FORT WAYNE, Ind. — 24-year-old Kyle Hamilton finally put an 11-year winless drought at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum to rest on Saturday night, taking the most famed car owners in midget racing history to a win in the finale of the 19th annual Rumble in Fort Wayne.
Driving a yellow No. 6 for Hall of Famers Mel and Don Kenyon, Hamilton started fourth but sliced quickly through the field, running second when outside polesitter and then-race leader Joe Liguori spun in turn one to draw the night’s first caution flag with six laps complete.
The Purdue University graduate inherited the lead at that point and never looked back again, leading the rest of the way to notch his first Fort Wayne win in his 12th-career A-Main appearance.
Hamilton’s victory lane celebration was emotional, with hugs from both Kenyon brothers and a huge ovation from the crowd as he spoke about his long journey to the pinnacle of indoor midget racing.
“I’ve been in this building for 11 years now, since 2006 … and I never would have thought, out of all the cars I’ve driven here, that I would pull it off in a Kenyon car,” Hamilton said. “I have to give all the credit to Mel and Don. They brought an amazing piece this weekend. We were fast right off the trailer. We only changed two tires and made one weight adjustment all weekend, so it was consistent and bad fast.”
“I knew I needed an opportunity to get up front … I had to ruffle a few feathers to get there, but once we were there I knew there was no stopping us. This has been a dream of mine since I was 13, but the reality of winning it is way better.”
Hamilton also explained the difference in his motor compared to the traditional National Midget motors run by so many of his competitors in the field.
“That’s a Yamaha FJ 1200cc motorcycle engine, and I never … as much as Don thought we could win with it, it was tough to believe him, because it’s got less horsepower than the traditional motors. I had to have faith, and sure enough, here we are in victory lane. I can’t believe it.”
Liguori’s spin was only the first of a host of issues that took place during a caution-laden 50-lap A-Main. In total, eight cautions slowed the pace, including a red flag on lap 23 to vent fumes from the building following a three-car crash in turn four.
But after a spin by Kyle O’Gara on lap 27, the final 23 circuits went uninterrupted, with Hamilton holding 2012 Rumble winner Derek Bischak at bay despite heavy traffic in the final 10 laps.
Though Bischak got close to Hamilton once with seven laps to go, there just simply wasn’t enough room – or time – for him to make a pass for the win stick.
“The track was losing a lot of rubber there (in the second half), so I couldn’t really drive off (the corner) very well,” Bischak said. “The Kenyon midget that Kyle had under him … with less power, it was perfect for tonight. I thought I had a chance with lap traffic there at the end, but it just wasn’t enough. Still a good night for us, and we’ll try it again next year.”
Another former Rumble winner, Jim Anderson, finished third for his best Rumble effort since a similar third-place effort in 2014.
Rex Norris III and Matt Westfall completed the top five.
Friday runner-up Nick Hamilton, Geoff Kaiser, Liguori, Austin Nemire and O’Gara were the balance of the top 10 finishers.
Two-time Rumble winner Justin Peck had motor issues sideline him for the second-straight night, relegating him to a DNF in 15th after a charge from 12th to sixth in the opening six laps.
Opening night winner Russ Gamester also ran into mechanical trouble early on, not even making it to lap five before pulling behind the wall and going out of the race. He finished 16th.
Cap Henry (winged 600cc micros) and Josh Ross (non-winged 600cc micros) went wire-to-wire in their respective 30-lap main events, with Henry notching his second-straight finale win and Ross grabbing his first-ever Rumble win in the class.
The 20th annual Rumble in Fort Wayne will be held Dec. 29-30, 2017.
National Midget A-Main (50 laps): 1. Kyle Hamilton (#6-Kenyon); 2. Derek Bischak; 3. Jim Anderson; 4. Rex Norris III; 5. Matt Westfall; 6. Nick Hamilton; 7. Geoff Kaiser; 8. Joe Liguori; 9. Austin Nemire; 10. Kyle O’Gara; 11. Cory Setser; 12. Billy Hulbert; 13. Brandon Knupp; 14. Chris Neuenschwander; 15. Justin Peck; 16. Russ Gamester. Lap Leaders: Liguori 1-6, K.Hamilton 7-50.
-Rumble in Fort Wayne Press Release
-Photo Credit: CSP/Chris Seelman