“Racer” Rich Corson still a contender year after year


By Zach Tasker
With the annual Rumble in Fort Wayne indoor midget races this coming weekend (December 26-28), open-wheels.com thought it would be timely to shine a spotlight on a former winner of the prestigious pavement midget racing event. The 2003 and 2005 champion of the Rumble in Fort Wayne, Rich Corson has been through a lot in his racing career. Like always though he will be aiming for the top prize in the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Northeast Indiana this weekend.
The small 1/6 mile flat concrete oval has tight confines and can make even the best short track driver intimidated “To win at Fort Wayne you need dedication. Being at the right spot at the right time, and I’ve always liked short tracks. For me, it’s just a different animal than anything I have raced outdoors, and I like short tracks and I just love it and it’s just great. The main competition is right there, and everybody is on top of each other and you have to make the right moves and making quick calls helps.”
The driver of the #15 Dimmicks Water & Sewer/Autism Awareness Hawk/Fontana knows that the close and tight quarters of racing open wheeled cars indoors can lead to lots of contact, hurt feelings and frustration. However the Markham, Illinois native knows even indoors you have to race people the way you would like to be raced. “If you try to get somebody back from the night before you usually get yourself in more trouble than what its worth. To me I’ve always looked at it as the less banging and stuff I do against other competitors the more respect they give you over the long period of time. When you get that respect then, other guys will give it back to you. It makes it to where we can rub on each other, but some of the out of control stuff usually gets you in more trouble than it’s worth.”
Looking at the entry list for this years Rumble in Fort Wayne shows that like every winter just making the 16 car feature each night will be a big chore. 41 cars are on the entry list, including one surprise. Rich Corson’s son, RJ will be making his racing debut. Not his Rumble in Fort Wayne or national midget debut, but his racing debut. “He has been playing baseball for several years, and he is very good at it and he never had an interest in racing before. All of the sudden now that he is in college he started working with me more, and I got sick and he spent a little more time around my garage. He decided he wanted to try it and its time to give him a shot at it. I think I can get the car pretty good for him at Fort Wayne as I’ve been there a lot and so it’s time to put him in it so I can step away here in a couple of years. I’m not giving up yet, but I want to start getting him ready for it.”
Corson plans a similar schedule in 2015 to this season, running a partial Short Track Auto Racing Series (STARS) national midget schedule. “I’m doing a limited schedule for myself and I’m going to concentrate on putting my son RJ in an IRS (Illini Racing Series) car so he can do some Grundy (County Speedway) stuff. I would like to to get him an IRS car so he can run some dirt, because the pavement series, there is just not enough out here around him anymore for him to be doing that. I figure if I can get rid of some of my pavement stuff in the winter months and buy him a nice dirt car , he can get a dirt IRS motor and let him play with the sportsman for a year and take it from there and see what he wants to do with it.”
The Rumble format this year will see three full shows (practice, qualifying, heat races, b mains, and features) for the national midgets on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. An overall points champion will be crowned on Sunday, who will receive a $1,000 bonus, a lofty prize for blue collar short track racers. This is a deviation in format from recent years that just saw two days of racing and no overall title holder. “I think it is going to change the driving style because now the guys running have to make a choice do I run 3rd or do I run 2nd. If you are running 3rd, and you know you can clinch the championship, I think a guy has to rely on where he is at and what he’s doing that final night. In the past, you would run wide open for two nights and it doesn’t mean anything. I know several years ago I won the overall Rumble Championship in Fort Wayne and the RCA dome. When I went to the RCA Dome, starting the feature I knew I had to finish in the top 8 to become the overall champion for the indoor series. It was in my mind that I knew I had to race hard but at the same time I had to keep myself out of trouble to get that finish to get that championship, and a championship goes a long ways for you in racing.”
For Corson, Fort Wayne brings a mixed bag of emotions every year. Just a couple of years ago, whilst in Fort Wayne for the Rumble, Corson collapsed and was rushed to the hospital being diagnosed with pneumonia. He would suffer a heart attack a few months later. The three-decade veteran of midget racing was in the toughest race of his life. He returned to Fort Wayne to race in 2013 and looks to have an even better outing this time around. “My main thing is, last year I went there, I struggled through health issues and I relied on a lot of people to get my racecar ready which I never have done before. I showed I could still mentally and physically do this and now I have to show that I am still mechanically inclined, and I can put a race car on the track just as good as anybody else can. I think that is the most important thing for me. Just taking a car well prepared like I have for several years before the last two years so I can put a car on the racetrack and still be competitive. The last two years I struggled and a lot of that was relying on other people. I had a death in the family; I was sick, and I had to get it back down to basics on what I know and to get the car prepared in the garage. That’s what it’s all about for me.”
Short track open wheel racing is littered with tons of great stories of champion drivers and the paths they have taken. Rich Corson is one of those stories, and he is determined not to be done making history yet. Open-wheels.com will have more coverage of the Rumble in Fort Wayne throughout the weekend so keep checking back on our website.

Tony Tellez

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