FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Curtis Setser II not only made it to the finish line Friday during the Rumble in Fort Wayne presented by Jason Dietsch Trailer Sales, he was by far the surprise of the night.
Setser, a Fort Wayne native making his Rumble debut in the headlining national midget class, shocked the pit area by winning his heat race to qualify for the 50-lap main event.
It was a race where he played perfect defense, fending off eventual feature winner Ryan Flores for 10 straight circuits en route to a heat victory in his first time ever driving a midget in race conditions.
“That was a lot of fun,” Setser said after the heat. “I was just totally focused and blocked everything else out. It was about running my race. I wasn’t thinking about anything else.”
Curtis is the third member of the Setser family to compete in the midget class at the Rumble in recent years, joining younger brother Cory – who is most well known for driving the familiar green-and-black No. 24 – and half-brother Shawn Bonar.
“It’s a family affair for all of us, for sure,” Curtis noted. “Cory started out in this car. He did very well. My brother Shawn (Bonar) has been here in Fort Wayne and in our Munchkin a handful of times. He ran pretty well in it too. And everyone decided this year that it was my turn.
“It’s just a part of our legacy now. This is what we do each winter.”
Though his run in the feature wasn’t what Setser had hoped for, finishing a lap down in eighth, he still made it to the checkered flag and considered that an achievement given all the odds against him.
“Everything was gravy after we knew we were in the show,” Setser said with a smile.
– In contrast to Setser, who made his first Rumble feature start, Joe Liguori saw his streak of 14 straight national midget A-mains at the Rumble come to a surprising end.
Liguori, who was hampered by an outside-lane starting spot in his heat race after a tough qualifying effort, found himself relegated to a last chance race when he failed to transfer out of the final heat.
From there, Liguori spun early while battling Thomas Schrage for a transfer spot in the LCR, rallied back to fifth at the finish of the 12-lap sprint, but fell two positions short of making a 15th straight main event.
Dave Darland holds the Rumble’s “Ironman” record, qualifying for 16 national midget features in succession from 2004-’11.
– Liguori wasn’t the only driver to endure Rumble heartbreak on Friday. Both of the Brad Hayes Racing young guns experienced a rough ride in their national midgets as well.
Jackson Macenko, a 500 Sprint Tour regular who still runs occasional midget races as his schedule allows, came one spot shy of racing his way into the show through the first last chance race.
Then, in the second Last Chance Showdown, Schrage was running third on the final lap and set to move into the A-main when he was tagged from behind by Rumble rookie Cole Sink in the last corner.
The contact sent both Schrage and Sink around, ending their attempts to make the Friday feature and allowing Charlie Schultz to sneak around both of them from fifth place.
Schultz took the final transfer spot after starting 11th before issues in the main left him 10th in that race.
– John Ivy’s non-winged 600cc micro sprint victory Friday night was his sixth in that class, extending his own Rumble record for non-winged micro wins.
Ivy raced in all three premier classes Friday, driving his own winged and non-winged micros and wheeling the No. 98 Randy Burrow-owned car in the national midget main. He finished fifth in that 50-lap contest.
– Two-time Rumble winner Nick Hamilton was selling t-shirts for $10 each in the 3K Racing pit area Friday, with all proceeds from the shirt sales set to be awarded to a standout quarter midget racer during opening ceremonies Saturday evening.
Hamilton ran sixth for Mel and Don Kenyon in the yellow No. 16, his 15th career Rumble A-main start.
– The day’s only major incident occurred during Senior Predator go-kart practice Friday morning, when Jordan Wright’s kart got out of the groove and pounded the safety barriers on the backstretch.
Wright was tended to by safety workers and EMTs before being transported by ambulance to a local hospital for further evaluation.
– Saturday’s preliminaries will be headlined by the $2,000-to-win John Limbacher Memorial Race for Clone 360 go-karts, the sixth edition of the event honoring the late owner of Limbacher Extreme Power.
Shawn Kluck is the two-time defending Limbacher Memorial winner. Jake Shelley won the inaugural running in 2017, followed by Dustin Heath (2018) and Philip Schneider (2019).
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