This year I was able to experience my first Anderson Speedway Little 500. It was one of the most unique events I have ever been a part of and had an atmosphere all of its own.
This year marked the 73rd running of the event, and in that time it has created a near-cult following from both fans and participants.
I thoroughly enjoyed my rookie running of the Little 500, even though our team had several things working against us. First of all, it had been 12 years since I had run any race on pavement, and it wasn’t necessarily my strong suit when I did do it regularly. Also, Rob Hoffman started with a blank sheet of paper and built a car from the ground up at the Hoffman Auto Racing headquarters.
This was an enormous undertaking, and due to time constraints and weather not cooperating our testing time was limited.
It was great getting to work alongside Rob and the original Hoffman crew again, and we picked up right where we left off. We were able to find enough speed at the last minute to qualify mid-pack. Another obstacle we faced was the fact that I had to run back and forth from Anderson to Terre Haute each day, which limited our track time further. Rob had a great strategy for the race, and we were able to stay out of trouble and come home with a ninth-place finish as well as earn rookie-of-the-year honors.
There are so many things that make the Little 500 unique. First, sprint cars at the high-banked Anderson Speedway are pretty impressive in and of themselves, and qualifying sees the cars circling the quarter-mile oval in the low 11-second bracket. Put 33 cars on the track at once and there is not much free real estate remaining. Adding to that, the race is started three-wide as a nod to the “big” 500.
The start was probably the part of the race I was most concerned with, being a rookie, but fortunately for me I started near veterans Brian Tyler and Eric Gordon, so the first few laps went smoothly.
Sprint cars having pit stops is another exclusive feature of the Little 500. The ingenuity, creativity, and variety of approaches the teams use in constructing and organizing their pit equipment is impressive to say the least. Many cars utilize onboard air jacks and sophisticated fuel couplings to make their stops as quick as possible. The top teams can complete a pit stop in 13 seconds, however, they then must hope for the good fortune of a push truck being available when they are ready.
The most obvious difference in the Little 500 and any other sprint car race is the fact that it is, of course, 500 laps. The name “sprint” car came about for a reason, and they are not traditionally designed or constructed for such a long-distance event. Once again, race teams prove their resourcefulness and do a phenomenal job of bringing some extremely durable machines to compete and weather the storm of 500 laps.
The entire staff at Anderson Speedway pour their hearts into the annual running of the Little 500 and are extremely accommodating to both teams and fans. The fans of the Little 500 are some of the most passionate and loyal that I have seen, and help to create an atmosphere that is infectious.
My parents, wife, and several friends, none of whom had ever attended the race, all said they had a great time spectating and plan to come again. My plans are to be at the 74th running of the Little 500, and if you have not been, I suggest you make it a part of your plans as well.