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Nothing little about annual Rumble in Fort Wayne

December 30, 2018

It seems only fitting that a midget race car model might be called a Munchkin, after the throng of little people who delighted so many generations of viewers in “The Wizard of Oz.” 

What seems more unlikely is that those rare little racers were born and bred right here in northeast Indiana, in a barn in Roanoke.

But those who attended Saturday’s Rumble in Fort Wayne at Memorial Coliseum could have gotten a quick education as a handful of Munchkins took their local angle to the indoor track.

Mike Fedorcak of Roanoke, the brains and wrench muscle behind all Munchkins dating back to the 1980s, was driving Munchkin No. 97. Munchkin aficionado Cory Setser of Fort Wayne was also competing to make it into the final feature race Saturday night.

A third Munchkin among the ranks of more than 30 midgets was expected to be driven by famed NASCAR driver Tony Stewart.

Stewart bought the car from Fedorcak, said April Leamon, assisting Rumble promoter Larry Boos in the 21st edition of the event.

Just off the track after some warm-up laps, Setser, 41, said his No. 24 Munchkin : painted black with green and light-blue lettering : is one of nine in existence.

He came by the vehicle as a second-generation race car driver as Fedorcak was a friend of his father, Curtis Setser, a driver of modifieds and stock cars. 

The attraction of the Munchkin, “is that it’s so unique,” the younger Setser said.

“The engine is different, the suspension, the setup is different, totally different,” he explained. “It does well on a small track like here.”

But on Friday while readying for the race, he said, the car was misbehaving. “Everything that could go wrong, it did,” Setser said.

But he was hopeful the kinks would straighten out, and he and the car would be one of the 14 to start the 50-lap feature race.

Another Fort Wayne driver, No. 10, Geoff Kaiser, was expected to test other cars as a race favorite.

Although Kaiser does not race a Munchkin, “He’s a smooth driver, intelligent in racing and car setup,” Setser said.

About his own car, Setser said he “went back to the notebook and checked it out. The engine fired up and ran perfect (today).”

Although there used to be more indoor midget-car races in the region, Setser said, the field at the Coliseum looked very competitive.

“There’s a lot of really good cars here. There’s at least 10 cars fast enough to win,” he said.

But that’s not all there is to midget-car racing, he acknowledged. 

“There’s an attrition rate,” Setser said. “You have to be patiently aggressive. If you’re too aggressive, you crash. If you’re too patient, you get crashed.

“Sometimes it pays to be patient.”

rsalter@jg.net

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