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.