut here because it was last-minute and it wasn’t really a highlight, when you look at how it went down. To be able to come back here now, have my name on the entry list and make my official debut here with Randy [Burrow] and have teammates like [four-time winner] Billy [Wease], [former NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion] Bobby [Santos III] and [2015 USAC Super License National Champion] Dave Darland — this is huge for me and I couldn’t be more excited to go racing this weekend.”
Roahrig credits Gerster, the usual driver of the No. 98 at the Rumble and a mainstay at the indoor classic, as the reason he ended up with a shot to drive the car for the Burrow family.
“Brian has been one of my biggest mentors ever since I started my racing career,” the second-generation driver explained. “He got me hooked up with Randy because he had other commitments this year that were going to keep him from being in the car. Once that line of communication started the rest was able to come together pretty fast.”
“I owe my ride this year to him, and I hope I can make him proud and give this car a great run. He’s taught me so much and I’m hoping to apply some of those lessons this weekend.”
Roahrig circled some of the changes to this year’s format, specifically a reduction in the lap count from 50 to 40 in the National Midgets, as keys to watch for over the course of the weekend.
“It’s certainly going to be different, that’s for sure. With the races being shorter — that’s going to help the fans, but it gives you less time to get to the front. I think track position is going to be key, but there’s a lot that can happen here. I learned that when I was here two years ago, so we’re just going to take it one session, one lap at a time.”
And as for where the young Hoosier is setting the bar for himself going into the weekend?
“My goal is just to make the race each day,” Roahrig admitted. “If we can do that, then we’ve got a shot. Like I said, anything can happen when you get out on that track, so we’ll focus on getting in first and then staying out of trouble.”
“If we can do that, you never know — we might just have a shot to win the thing if the cards fall right for us,” he smiled. “Anything’s possible.”
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.
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