FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Why does a group of people give up a chunk of their Christmas or New Year’s holiday to jump in a car, drive to Indiana and spend three days at the annual Rumble in Fort Wayne indoor midget race?
One thing is for sure, it’s definitely not because of the weather.
Case in point: the forecast for this weekend’s 21st running calls for a high of 35 on finale day. While there’s no potential for snow showers this weekend and that temperature is outside the building, it still warrants a mention.
We could all be spending the weekend at home with family, recovering from Christmas and preparing for New Year’s Eve like most people, but those are normal people.
Anyone who knows the racing contingent and is reading this knows that most of the industry is certainly not normal, and neither is the Rumble in Fort Wayne.
That’s part of the allure and the draw for the two-decade-old classic: it’s not something you see every day and it’s an event where some of the best open-wheel short track racers in North America can come together on a sixth-mile oval – built in the middle of a concrete coliseum floor – for two nights only, knowing that they have just as much of a shot at going home empty-handed as they do of winning.
How often can you say you’ve been to a midget race where someone like Dave Darland or Billy Wease missed the show because they simply weren’t good enough that night? It doesn’t happen very often.
However, that’s how powerful the field is in Fort Wayne every year.
The event’s star power draws people into the Expo Center, and it’s got a considerable boost this year, thanks to all-time Fort Wayne wins leader Tony Stewart’s return for the second-straight year and the addition of hotshoes like Rico Abreu and Kody Swanson to the mix.
Meanwhile, you’ve still got Darland, as well as young rising stars trying to ink their names among the best of the best, like Justin Peck, Kyle and Nick Hamilton, Kyle O’Gara and Austin Nemire.
But even at that, none of those are the prime reason that so many are drawn to return to the event year after year.
What makes the Rumble so worthwhile to attend again and again is the fact that it’s more than just a race: it’s family.
It’s an annual renewal of the racing community, knowing that it’s their last chance each year to catch up with one another and compete with one another, but more importantly, to make memories together before the grind and the process of another year begins again.
For me personally, it’s a chance to work an event with my own family and to be a part of something as a complete unit. We don’t often get that opportunity, but at this event, my dad is the head push truck coordinator, my step-mom has served as the event photographer for several years, my sister has managed photo sales and I’ve handled much of the at-track media promotion and post-race writings for the past three years.
It’s also a chance to share the holiday spirit with a large group of people that embodies the passion and love of this sport, as well as an opportunity to share plenty of laughs and smiles with many people that may not be at other race tracks during the year.
You learn to cherish those moments, because you never know if you’ll end up getting any more of them in the future.
As cars load into the Allen County Coliseum Expo Center pits this weekend and start turning practice laps around a flat bullring that tests tempers every bit as much as it rewards patience and perseverance, I plan to take a few moments from my perch in the crow’s nest to sit back, stop typing and just take in what’s become one of my most cherished holiday traditions each year.
I’m going to take a few minutes to circle the pit area, share some stories and pass along some holiday greetings and well-wishes to those I haven’t seen in 364 days.
And I’m going to smile at the fact that I’m back at a race that’s so much more than just a race.
It’s one big, happy family.
The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of SPEED SPORT, Turn 3 Media, their sponsors or other contributors.