FORT WAYNE, Ind. — For the third consecutive Rumble in Fort Wayne feature event and second straight year, a page of history was written at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.
Only this time, it was a true rookie who inked his name in the record books.
Woburn, Mass. native and 22-year-old college senior Anthony Nocella made the long haul from New England to make his debut appearance in this year’s 17th annual Rumble in Fort Wayne. He then forever left his mark on the concrete oval by passing defending race winner Justin Peck on lap 33 of Friday night’s 50-lap National Midget A-main and driving away to a stunning victory.
Nocella becomes the first driver to ever win in his first-career Rumble appearance, driving for noted car owner Bobby Seymour.
“It was pretty awesome to be able to win it on the first night,” Nocella said in victory lane. “We were honestly just hoping to make the race, with me never being here and all, and then once we made it, we figured ‘make it to the end and hopefully get a decent finish and jut make some laps’. It turned out a lot better than that (laughs).”
“By about lap 10, I realized I had too good a car to just ride around so I figured I’d see what we could get out of it. Guys just started slipping up and our car just kept getting better and better. What a night.”
Peck started from the pole and had to fend off a furious charge by former Rumble winner Russ Gamester in the opening laps before the first caution flew at lap 11 for a spin by Ross Rankine. Under that caution, both Gamester and third place running Billy Wease headed to the work area in a shocking twist of events that shuffled the frontrunners.
Gamester was able to rejoin the field for the restart, but Wease ended up out of the race with a broken oil cooler.
On the restart, Gamester caught a break when the yellow flew again on lap 12 for a slowing Rich Corson, and in the ensuing laps, Peck had to pull away from a hard charging Derek Bischak, who peeked to the inside twice on laps 17 and 19 before a third yellow on lap 20 flew after David Gough’s spin in turn one.
With Gough spinning out of third, Nocella was elevated to third behind Peck and Bischak as the field came to halfway, and began his charge just as the fourth caution of the race flew at lap 27 for Chris Neuenschwander looping his midget in turn one.
Once racing resumed, Bischak made a bid for the lead coming up on 20 laps to go but lost his car going into turn one and slid high, yielding second to Nocella and slipping back to third.