By T.J. Buffenbarger, image courtesy of Jim Fisher / FSC Pictorial
The Little 500 is a bucket list sprint car race. Every hard core sprint car fan should attend it at least once in their lifetime. Is the Little 500 for everyone? Probably not, I tend to find people ether love it or do not care for it. The format is something that is great to do once per year, but I am glad there are not races like this year round. Sprint cars only race 500 laps once a year and it happens this Saturday at Anderson Speedway.
The Little 500 is organized mayhem like no other.
From the pomp and circumstance of the opening ceremonies to the crazy start of 33 sprint cars three wide on a high banked ¼-mile oval, there is nothing about the Little 500 that is normal. Taking cues from the Big 500 drivers and introduced, taps is played, and our country is honored with a prolonged ceremony.
The Little 500 is also the highest paying pavement sprint car race in the world. Saturday’s winner will pocket somewhere in the neighborhood of $25,000, a total purse of $123,000, and plenty of contingencies for all kinds of different achievements during the weekend.
When the cars roll away there is a low umble that is overpowering. Then the excitement hits a peak when all 33 cars fall into the eleven rows of three. Unlike Indy where the field is spread out for the start, the Little 500 start is terrifyingly tight. Sometimes things go well. In 2003 the field made it well over 40 laps before the first caution, sometimes the field does not make it through two corners.
Once the race commences the rhythm sets in early. Fast cars rocket around the top of the track while slower cars remain down low. The Little 500 doesn’t just have a little bit of traffic; the lapped cars resemble major city rush hour traffic with sprint cars for three hours.
Little 500 pit stops are the most enjoyable in sprint car racing. Every car must make two pit stops, one before and after the halfway point. Pit stops during most sprint car events are triggered by too many caution laps and not being able to hold enough fuel. Little 500 pit stops are generally conducted by complete amateurs that make at one event every season. After service is completed cars pushed away as the race continues, sometimes under green flag conditions. Equipment ranges to exotic refueling rigs to teams using fuel jugs and a funnel.
After the night is done the winner drinks milk in victory lane and fans go into the pit area to meet with the stars that put on the most unique show in sprint car racing.
For the diehard sprint car fan that’s been to Williams Grove, Perris, Skagit, Eldora, Knoxville, and every worldwide, there is nothing more unique than 500 laps at Anderson in May to round out your sprint car bucket list. The end result might be that the Little 500 is not your thing, or you may end up like me and put it down as a must see event, but either way its one every die hard needs to see before hanging up their race chasing gear.