FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Night one of the 19th annual Rumble in Fort Wayne proved two things in the headlining National Midget class: Nick Hamilton came to win at the Coliseum, and he earned the respect of his competitors despite just missing out on that goal.
Hamilton, 19, pressured Gamester the entire 50-lap distance on Friday night but never laid a bumper to the veteran in his attempts to make the pass for the win, drawing high praise from Gamester and others after the race.
In fact, Gamester said that he and Hamilton discussed the battle after the race and that he appreciated the respect he was paid.
“We talked about things … he came over here to my pit and we just discussed how things went,” Gamester said. “I told him … that I knew the only way he would get through is if he went way down to the bottom and basically drilled me … but he said he didn’t want to race like that, and I thanked him for that. I try not to race like that either, so it’s really nice when someone pays that same respect back.”
“If he keeps racing the way he did (Friday), he’s going to win a lot of indoor races. There’s no doubt.”
Fellow feature starter Brad Greenup agreed with Gamester’s assessment.
“Nick was fast all night long,” Greenup said. “I don’t think he ever touched anyone and he was just so smooth … he probably had one of the best cars here. I think he did a lot of Kenyon (midget) racing this year that helped him a lot. I could definitely tell he’s come back this year a better driver than last year when he was here.”
Hamilton won five races this season en route to a 12th-place finish in the Mel Kenyon Midget Series points standings, running a partial schedule.
Other storylines from opening day of the 19th annual Rumble in Fort Wayne included:
– Two-time Rumble winner Justin Peck continued his streak of qualifying for every A-Feature he has attempted at Memorial Coliseum, making his 10th-straight main event on Friday night via a second place finish in his heat race.
However, Peck’s average Rumble finish of 4.8 took a hit after the motor went sour on his No. 5X Duracoat machine, relegating him to just his second-career DNF at the event and a 15th-place finish.
– Justin Grant was the highest-finishing Rumble rookie in the 16-car field on Friday, coming home fourth in his first Rumble A-Main appearance.
Grant was driving for team owner Randy Burrow, with teammate and five-time Rumble winner Billy Wease following him home in fifth.
Other drivers who qualified for their first-career Rumble feature included true rookie Chance Rice (eighth), who made the A-Main in his first Rumble appearance; Cap Henry (12th) and Travis Welpott (13th).
– Mike Fedorcak’s night at the Rumble was an unmitigated disaster, with the 2002 winner suffering a cut left rear tire in his heat race after being scheduled for a pole starting spot, a cut left rear tire in his B-Main after being scheduled for a pole starting spot and a flip in his non-winged 600cc micro during that division’s consolation race, where Fedorcak’s car caught on fire before sliding to a stop.
The venerable veteran was uninjured in the spectacular crash, and despite all the problems he had on Friday, both of Fedorcak’s cars are back in the Coliseum and scheduled for competition in the finale.
– Two-time non-winged 600 winner Blane Culp is not competing at this year’s Rumble, after he had a wrestling meet that forced him to miss most of the opening day’s program.
Culp is a coach with the Columbia City High School wrestling team.
In his scheduled absence, Culp turned the reins of his No. 34 MaximumDirt.com micro over to step-brother Josh Ross, who wheeled the car to a runner-up finish in Friday’s 30-lap A-main, just behind race winner and teammate Larry Joe Sroufe.
– The Rumble’s all-time quarter midget wins leader, Aaron Leffel, was back inside the Coliseum Friday after a one-year absence, but instead of driving, he was busy turning the wrenches on younger brother Jared’s Heavy 160 car.
Leffel said he nearly had a National Midget ride for this year’s event, but plans fell through at the last minute.
“We were working on some things, but that’s life sometimes,” the 18-year-old said. “It’s a cool deal to come back to this pit area and help my brother out, though. He’s enjoyed it and I’ve enjoyed helping him figure this place out. He’s done a good job so far and we’re proud of him.”
– Multi-time Indianapolis 500 starter Sarah Fisher had a rough night in the Guess Racing No. 99 entry, spinning on her qualifying attempt and failing to transfer out of either her heat race or B-Main. She ultimately finished fifth in the first B.
Finale night for the 19th annual Rumble in Fort Wayne kicks off with heat racing beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday. The action culminates with a second 50-lap National Midget feature on Saturday night, with opening ceremonies slated for 7 p.m.
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 22-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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