FORT WAYNE, Ind. – One year after illness kept him out of competition at the Rumble in Fort Wayne, Justin Peck came back with a vengeance and proved he still has what it takes to succeed inside the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.
Peck started from the pole and led from start to finish en route to capturing Saturday night’s 50-lap midget feature, his third victory in Rumble competition and first since the final night in 2014.
Once a fresh-faced teenager, the now 20-year-old Monrovia, Ind., hotshoe noted that he’s matured and grown greatly since the last time he stood in the winner’s circle and celebrated at the Rumble.
“I’ve changed a lot since I won here in 2014, but at its core, this race and what it takes to be successful has stayed pretty much the same,” Peck said. “It always helps to start on the pole here, but I’ve started to learn where I need to be patient here too. Friday night, we set ourselves back and had to come from the last row, but tonight we had an awesome car and I feel like that showed.
“The night didn’t start out well; it was a struggle to fine-tune our car to what we needed, but it was pretty exciting to park it in victory lane at the end of the night.”
Not only did Saturday night’s performance snap Peck’s four-year winless drought at the race he calls his “favorite event,” it also soothed the sting of missing out on sweeping the weekend.
Peck was in contention to win Friday’s main event, but spun battling Geoff Kaiser for the race lead with 13 laps to go and ended up fifth at the end of that program.
There was no question about the finale, however. Peck mastered every restart thrown at him on Saturday night, driving away from Jim Anderson six times after various caution flags slowed the pace.
Each time it looked like Peck would reach the tail of the field and become mired in traffic, a yellow flag would reset the order and clear the surface ahead of him, leaving him free to drive home to victory.
“I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder after the Friday night deal, but we had a lot of luck go our way in this one … and it was nice to finally have that, for a change,” Peck noted with a smile. “(Car owner) Steve Clay gave me my first shot in a national midget, and it’s special to be able to come back here and keep this momentum going for him after all he’s done for me. This takes a team effort to be able to do.”
Anderson passed Derek Bischak for second coming off turn four to complete the 10th lap, then trailed Peck for the remaining distance. He said afterward that he simply didn’t have the early-run speed that he needed to be able to mount a challenge.
“That was everything I had,” Anderson said. “I worked my way up from sixth in the first four or five laps, but once I got past Bischak, that was it. (Peck) pulled me on every start by about three car lengths, and after that we just rode where we were and tried not to get freight-trained.
“It was just too tough (to pass) tonight to get it done, but we’re pleased with the performance from our car this weekend.”
After spinning out of the runner-up spot on Friday night, Joe Liguori completed the Saturday podium.
Friday winner Geoff Kaiser crossed the line fourth and Nick Hamilton, who battled illness all day long, powered through his adversity to finish fifth.
Travis Welpott, Cory Setser, Kody Swanson, Billy Wease and Bryan Nuckles were the rest of the top 10.
None of the three Tony Stewart Racing Munchkins – driven by Stewart, Rico Abreu and Mike Fedorcak, respectively – turned a lap of competition on Saturday due to various mechanical woes.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.