An all-too familiar face returned to Allen County War Memorial Coliseum victory lane when Tony Stewart took the Midget win on the opening night of the Rumble in Fort Wayne. The NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee showed he can still get around the tight track, having started ninth and worked his way through the field for his first Rumble win since 2011.
‘Smoke’ made a move around Ohio Sprint Car ace Cap Henry with 15 laps remaining, making a furious charge through the field look like nobody’s business. It was his 10th Rumble win, extending his record for most Midget wins in the event.
“It’s hard, it’s feast or famine here. There’s so many things that can happen in these races,” Stewart told Speed51.com. “You just got to hope everything goes right. Starting ninth and then at the first red that came out there we were back to tenth, we thought well, if we can get back up to sixth that would probably be a productive night. I had no idea we would get the rest of them. I don’t necessarily think we got better, I don’t think we fell off quite like everybody else did.”
It was redemption for Stewart and Tony Stewart Racing as a whole after the team suffered major misfortune with himself and drivers Mike Fedorcak and Rico Abreu last year. The team, along with Sprint Car team owner Sam McGhee put in late nights through Christmas and leading to the Rumble. It made the win all the more special for the Indiana-born driver.
“I can tell you it’s more gratifying tonight. We worked till 11:00 on Christmas Eve before we finally quit for the night, then we still had a little bit of work to do on Thursday before we came up,” he said. “Sam (McGhee) deserves all the credit for getting these things nice. Without him, none of these cars would have got here.”
The win broke a tie with the late Rich Vogler for the most Indoor Midget wins all-time in North America, who also owns two Chili Bowl wins and a triumph at DuQuoin. Having been to the Rumble nearly every year of it’s existence, it’s a race he looks forward to attending every year.
“It’s a fun event, all of our friends, we get to race and hang out with each other,” he said. “It’s not the same atmosphere as Chili Bowl but not everybody that’s here gets to go to Chili Bowl either and I get to spend more time with them here than I would get to at Chili Bowl. It’s just fun for us, I’d love to be in Australia racing with Donny (Schatz) right now but this is something that from the day I bought the first Munchkin, it’s been a passion, I guess.”
Teammates Cap Henry and Joe Ligouri finished second and third, while former Rumble winners Justin Peck and Derek Bischak rounded out the top five.
Rumble in Fort Wayne – Midgets Complete Results:
National Midget Qualifying (best of two laps): 1. Tony Stewart, 2, Stewart-7.723; 2. Tim Buckwalter, 8, J. Dietsch-7.817; 3. Mike Fedorcak, 97, Stewart-7.876; 4. Jim Anderson, 36, Anderson-7.889; 5. Derek Bischak, 31, Bischak-7.900; 6. Justin Peck, 5x, Clay-7.908; 7. Kyle Hamilton, 16, Kenyon-7.940; 8. Troy DeCaire, 67, Williams-7.943; 9. Cap Henry, 44, Williams-7.968; 10. Joe Liguori, 8up, Williams-7.975; 11. Russ Gamester, 46, Gamester-7.997; 12. Brian Vaughn, 49v, TnT-8.024; 13. Nick Hamilton, 6k, Kenyon-8.025; 14. Matt Westfall, 9, Ryder-8.032; 15. Cory Setser, 24, Setser-8.033; 16. Bryan Nuckles, 59, Nuckles-8.036; 17. Travis Welpott, 18, Gorman-8.039; 18. Austin Nemire, 19, O’Connell-8.051; 19. Trey Osborne, 61, Kenyon-8.099; 20. Rico Abreu, 2.5, Stewart-8.185; 21. Chris Jagger, 88, Jagger-8.188; 22. Rich Corson, 15, Corson-8.297; 23. Junior Gould, 65, Gould-8.387; 24. Billy Wease, 99, Burrow-8.447; 25. Billy Lewis, 49, Burrow-8.475; 26. Jordan Caskey, 33, Caskey-8.512; 27. Don Dietsch, 5, D. Dietsch-8.539; 28. Sean Murphy, 4b, Murphy-8.610; 29. Justin Harper, 53, Harper-8.866; 30. Mario Clouser, 99, Guess-9.081; 31. Chris Malaterre, 6m, Malaterre-9.156; 32. Tyler Roahrig, 8r, Brewer-NT; 33. Aaron Pierce, 98, Burrow-NT.
National Midget Heat #1 (10 laps, top two transfer): 1. Cap Henry, 2. Derek Bischak / 3. Tony Stewart, 4. Nick Hamilton, 5. Travis Welpott, 6. Chris Jagger, 7. Billy Lewis, 8. Justin Harper, 9. Aaron Pierce (DNS).
National Midget Heat #2 (10 laps, top two transfer): 1. Tim Buckwalter, 2. Joe Liguori / 3. Justin Peck, 4. Matt Westfall, 5. Mario Clouser, 6. Austin Nemire, 7. Jordan Caskey, 8. Rich Corson.
National Midget Heat #3 (10 laps, top two transfer): 1. Russ Gamester, 2. Mike Fedorcak / 3. Cory Setser, 4. Trey Osborne, 5. Junior Gould, 6. Don Dietsch, 7. Chris Malaterre, 8. Kyle Hamilton.
National Midget Heat #4 (10 laps, top two transfer): 1. Troy DeCaire, 2. Jim Anderson / 3. Brian Vaughn, 4. Rico Abreu, 5. Bryan Nuckles, 6. Billy Wease, 7. Sean Murphy, 8. Tyler Roahrig.
National Midget B-Main #1 (10 laps, top two transfer): 1. Tony Stewart, 2. Cory Setser / 3. Billy Wease, 4. Brian Vaughn, 5. Chris Jagger, 6. Mario Clouser, 7. Austin Nemire, 8. Don Dietsch, 9. Aaron Pierce (DNS).
National Midget B-Main #2 (10 laps, top two transfer): 1. Justin Peck, 2. Bryan Nuckles / 3. Nick Hamilton, 4. Trey Osborne, 5. Sean Murphy, 6. Billy Lewis, 7. Rich Corson, 8. Chris Malaterre.
National Midget B-Main #3 (10 laps, top two transfer): 1. Kyle Hamilton, 2. Travis Welpott / 3. Matt Westfall, 4. Rico Abreu, 5. Junior Gould, 6. Jordan Caskey, 7. Justin Harper, 8. Tyler Roahrig (DNS).
National Midget Dash (4 laps, sets first two rows): 1. Cap Henry, 2. Russ Gamester, 3. Tim Buckwalter, 4. Troy DeCaire.
National Midget A-Feature (50 laps): 1. Tony Stewart, 2. Cap Henry, 3. Joe Liguori, 4. Justin Peck, 5. Derek Bischak, 6. Mike Fedorcak, 7. Bryan Nuckles, 8. Jim Anderson, 9. Kyle Hamilton, 10. Cory Setser, 11. Travis Welpott, 12. Russ Gamester, 13. Tim Buckwalter, 14. Troy DeCaire.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN/MI) – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com