Wease completes sweep as Kenyon retires
Classic Motorsports
            FORT WAYNE, Ind. – On a night when auto racing bade farewell to one of its enduring – and endearing – figures, one of his protégés honored him by driving to victory lane.
            Billy Wease, one of the scores of young drivers nurtured by the retiring Mel Kenyon, held off a relentless Dave Darland on Sunday to complete a weekend sweep of the midget features in the 12th annual “Rumble in Fort Wayne” at the Memorial Coliseum Expo Center.
            The 23-year-old Wease joined two-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart as the only drivers to win both midget features in a Rumble Series weekend. But the Noblesville, Ind., resident knew the day belonged to Kenyon, the eight-time Indianapolis 500 starter, seven-time USAC national midget champion and all-time nice guy who ended a 56-year driving career.
            “It’s such an honor to drive in Mel Kenyon’s last race,” said Wease, who remembers approaching the Hall of Famer for advice when he began driving Kenyon Cars at age 12. “He was a big part of me deciding to become a race driver. He’s done so much for racing.”
            The 76-year-old Kenyon didn’t add to his 382 career victories, but he persevered to finish ninth in the 60-lap feature after being added to the field by Rumble Series promoter Tony Barhorst. He had finished sixth on Saturday.
            “Everybody is congratulating me, and I get a little emotional,” a misty-eyed Kenyon said, pausing. “It’s over. I’m glad we got in the feature. I’d have rather have gotten in ‘lawfully,’ but we were in it -- and the car’s still in one piece.
            “Anytime you do something last, it’s one more miracle,” he said, having to pause. “It’s emotional.”
            Fellow Indy 500 veteran Tom Bigelow was among those who attended to pay tribute to Kenyon. Long before he made it to the Brickyard and became a USAC champion, Bigelow was a young driver in need of a career break. The Kenyons – Mel and his brother, Don, his lifelong chief mechanic – provided it by hiring him to drive one of their midgets at Sun Prairie, Wis.
            Bigelow never forgot, calling Kenyon a clean driver and great teacher who had time for anyone.
            “You could always run up there with him without getting in trouble,” said Bigelow, whose first Indy 500 in 1973 was Kenyon’s last. “Once in a while you’d rub, but it was purely a racing incident.
            “Mel has always done a super job.”
            A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Johnny Rutherford and current NASCAR star Ryan Newman are among those who also drove for the Kenyons early in their careers.
            Wease knows he’s not in their company, but he beamed when somebody mentioned that his name is now linked with both Kenyon and Stewart, who swept the Fort Wayne races in 2006. Stewart has won seven times at the 1/6-mile track but elected to race in Australia over the holidays.
            “I wanted to tie that,” he said. “Hopefully, one day I can break his record for Rumble wins. This was just a perfect weekend for us. I can’t say more than that.”
            Wease inherited the top spot when race-long leader Adam Wilsdon – a 14-year-old in his first weekend in a national midget – struck a tire marker on lap 45 while trying to lap Brandon Knupp. Wease held off Darland over the remaining 16 laps, with David Gough, Joe Liguori and Jon Stanbrough completing the top five.
            “I didn’t know how close the guys behind me were,” said a chagrined Wilsdon, who could have taken his time.
            Darland kept the pressure on, once tapping Wease in turn four, until a red flag waved on lap 55 to untangle the wrecked cars of Knupp and Mike Fedorcak. But Wease pulled away on the restart to woi by 2½ car-lengths.
            Darland drove despite injuring his right thumb early in the day when he ran into the back of a push truck that abruptly stopped for a stalled car. The hand swollen, he still participated in an hour-long autograph session, deciding he could wait for X-rays. To drive, he had to remove the wrapping from his hand because his glove wouldn’t fit over it.
            “We fell off (at the end),” Darland said. “Every restart, it took me at least three laps for the tires to come in. It was just bad timing on the red there at the end.”
            The midget feature capped a full day of racing that included Ryan Smith’s victory over John Ivy in winged outlaw modified midgets and Brandon Dunn’s sweep of the senior heavy and senior medium kart classes, capping a 4-for-4 weekend.
            Cole Williams repeated in MiniCup stock cars, while Chad Orth, Preston Oberle, John Hawley, Charlie Schultz and Nic Sheppard also bagged kart victories.

. Travis Ford, Austin Nemire, Jonathon Lesiecki, Ross Rankine and Danny Leaper earned trophies in JEGS quarter midgets.

            Heat, round one (8 laps) – Justen Garmenn, John Klavon Jr., Travis Ford, Richie Streicher, Trey Johnson, Mike Gass, Myles Chandler, David McKinney, Jonathon Lesiecki.
            Heat, round two (8 laps) – Streicher, Garmenn, Klavon, Johnson, Gass, Lesiecki, Chandler, McKinney, Ford.
            Feature (15 laps) – 1. Travis Ford; 2. John Klavon Jr.; 3. Justen Garmenn; 4. Trey Johnson; 5. Mike Gass; 6. Richie Streicher; 7. Jonathon Lesiecki; 8. Myles Chandler; 9. David McKinney.
            Heat, round one (8 laps) – Ross Rankine, Cooper Clouse, Austin Nemire, Chase Ridenour, Griffin Brown, Hayden Dickerson, Blake Schneider, Danny Leaper, Mox Price.
            Heat, round two (8 laps) – Nemire, Price, Rankine, Clouse, Ridenour, Brown, Schneider, Dickerson, Leaper.
            Feature (15 laps) – 1. Austin Nemire; 2. Ross Rankine; 3. Chase Ridenour; 4. Mox Price; 5. Hayden Dickerson; 6. Blake Schneider; 7. Cooper Clouse; 8. Danny Leaper; 9. Griffin Brown.
First heat, round one (8 laps) – Jonathon Lesiecki, Trey Johnson, Brittany Starke, Myles Chandler.
Second heat, round one (8 laps) – Travis Ford, Mike Gass, Mady Andrews, Kyra Yard.
Heat, round two (8 laps) – Ford, Lesiecki, Gass, Starke, Yard, Chandler, Andrews, Johnson.
Feature (15 laps) – 1. Jonathon Lesiecki; 2. Mke Gass; 3. Travis Ford; 4. Mady Andrews; 5. Trey Johnson; 6. Myles Chandler; 7. Kyra Yard; 8. Brittany Starke.
            First heat, round one (8 laps) – Austin Nemire, Ross Rankine, Griffin Brown, Starla Parsons, Jaclyn LeJeune, Jonathon Lesiecki, Jacob Brown, Alex Grino, Dustin Anderson.
            Second heat, round one (8 laps) – Chase Ridenour, Aaron Leffel, Cooper Clouse, Mox Price, Bud McCune, Alex Benovich, Carson Campbell, Hayden Dickerson.
            First heat, round two (8 laps) – Rankine, Nemire, J. Brown, Parsons, LeJeune, G. Brown, Lesiecki, Anderson, Grino.
            Second heat, round two (8 laps) – Clouse, Ridenour, Dickerson, Campbell, Price, Leffel, Benovich, McCune.
            First feature (15 laps) – 1. Hayden Dickerson; 2. Carson Campbell; 3. Jonathon Lesiecki; 4. Jaclyn LeJeune; 5. Dustin Anderson; 6. Alex Grino; 7. Bud McCune.
            Second feature (15 laps) – 1. Ross Rankine; 2. Cooper Clouse; 3. Austin Nemire; 4. Griffin Brown; 5. Mox Price; 6. Starla Parsons; 7. Jacob Brown; 8. Chase Ridenour; 9. Aaron Leffel.
First heat, round one (8 laps) – Blake Schneider, Danny Leaper, Jared Leffler, Ryan Barr, Richard Johnson, Garrett Weil.
Second round, round one (8 laps) – Louis McGrath, Zeb Wise, Wesley Sargent, Austin Nigh.
First heat, round two (8 laps) – Leaper, Schneider, Leffel, Barr, Weil, Johnson.
Second heat, round two (8 laps) – Wise, McGrath, Sargent, Nigh.
Feature (15 laps) – 1. Danny Leaper; 2. Louis McGrath; 3. Zeb Wise; 4. Jared Leffel; 5. Blake Schneider; 6. Ryan Barr; 7. Richard Johnson; 8. Garrett Weil; 9. Wesley Sargent; 10. Austin Nigh.

Saturday Results -

            Heat, round one (8 laps) – John Klavon Jr., Richie Streicher, Justen Garmenn, Jonathon Lesiecki, Michael Gass, Trey Johnson, David McKinney, Myles Chandler, Travis Ford.
            Heat, round two (8 laps) – Klavon Jr., Streicher, Garmenn, Ford, Lesiecki, Johnson, McKinney, Chandler, Gass.
            Feature (15 laps) – 1. Richie Streicher; 2. Travis Ford; 3. John Klavon Jr.; 4. Michael Gass; 5. Jonathon Lesiecki; 6. Trey Johnson; 7. Justen Garmenn; 8. David McKinney; 9. Myles Chandler.
            Heat, round one (8 laps) – Cooper Clouse, Mox Price, Austin Nemire, Chase Ridenour, Hayden Dickerson, Ross Rankine, Griffin Brown, Danny Leaper, Blake Schneider.
            Heat, round two (8 laps) – Clouse, Rankine, Nemire, Ridenour, Brown, Price, Schneider, Leaper.
            Feature (20 laps) – 1. Cooper Clouse; 2. Ross Rankine; 3. Chase Ridenour; 4. Mox Price; 5. Austin Nemire; 6. Griffin Brown; 7. Blake Schneider; 8. Hayden Dickerson; 9. Danny Leaper.
First heat, round one (8 laps) – Mady Andrews, Jonathon Lesiecki, Michael Gass, Travis Ford, Kyra Yard, Trey Johnson.
Second heat (8 laps) – Nick Ley, Dakota Busche, Myles Chandler, Brittany Starke.
First heat, round two (8 laps) – Ford, Lesiecki, Gass, Yard, Andrews, Johnson.
Second heat, round two (8 laps) – Busche, Ley, Starke, Chandler.
Feature (15 laps) – 1. Nick Ley; 2. Travis Ford; 3. Jonathon Lesiecki; 4. Myles Chandler; 5. Trey Johnson; 6. Michael Gass; 7. Mady Andrews; 8. Brittany Starke; 9. Kyra Yard; 10. Dakota Busche.
            First heat, round one (8 laps) – Chase Ridenour, Aaron Leffel, Ross Rankine, Austin Nemire, Jacob Brown, Hayden Dickerson, Griffin Brown, Jonathon Lesiecki, Alex Grino.
            Second heat, round one (8 laps) – Cooper Clouse, Mox Price, Carson Campbell, Alex Benovich, Jaclyn LeJeune, Starla Parsons, Dustin Anderson, Bud McCune.
            First heat, round two (8 laps) – J. Brown, G. Brown, Rankine, Leffel, Nemire, Ridenour, Dickerson, Lesiecki, Grino.
            Second heat, round two (8 laps) – Clouse, Campbell, Parsons, Price, Benovich, LeJeune, McCune, Anderson.
            First feature (15 laps) – 1. Austin Nemire; 2. Hayden Dickerson; 3. Jaclyn LeJeune; 4. Griffin Brown; 5. Dustin Anderson; 6. Bud McCune; 7. Alex Grino; 8. Starla Parsons.
            Second feature (15 laps) – 1. Aaron Leffel; 2. Chase Ridenour; 3. Mox Price; 4. Cooper Clouse; 5. Ross Rankine; 6. Jacob Brown; 7. Alex Benovich.
First heat, round one (8 laps) – Danny Leaper, Ryan Barr, Austin Nigh, Kaden Atkins, Wesley Sargent, Jared Leffel.
Second heat, round one (8 laps) – Zeb Wise, Blake Schneider, Garrett Weil, Evan Gregory, Richard Johnson, Louis McGrath.
First heat, round two (8 laps) – Leffel, Leaper, Nigh, Atkins, Sargent, Barr.
Second heat, round two (8 laps) – Schneider, McGrath, Weil, Wise, Gregory, Johnson.
Feature (15 laps) – 1. Danny Leaper; 2. Blake Schneider; 3. Louis McGrath; 4. Jared Leffel; 5. Kaden Atkins; 6. Wesley Sargent; 7. Zeb Wise; 8. Austin Nigh; 9. Ryan Barr; 10. Garrett Weil; 11. Evan Gregory; 12. Richard Johnson.




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