WEASE, STEWART ANNEX FORT WAYNE MIDGET VICTORIES
Billy Wease and Tony Stewart were victorious in the 10th "Rumble in Fort Wayne" USAC Midget races December 28-29 at the Memorial Coliseum Expo Center in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Wease, of Noblesville, Ind., won Friday night's 60-lap feature, while Stewart, of Rushville, Ind., took Saturday night's 60-lap main event. Stewart's win marked the 16th time in the last 17 calendar years he has won at least one USAC feature event, missing only in 1999 while he was concentrating on the NASCAR "Rookie of the Year" honors.
Wease emerged with a stunning last-corner victory. The last of five race leaders, he was running third on the last lap and inherited the win after leaders Dave Darland and Derek Bischak tangled in turn three! It marked the only lap led by Wease, whose last USAC victory came in May at Iowa Speedway. As Darland and Bischak untangled, Wease ducked underneath and sped to the checkered flag. Darland finished second, while Brandon Knupp eeked out third over Bischak.
The last-lap excitement concluded one of the most unpredictable USAC races in history. Jeff Wimmenauer started from the pole and led the first three laps. Tim Jedrzejek then paced the next eight laps. On lap eight Darland was hit from behind and spun in turn one. Two laps later fast qualifier Tony Stewart was also "punted" into the infield and spun. Bischak grabbed the lead on lap 12 and was leading when Stewart's race ended on lap 17 in a four-car tangle in turn four. Teammate Mike Fedorcak and Jedrzejek tangled, collecting Wease and Stewart. On lap 25, Darland caught Bischak and grabbed the lead entering turn three. Fifteen laps later Darland braked for a slowing car in turn one and was hit from behind by Wease, whose car climbed on top of Darland's. After they were separated, the race resumed with Darland and Wease starting at the back of the pack.
Bischak was back in the lap, but Darland was gaining positions in rapid form. Dave was sixth on lap 43, fifth on lap 44, fourth on lap 45, third on lap 47 and second on lap 50. As the final 10 laps wound down, Bischak's car appeared to be slipping in the corners and on lap 59 Darland ducked underneath on the backstretch, taking the lead. On the final lap, Jacob Wilson's engine erupted in flames, bringing out the yellow flag. On the restart, under green and white flags, Darland accelerated and was leading on the backstretch, but turn three found he and Bischak making contact and that set up Wease's bonsai move.
Wease piloted the Burco Molding Fedorczyk VW to the win and also won his heat race. Other heat winners were Stewart, Darland and Bischak. Joe Liguori, Kyle Robbins and Wilson won consis, while David Gough and Tyler Cottongim won qualifying races.
Stewart, starting eighth, passed Geoff Kaiser on the inside of turn one and led the final 44 laps in his Our Gang Poker Club Munchkin VW. Stewart's teammate, Fedorcak, finished second in the second Stewart entry, while Darland took third, ahead of Bischak and Rich Corson. Ronnie Wuerdeman led the first six laps, then Kaiser led for 11 before yielding to Stewart. Friday night's winner, Wease, stopped in turn two on lap 14 and was unable to restart, finishing 13th. Stewart was the fastest of 48 qualifiers and also won his heat race. Gough, Jedrzejek and Bischak also won heats. Wease, Darland and Joe Liguori won consis and Daniel Robinson and Doug Dietsch won the qualifying races.