C. Bloom 2019 Adj Online
DAVE NEARPASS main photo, DAVID SINK insert photo

Jeff Bloom, 50 Years later

On May 28, 2022, Jeff Bloom will celebrate the 50th anniversary of his first Little 500 victory in 1972. Fifty years later Bloom is preparing for his 43rd start in the 500-lap sprint car classic at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway. At 72 years of age, the three-time Little 500 winner is showing few signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Bloom arrived at the 1972 Little 500 as a 22-year-old rookie, although he had been running supermodifieds since 1967. In fact, he had never even witnessed the race in person before making his initial start in the 500-lap event on the quarter-mile asphalt oval.

Butch Wilkerson dominated the racing, leading a whopping 412 laps. Wilkerson was forced to the pits on lap 457. Bloom, who started 22nd, took command and never looked back.

A. 1972 Online
Jeff Bloom in victory lane after winning the 1972 Little 500 at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway. NSSN Archives photo

Bloom needed a little help from Lady Luck, as he spun his car late to avoid a multi-car crash late in the race. Bloom’s car was one of the few with an on-board clutch. He quickly engaged the clutch and kept the car rolling, losing very little time.

Despite a protest by runner-up Wilkerson, who believed he’d won the race, Bloom was declared the winner.

“The winter before my first Little 500 we had built a supermodified that we had been running,” explained Bloom. “A good friend of mine that I did a lot of hunting and fishing with, Ray Wright, suggested I build a sprint car. He said, ‘You’re running all these races for a couple hundred bucks to win. You need to covert that thing into a sprint car and go run the Little 500, So that’s what we did that winter. We converted it to a sprint car. It had a square cage on it. We cut the square cage off and put a round, bent, regular sprint car cage on it. I did the body work. I got the nose and the tail tank off a roadster and made them work.”

Tire choice was important to Bloom’s victory.

“1972 was the first year that anybody had run Hoosier Tires there,” Bloom recalled. “I was the first one to run the race on Hoosier Tires. They were good enough I never had to change a tire. All we had to do was fuel. Most everybody was running Firestone and Race Master tires.

“Nobody realized it, but we ran the Hoosiers two weeks earlier there during a 50-lap Little 500 tune-up race. I don’t think anybody paid attention to me. I started 22nd. They weren’t the best tires to qualify on. I ended up fourth in only 50 laps. I told my dad, ‘We can win this race if the car doesn’t go away.’ We had a notion that this could happen.”

B. 2022 Car Online
Jeff Bloom during 500 Sprint Tour media day earlier this year. DAVID SINK PHOTO

“I told my dad before the race that I was just going to cruise, follow people and pass when I can,” Bloom continued. “I was going to take it easy and stay out of trouble the first 300 laps. Then I was going to start racing after that. That’s exactly what I did.

“Late in the race, I spun coming off turn four because the track was blocked with a crash. Three or four guys got together in front of me. I’m going into three and they’re crashing coming off four. I just turned down to the infield and spun the car, but I had a clutch. I just pulled the clutch back, pulled out and kept going.”

Bloom is pulling out all the stops for this year’s race in celebration of the 50-year anniversary of his 1972 victory. He skipped last year’s Little 500 due to a lack of sponsorship. This year, he has purchased a Beast chassis he will use in the event.

“To me this milestone is monumental. To some people it may not be. It probably will never be done again,” Bloom explained. “We do have some sponsorship lined up. Not enough for all of it just yet.”

The past decade Bloom hasn’t participated in many non-winged asphalt races outside of the Little 500. He has chosen to primarily race winged asphalt sprint cars, and in particular, Must See Racing events. He feels this series makes the best financial sense to compete based on purse, point fund money and tire costs.

“The main reason is there haven’t been that many non-winged events the past several years,” Bloom said. “We can easily do both. I’ve got five sprint cars in my garage. I got cars to do both, big tracks and short tracks. But it’s really a dollars and cents thing. You gotta do what you gotta do to be able to afford it. My wife, Linda, and I are both retired and on a fixed income. We can’t take money out of our daily life money to go racing. I don’t own a business. I don’t have that extra money that doesn’t matter whether you win or not.”

D. 1991 Online
The winner’s interview after Jeff Bloom’s third Little 500 triumph in 1991. DAVID SINK PHOTO

Bloom has been victorious with a variety of different series over the years, including the USAC National Sprint Car Series, USAC Silver Crown Series, Hoosier Outlaw Sprint Series, Tri-Sac, Must See Racing, ASA and Auto Value Super Sprints.

He was inducted into the Little 500 Hall of Fame in 1996, the Michigan Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2000 and the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 2013.

There have been a handful of opportunities for Bloom to pursue the big leagues of motorsports but bad luck or bad timing thwarted those dreams more than once.
While running a USAC stock car race at Trenton, N.J., in 1975, Bloom caught the attention of team owner Roger Penske.

“I had been really running good in the USAC stock cars in 1975. I had just won at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds three weeks earlier,” Bloom remembered. “Late in the race at Trenton, I was passing A.J. Foyt and went through the dog leg. The way the body was built on this car, it rolled the tire off the left rear and I spun. It broke a shock and I went down through the infield. We ended up not winning. Five laps later, Foyt popped a valve and was out of the race. We both were a half a lap ahead of third. We would have won that one, too, but we didn’t.”

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