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15-year-old sets mark with Rumble victory

Justin Peck is so young, he still needs his mother to tag along to sign his minor release form.

And as for post-race celebrations?

“IHOP’s where it’s at,” the 15-year-old from Monrovia said, grinning. “I’ll stick to milk.”

At the rate he’s going, Peck may be emptying a bottle in the winner’s circle at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway one day.

The high school freshman put his name in the record book Saturday night, surviving a late-race duel with Russ Gamester to become the youngest winner in the 16-year history of the Rumble in Fort Wayne indoor midget classic. One day earlier, Gamester, 47, had become the event’s oldest winner.

“Indescribable,” Peck said as a parade of fans asked for a photo or autograph. “Best deal I’ve ever had. I hope every young kid coming up can have the same experience I did.”

Peck made an auspicious debut at the Memorial Coliseum Expo Center last year, finishing second on Friday and third on Saturday while also sailing into the Turn 1 fence.

“He’s been telling me all fall he’s going to win the Rumble,” his father, Steve, said.

Peck, driving a Volkswagen-powered Beast for Michigan’s Steve Clay, inherited a front-row starting position because of a scratch, beat pole-sitter Lynsey Liguori into the first turn and looked like he might lead all 50 laps.

But Gamester eventually reeled him in, passing Peck on the inside with eight laps to go when the youngster got into Turn 2 too hard.

“I thought I was done,” Peck said.

Instead, Gamester developed an engine problem, and Peck nudged his way past with just two laps remaining. Gamester’s engine finally blew in Turn 4 on the last lap, relegating him to a ninth-place finish.

Mike Fedorcak, subbing for the injured Tony Stewart, wound up second, with Grant Galloway, Billy Hulbert and Derek Bischak completing the top five before a near-capacity crowd.

Peck erased the record of Bobby East, who was 17 when he won in 2001.

Liguori and her husband, Joe, gained distinction as both made the 16-car feature. But they also became the first husband and wife to crash each other out, tangling on the backstretch in the early going.

Peck expects to race USAC and POWRi midgets on dirt in 2014 as he continues on a path he hopes will lead to Daytona or Indianapolis.

“I don’t even know what I was doing when I was 15,” the 59-year-old Fedorcak mused. “But I wasn’t racing.”

Matt Janisch won the accompanying winged outlaw modified midget feature after John Ivy dropped out with five laps to go. Blane Culp topped Spencer Bayston in the non-winged dirt modified midget feature. Both classes are for 600-cubic-centimeter-powered cars.

Brandon Dunn captured three of the seven kart features; Dustin Heath won two. Sheldon Oberle and Tayte Williamson bagged the others.

Zeb Wise, Evan Foster, Addison Lushin, Aaron Leffel, Chase Burda, Bryce Massingill and Nicole Cannon all won in quarter midgets.