ANDERSON, Indiana – The theme surrounding the 71st Pay Less Little 500 presented by UAW was the memory of Larry Contos. Sadly, Contos passed away on September 23, 2018 after an extended illness. The lifelong Anderson, Indiana resident was responsible for helping to bring national exposure to the event and creating community awareness and involvement through the Little 500 Festival. The festival was created in 1988 through his family-owned Pay Less Super Markets chain. Pay Less served as the title sponsor of the event through the time it was sold to the Kroger Co. in the early 2000’s at which time the chain’s new owners chose to continue on as title sponsor. Contos also acquired two Little 500 victories as a car owner with drivers Shane Cottle and Brian Tyler. This year’s race was officially run in his memory.
After nearly 50 entries in 2018, the car total dropped in 2019. Only 35 cars made a qualifying attempt in hopes of securing one of the coveted 33 starting positions. This, however, didn’t take away from the quality of the 2019 starting field. The depth of the field was just as strong as it has been, loaded with former winners and talent galore.
The Little 500 has become pavement sprint car racing’s all-star event, of sorts. Drivers from many different series were represented at this year’s running. It is one of the only pavement sprint car races in the country where drivers from multiple series come together to compete. Teams from the United States Auto Club (USAC), Must See Racing (MSR), Southern Sprint Car Shootout Series (SSSS), Auto Value Bumper to Bumper Super Sprints (AVBBSS), and King of the Wing (KOW) were represented. And, teams were competing for a purse in excess of $125,000.
The race was a near sell-out, which is becoming common due its popularity. The race was once again taped for a delayed two-hour telecast on MAVTV’s popular SPEED SPORT television program thanks to Must See Racing, which is the sanctioning body of the event. Ralph Sheheen and Derek Pernesiglio will anchor the telecast with Tony Bokhoven roaming the pits. The event will air July 11, 2019 at 7pm EDT (and again at 10pm). The presence of MAVTV and MSR appear to have contributed greatly to the increased popularity of the event in recent years.
The Little 500 is unique, and no other sprint car race exists like it in the world. Sprint cars don’t regularly make live pit stops or compete in long-distance events. The race is contested on a high-banked (17 degrees) quarter-mile oval in central Indiana the night before the Indianapolis 500. Thirty-three cars in 11 rows of three battle it out for 500 laps and it is truly a spectacle to behold.
During the 500-lap event, rules dictate that two pits stops must be completed during the race. One must be made before lap 251 and the other is at the discretion of the teams. Teams employ many different pit strategies. Many teams use NASCAR-style dump cans for fueling during pit stops while others prefer the IndyCar-style fueling towers. In addition, air jacks are beginning to be commonplace at the Little 500.
The start of the Little 500 is a beautiful sight, and one of the most electric moments in all of motorsports. 2019 was no different. The front row took off from the designated starting point and took the green in perfect harmony. It was one of the cleanest starts in recent memory.
Two-time and defending champion Kody Swanson took the lead from the start and, to everyone’s surprise, began to set a very torrid pace. Powered by a V-6, Swanson pulled away at the start and quickly built a several car-length lead on the first lap. Swanson led the first 186 laps without any serious challenges with Chris Windom and Brian Gerster in tow.
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