No fooling: Stewart to drive in midget race
INDIANAPOLIS -- Tony Stewart will drive a midget car again, and won't try to fool anybody.
The two-time NASCAR champion will drive in a pair of U.S. Auto Club indoor midget car races at Fort Wayne, where he won a 60-lap feature a year ago under an assumed name in an old junker he bought during a poker game the night before.
It wasn't until Stewart pulled into Victory Lane and took off his helmet that the race announcer and fans recognized him -- and became extremely excited.
"It was just a kind of a joke," USAC spokesman Dick Jordan said Tuesday. "They didn't do any advance publicity on him, because he wasn't sure he was going to run. ... This time he's allowing the promoter to advertise the fact he's coming."
The Dec. 29-30 "Rumble in Fort Wayne" will be USAC's final races of the year. Stewart has won 52 USAC features and in 1995 swept all three series championships -- Midget, Sprint and Silver Crown. He also has won at least one USAC race each year since 1991 except 1999, when he was the NASCAR Cup rookie of the year.
He decided to enter the Fort Wayne race last year during the annual Christmas poker party he attends with a bunch of his old friends from USAC.
"He said, `Hey, have you got Mike Fedorcak's number? I'll give him a call to see if he still has that car he had,' " Jordan recalled. "So he got on the phone and called him right there at the poker game and made him a deal."
Fedorcak, a longtime car owner, had the midget car, which he called the "Munchkin," in his barn in Yoder, Ind., about 10 miles south of Fort Wayne, but had not run it in years.
"We all tossed in a few bucks each at the poker game for sponsorship for his car," Jordan said. "He called the car the Our Gang Poker Special."
But Fedorcak had to work on the car before Stewart could even drive it. Meanwhile, Stewart was added to the entry list as "Mikey Fedorcak" -- Fedorcak's fictitious son from Gnawbone, Ind. -- and no one at Fort Wayne's Memorial Coliseum Expo Center knew otherwise except for the people in the pits.
"Tony had a few laps in practice, the thing was popping and banging like it was going to blow up," Jordan said. "They dialed it in, got it working, he went out and just annihilated them, won the feature.
"When he pulls in Victory Lane and climbs out, the fans just went berserk. The announcer said, `That guy looks a lot like Tony Stewart,' and it was."
Stewart said at the time that it was "definitely spur of the moment" to race again on the .1-mile indoor track.
"I love that little race car," said Stewart, who also drove Fedorcak's car to victory at Fort Wayne in 2001. "It had dust and dirt on it from not having been run in three years.
"We didn't even know if it would fire up. But with four practice laps and a qualifying lap, we were a few hundredths [of a second] off fast time. It shows how good that car is."
He'll drive the same car both nights this year.
"We've got another poker party slated prior to the race and we're all going to throw in some more sponsor money," Jordan said.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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