FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Russ Gamester re-writes the record books every time he wins at the Allen County Memorial Expo Center, and Friday night, he did so again during the opener to the 20th annual Rumble in Fort Wayne.
Gamester started from the outside pole, grabbed the advantage from pole man Jim Anderson on the initial start and never looked back, leading all 50 laps to score his fourth-career Fort Wayne victory in the headlining national midget class.
The win allowed Gamester to break his own record for the oldest winner in event history, resetting the mark at 52 years, 11 months and 20 days old after he also won on opening night in 2016.
“I knew if I didn’t get to the lead on the start, that I was in trouble,” said Gamester in victory lane. “Luckily it worked out for us … and we were able to pull away from there.”
The veteran’s car turned 40 years old this season, having been built in 1977, and there was a lot of emotion when Gamester spoke on how important winning with it continues to be.
“I’ve been blessed. This was my grandma and grandpa’s car … and this is all for them. It’s a dream come true to win these things; it really is. I guess when it’s your night, it’s your night.”
The race’s first – and most impactful – incident came with 11 laps complete, when Anderson was working past slower traffic and nine-time Rumble winner Tony Stewart dove to the inside to try and seize the runner-up spot coming through turn two.
Stewart made contact with Anderson, sending Anderson up the track and into the backstretch barriers as he spun in his own right and was hit by teammate Mike Fedorcak in the aftermath.
By the time all was said and done, Fedorcak was able to keep his car running and inherited second behind Gamester, albeit with a severely-bent left front suspension on his No. 97 Munchkin.
Fedorcak chased Gamester on the restart, but could make no ground as Gamester’s 1977 Grant King chassis began to pull away, though the next caution for a spinning Tyler Fitzpatrick on lap 17 reset the field and bunched everyone back up.
From there, Gamester cruised effortlessly to the win, despite a final restart with 21 to go after Nick Hamilton went around in turn one.
Of note, the average age of the top two in Friday night’s main event was 57 and a half.
Fedorcak grinned after shaking Gamester’s hand in victory lane, joking that “miracles can still happen” after tying his best finish at the Rumble since a similar second-place finish in the 2013 finale.
“I shouldn’t call it a miracle; it’s really a testament to all the hard work that my guys put in,” Fedorcak added. “I had a lot of determination tonight, but Russell drove a great race. I had to play the money race a bit … I’m not making any excuses, but I was a little leery about going outside to (try and) pass him.”
“He was a lot slower than me a couple times, but I had to settle for second tonight. Congrats to Russ; he earned everything he got. I’m just peachy that we got out of here with another good, solid finish, even with the damage we had on it tonight.”
Bryan Nuckles completed the podium in third, followed by Joe Liguori and defending race winner Kyle Hamilton, who charged from 13th to finish fifth.
Rookie Kody Swanson was sixth, ahead of Billy Wease, Matt Westfall, Nick Hamilton and Austin Nemire.
The Rumble in Fort Wayne concludes Saturday night with a full slate of racing for the national midgets, winged and non-winged 600cc micros, go-karts and quarter midgets.
RESULTS: 20th annual Rumble in Fort Wayne; Allen County Memorial Expo Center; Dec. 29, 2017
National Midget A-Feature (50 laps): 1. Russ Gamester (#46-Gamester), 2. Mike Fedorcak, 3. Bryan Nuckles, 4. Joe Liguori, 5. Kyle Hamilton, 6. Kody Swanson, 7. Billy Wease, 8. Matt Westfall, 9. Nick Hamilton, 10. Austin Nemire, 11. Kyle O’Gara, 12. Geoff Kaiser, 13. Tony Stewart, 14. Cap Henry, 15. Tyler Fitzpatrick, 16. Jim Anderson.
Lap Leader: Russ Gamester 1-50.
National Midget Heat #1 (10 laps, top three transfer): 1. Geoff Kaiser, 2. Jim Anderson, 3. Tony Stewart / 4. Billy Wease, 5. Kyle Hamilton, 6. Kyle O’Gara, 7. Tyler Roahrig, 8. Stratton Briggs.
National Midget Heat #2 (10 laps, top three transfer): 1. Matt Westfall, 2. Austin Nemire, 3. Mike Fedorcak / 4. Chris Jagger, 5. Sean Murphy, 6. Chris Guingrich, 7. Cory Guingrich, 8. Shawn Bonar (DNS).
National Midget Heat #3 (10 laps, top three transfer): 1. Cap Henry, 2. Joe Liguori, 3. Nick Hamilton / 4. Travis Welpott, 5. RJ Corson, 6. Dave Darland, 7. Derek Bischak, 8. Chris Jagger Jr.
National Midget Heat #4 (10 laps, top three transfer): 1. Kody Swanson, 2. Russ Gamester, 3. Bryan Nuckles / 4. Tyler Fitzpatrick, 5. Trey Osborne, 6. Brad Kraus, 7. Basil Hicks, 8. Chance Rice (DNS).
National Midget B-Main #1 (10 laps, top two transfer): 1. Kyle Hamilton, 2. Tyler Fitzpatrick / 3. Trey Osborne, 4. Chris Jagger, 5. Chris Guingrich, 6. Brad Kraus, 7. Basil Hicks, 8. Sean Murphy, 9. Cory Guingrich, 10. Shawn Bonar (DNS).
National Midget B-Main #2 (10 laps, top two transfer): 1. Billy Wease, 2. Kyle O’Gara / 3. Stratton Briggs, 4. Travis Welpott, 5. RJ Corson, 6. Chris Jagger Jr., 7. Tyler Roahrig, 8. Dave Darland, 9. Derek Bischak (DNS), 10. Chance Rice (DNS).
-Rumble in Fort Wayne Press Release
-Photo Credit: CSP/Jacob Seelman