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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Racers make their way around the track during the Rumble in Fort Wayne indoor race at the Memorial Coliseum on Saturday. It's the 20th year for the race.

  • Guests watch as racers make their way around the track during the Rumble in Fort Wayne on Saturday.

  • Dillon Nusbaum takes a lap Saturday at Memorial Coliseum. The indoor event brought in around 250 racers.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette About 250 racers came to Memorial Coliseum on Saturday to take part in the 20th annual Rumble in Fort Wayne midget cars indoor race Saturday, including NASCAR legend Tony Stewart.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Racer Tristan Chamberlain makes his way around the track during the Rumble in Fort Wayne midget cars indoor racing event at the Memorial Coliseum on Saturday December 30, 2017. VIDEO

Sunday, December 31, 2017 1:00 am

'Racing hunger' satisfied

250 drivers at 20th annual Rumble, mixing rubber with camaraderie

JAMIE DUFFY | The Journal Gazette

You could smell the rubber and hear the engines rev just outside the arena where the 20th annual Rumble in Fort Wayne was taking place Saturday, an indoor racing competition held at Memorial Coliseum in the off-season to keep aficionados busy.

“We bring everyone together in the off-season to satisfy the racing hunger,” said Larry Boos, the event's promoter, whose base of operations is Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. The regular racing season runs April to October, Boos added.

The Rumble attracted about 250 entries, with racers as young as 4 joining engineering and midget racing legend Mike Fedorcak, in his 60s, a Roanoke resident strapped into the Munchkin midget he pioneered as he waited to participate in a practice round.

Former NASCAR champion and racing legend Tony Stewart, a Columbus, Indiana, native, was also there and scheduled to race in the midget class.

Most midget models look like go-karts, but the categories are nuanced and specific.

At Fort Wayne's event, classes included midgets, 600 cubic centimeter winged and non-winged midgets, go-karts, and quarter midgets.

Fedorcak, who is a racer and fabricator, invented the Munchkin and has raced it all over the U.S. “You see Mike Fedorcak, you know it's a Munchkin,” Kari Yeiter, a friend, said as Fedorcak waited to enter the oval speedway.

Above the din, Vern Werling, a truck driver from Decatur, working as one of the hosts Saturday, explained that the thick layer of black rubber left on the track is a good thing and that it all starts with an application of Mountain Dew syrup to get the perfect surface.

At least two halls were converted into waiting areas, one a cavernous room full of go-karts known as junior or senior cages, depending on who is driving them.

Senior cages were for competitors 15 years and older, said Nathan Myers, 19, from Lima, Ohio, who works in construction but lives for races like this. A new senior cage like the one he drives would likely cost about $4,500, he said.

A veteran racer, Myers said last year at the Rumble in Fort Wayne, he left with a broken tailbone.

“If you don't crash, you ain't trying hard enough,” Myers said.

Families, many of them fathers and sons, worked on their cages as Bob Miller, another host from just outside Kendallville, toured the area to point out all the parts of the racing cage.

Younger racers receive trophies no matter where they place in the lineup, said Ron Cooper of Fort Wayne, working the registration table. In the adult categories, there were cash prizes.

The top prize was $2,000, donated by the family of John Limbacher of Reading, Michigan, who died a week ago.

His son, Jon Limbacher, 28, said his father “built motors, manufactured chassis and engines” before he teared up.

“This is my racing family,” he said, looking around.

Cooper agreed, saying that like any family, there are rivalries. “You fight like crazy, but you still stand up for each other,” he said.

jduffy@jg.net