The Little 500 at Anderson is one of the biggest non wing sprint car races in the country. I am particularly into it because it is on pavement which is my specialty. I had never run the race until last year when I got the call of a lifetime from a well respected car owner to race his car. His name is Bob East and he has fielded cars since I wasn’t even born yet. Last year at the Little 500 was Bob and I’s first time working together. We overcame some adversity early in the race to salvage a 5th place finish. We both knew we had more in the tank so he asked me to drive for him at the race again this year.
As a longtime Indy 500 super fan, I love how the Little 500 format works. It is modeled as closely as possible to the month of May at Indy. We spend a whole week at the track. Tuesday and Wednesday are practice days followed by pole day on Thursday and bump day on Friday. The race is held Saturday night and is 500 laps around the high banked quarter mile. This year we had decent speed on the Tuesday and Wednesday practice days, but we were still searching for a little more. We had a car that we knew would race well, but we were worried about laying down a good qualifying run. (And did I mention qualifying is based off of a 4 lap average? Awesome!) This can be frustrating for a driver and team because you aren’t exactly sure what the car needs. To add to the pressure, Bob asked “You know what you do when you’re looking for that last tenth?” Followed by “You look at the driver.” When a guy like that puts all of the pressure in your lap, it kicks up the adrenaline just a little bit for qualifying day. We laid down 4 pretty strong laps and qualified 5th for the big race.
Race day of the Little 500 week is almost like a relief. You finally get to go out and do what you have been working for all winter and especially the week leading up to it. Because the race is 500 laps, teams have to make a couple pit stops so all of the teams set up camp in the middle of the small oval for the day. I ate a nice breakfast race day morning and got my signature cup of race day coffee from McDonalds. I hung out at home for awhile before I headed up to Anderson because I wanted to keep my mind off of the race as long as possible. We arrived to the track at around 3 pm, just in time for the 3:30 driver’s meeting. The meeting is when the nerves start to build up because you start to picture different scenarios that might happen in the race and you slowly get into race mode. I am not a full time driver so I am not constantly in race mode like a lot of drivers. It takes me a minute to transition back. We take the track for a final warm-up at 5:30 which is similar to carb day at Indy. It is a good way to see what your car does with a fuel load and make sure everything is perfect for the race. Following the quick warmup, the drivers are taken outside of the track for an autograph session. It is amazing to see how many people show up to Anderson Speedway for this race. People are everywhere and they are all pumped for the race. Its an electric feeling. Driver intros and pre-race festivities lead up to the race and that is when you get really focused and have final conversations with your team. I was much less nervous this year than I was last year, but there is still nothing that compares to that feeling for a sprint car driver.
Just like Indy, the field is composed of 33 cars starting in eleven rows of 3. Let me just say, 3 wide in a sprint car at Anderson is very tight. There is no room for error. I took a really conservative start this year to make sure I didn’t tear anything up in the opening laps. I would have 500 laps to pass cars. No need to get too impatient. I fell into 7th at the start and rode for awhile and dodged several wrecks. It was one of the most hectic 100 laps that I have ever been apart of. I also lost radio communication with my team somewhere near lap 80. It turned out to be one of the most frustrating things ever. The first pit stops came near the 150 lap mark. We were actually able to take the lead in the pits. I then lead the next 150-200 laps. It was an amazing experience to lead the Little 500 for that long. The last pit stop got us though. A miscommunication due to the lack of a radio followed by an impact gun malfunction caused us to lose 3 spots in the pits. I fell back to 4th. I was able to get back up to 3rd before the final caution came out with 40 laps to go. It was pretty cool that there were 3 of us on the lead lap after 460 laps around a quarter mile. I made a couple attempts to move up during the last 40 laps but the car just wouldn’t quite cooperate. We ended up with a podium finish of 3rd. It was a little frustrating because we lead so long but 3rd place in the biggest race of the year is nothing to hang our heads on. It is amazing how emotionally draining the race is. You have to hold your focus and adrenaline for 500 laps that are completed in under 12 seconds under green flag conditions. I could barely focus after the race. I never slept better than the night after the race. (But not for too long; had to make it to the big track Sunday morning!)
It is such an honor to race for one of the best teams, Beast/Klatt, the last two years. They are true racers who always provide me with great cars. That can be tough to find in racing. We couldn’t do it without our sponsors Sam Pierce Chevrolet and Parker Machinery along with the support of Terry Klatt. I am also so appreciative of the entire Beast team who worked so hard and supported me all week.
Above is the Beast/Klatt car that I drove in the 2015 Little 500
Thanks to my longtime friend Morgan Clason for snapping this picture during the autograph session!
Post race with my Mom and sister. They are so supportive of me! I was so tired I could barely stand for this picture haha
Thanks for reading!