The Journal Gazette
Sunday, December 22, 2019 1:00 am

Stewart back on Coliseum track

Over 100 races on the schedule for 22nd Rumble

JOSH PATTERSON | For The Journal Gazette

Considering auto racing dates back to Memorial Coliseum's infancy, Rumble Racing Series spokesman Bob Koorsen struggles to hide his excitement about his next big endeavor. Koorsen estimates he'll announce over 100 races during the two-day Rumble in Fort Wayne, a racing event featuring go-karts and midget race cars in a litany of classes, set for Friday and Saturday at the Coliseum Expo Center.

“My history with these events as a spectator goes back to the (Coliseum's main arena),” Koorsen said. “It's (grown so that) this event that takes over the entire Coliseum except for the arena itself.

“I look forward to it all year long. There's just so many people you only see once a year. You have people coming in from California to the Carolinas, and they all converge on Fort Wayne for the smallest track they'll run on all year.”

The Coliseum will continue to sell tickets daily through the event weekend, and fans traveling from afar can buy their passes through Ticketmaster. Adult tickets cost $20 per day or $24 for a reserved seat, while children 2-12 will cost just $10 per day or $14 for a reserved seat.

A full program of qualifying, heats, last chance races and features will run on both days of the Rumble, with spectator gates opening at 11 a.m. for two rounds of Go-Kart and Quarter Midget qualifying heats. Midget, Winged and Non-Winged 600cc qualifying follows at 4:45.

Go-Kart and Quarter Midget features will then run at 6 p.m., followed by opening ceremonies at 7 p.m., before the day concludes with the full Midget, Winged and Non-Winged heats and features.

Jason Deitsch Trailer Sales will serve as the event's title sponsor, while a familiar name to racing stands as the event's main draw in 2019 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Tony Stewart. A native of Columbus, Indiana, Stewart remains the only driver to claim series championships in NASCAR and IndyCar.

Stewart started his racing career four decades ago, winning his first title in his sophomore season behind the wheel. Already boasting an event-high nine victories in the Rumble's signature event, Koorsen noted that Stewart will face a large challenge from a small-statured racer in former World of Outlaws champion Rico Abreu.

Abreu, who stands just 4-foot-10, attempted to qualify for the 2018 Rumble but failed because of broken equipment suffered during practice. With other past competitors also entering the field, such NASCAR driver and 2015 Camping World Truck Series champion Erik Jones and reigning NHRA Rookie of the Year Austin Prock, Koorsen's anticipation for this year's Rumble, the 22nd iteration, continues to bubble.

“It's fun seeing some of the young drivers that develop into nationwide stars,” Koorsen said. “Eric Jones ran here when he was 6 years old. Ten years ago, Austin Prock was winning quarter midget races and now he drives a Top Fuel dragster for John Force.

“(Rico) doesn't let his short stature stop him behind the wheel. He's been talking about it and looking forward to coming back. The fans are going to get a treat.”

And those treats manifest in myriad ways. Whether it's a racing simulator or video game racing, meeting drivers or checking out merchandise, the Rumble crew continually works to present more options for fans to enjoy, in addition to the continuing races.

“Fans can get a chance to (sit) in retired sprint cars that have TVs worked into them (and race tracks like Eldora),” Koorsen said. “The Appleseed Room is a place people can get away from the fumes, and we're trying to put together some e-racing.

“We'll announce when people can go and see the drivers. We keep on racing, but we give them some things on the side. Last year we had an adult tricycle race. We have the freedom to put some things together late, and they always seem to work out.”

While the fans returning annually stands as a weekend highlight, for Koorsen as well as others in attendance, the spokesman marvels at the competitors' ever-growing age range.

Children as young as 5 step into the mini go-karts and turn laps on the Expo Center track, while Purple Heart recipient Clarence Hoch will run his 600cc mini-sprint car at the Rumble, just a few months before his 72nd birthday.

If you go

What: 22nd annual Rumble in Fort Wayne

When: Friday and Saturday

Where: Memorial Coliseum Expo Center

Admission: $20 per day ($24 reserved) for adults, $10 per day ($14 reserved) for children 2-12

Highlights: Both days offer a full program of qualifying, heats, last chance races and features for Midgets, Non-Wing Dirt 600 Mini Sprints, Outlaw Modified Winged Midgets, Go-Karts and Quarter Midgets.

Notable entrants: NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart, USAC and World of Outlaws winner Rico Abreu, NASCAR driver Erik Jones, NHRA Rookie of the Year Austin Prock

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