Russ Gamester of Peru dominated the competition Dec. 27 at the Rumble in Fort Wayne at the Memorial Coliseum Expo Center.
Gamester, 48, became the second driver in history to win the event at both the coliseum, which hosted the event from 1953 to 1989, and the new Memorial Coliseum Expo Center. Tony Stewart Racing driver Mike Fedorcak accomplished that first.
Gamester became the oldest driver to win the Rumble. He has been racing for decades and is probably most frequently seen in a USAC Silver Crown car. In 2013, he finished 16th in Silver Crown points.
Gamester’s car was built by the legendary Grant King and is powered by a Volkswagen engine. King was highly respected for his ability to turn out very fast race cars with limited resources, particularly champ cars. His great talent was being able to look at a car manufactured by another race shop and incorporate its winning features in his own cars.
The Volkswagen engine is considered to be the best engine for competition on the tight one-fifth mile track. The engine’s light weight and low center of gravity make it tough to beat at the Memorial Coliseum Expo Center. In addition, the fact that it is air-cooled saves the weight of a radiator and coolant.
Cooper Clouse set quick time, followed by Derek Bischak, Billy Wease, Gamester, Chris Jagger Jr. and Bobby Santos.
Matt Westfall, Austin Nemire, 2012 winner Billy Wease, Gamester and Grant Galloway won the heat races, while Clouse, Bischak and Geoff Kaiser took the three hooligans.
Stewart, who has won this event a record nine times, was forced to stay on the sidelines this year while his broken leg heals. However, the event was being run in his honor. He spent two hours visiting with his fans and signing autographs. More important was the time that he was able to spend visiting with his team and his racing buddies.
Stewart’s Our Gang Poker Club car was in competition with Lou Cicconi Jr. in
At the drop of the green flag to start the 50-lap feature, pole-sitter Joe Ligouri took
the lead and held it for 15 laps before turning the lead over
to Gamester, who eventually finished first.
Following the race, Gamester said, “I wish Tony was out there. That’s my only disappointment. You want to beat the best. It’s nice for him to come out and support this. He’s a great racer and a true friend. You couldn’t ask for a truer friend.”
Grant Galloway finished second, trailed by Ligouri, Wease, Westfall, Nemire, Clouse, Kaiser, Jim Anderson and Bischak.
Other feature winners were: Erick Rudolph (winged Outlaw modified midgets, Tom Fraschetta (non-winged dirt modified midgets), Preston Oberle (senior heavy karts), Zach Axlen (senior medium karts), A.J. Geren (senior caged karts), Kobe Allison (junior heavy karts), Gene Gregoric III (junior caged karts), Ryan Moran (heavy clone karts), Dustin Lundgren (light clone karts), Zeb Wise (Animal quarter midgets), Bennett Lushin (heavy 160 quarter midgets), Zeb Wise (light 160 quarter midgets), Daylan Karnes (heavy Honda quarter midgets), Jackson Lee (senior Honda quarter midgets), Koulten Herbert (junior Honda quarter midgets) and Nicole Cannon (novice quarter midgets).
In action Dec. 28, 15-year-old high school freshman Justin Peck became the youngest driver ever to win a Rumble feature. From victory lane, Peck said that his postrace celebration would be held at IHOP and that he would toast his victory with milk, perhaps in anticipation of repeating the toast in Victory Lane at Indy someday.
Although it’s hard to imagine, Peck wasn’t even a rookie in the event. Last year he finished second Dec. 27 and third Dec. 28.
Mike Fedorcak drove his Tony Stewart Racing Munckin to a second-place finish, followed by Grant Galloway, Billy Hulbert, Derek Bischak, Cooper Clouse, Cory Setser, Rex Norris III, Gamester and Dave Darland.
Joe and Lynsey Liguori became the first husband and wife to make a 16-car Rumble feature. Unfortunately,
they also became the first husband and wife to crash each other out.
Stewart will, again, be a spectator at the Chili Bowl; however, he plans to be ready to race when NASCAR goes to Daytona next month.
Other feature winners
Dec. 28 were: Matt Janisch (winged Outlaw modified midgets), Tom Fraschetta (non-winged modified midgets), Brandon Dunn (senior heavy karts), Brandon Dunn (senior medium karts), Brandon Dunn (senior caged karts), Sheldon Oberle (junior heavy karts), Tayte Williamson (junior caged karts), Dustin Heath (heavy clone karts), Dustin Heath (light clone karts), Zeb Wise (Animal quarter midgets), Evan Foster (heavy 160 quarter midgets), Addison Lushin (light 160 quarter midgets), Aaron Leffel (heavy Honda quarter midgets), Chase Burda (senior Honda quarter midgets), Bryce Massingill (junior Honda quarter midgets) and Nicole Cannon (novice quarter midgets).
Tim McKinney writes a weekly racing column for The Republic. He can be reached at 379-5632.