By T.J. Buffenbarger
- All too often the Little 500 is beleaguered with bad weather. The 2014 edition though was greeted with warm temperatures and sunshine. Fans responded with one of the largest crowds ever to see a Little 500. During driver introductions we overheard one Anderson Speedway official talking about all three parking lots being full and having to find parking for more cars.
- Several of the stronger cars were eliminated from contention before the halfway park. Little 500 rookie Kyle Hamilton brought out he first caution and went down several laps, Aaron Pierce crashed while leading on lap 44, and Clauson made contact with a lapped car and stopped in turn two just a handful of laps after Pierce’s incident. After halfway the jinx of leading was completed by Shane Cottle’s engine expiring on lap 386.
- Jacob Wilson’s pit stops were the turning point in the race. Wilson’s crew used their 30 second stops to perfection and uplift Wilson in position to drive for the victory. The second pit stop after a caution working lap 341 kept Wilson on the same lap as Shane Cottle which proved to be instrumental in winning the race on Saturday.
- Before the race several teams discussed a possible plan to short pit before the traditional 200-250 window. Shane Cottle, Jerry Coons, Jr., and Jo Jo Helberg all used this strategy and all three were in contention during the later portion of the event. Wilson’s quick pit stop though put him on the same lap as those who short pitted and Cottle lost an engine while leading.
- Danny Smith made his first start in the Little 500 since 1979 when he was the co-winner of the event. Smith drove for Mike Blake, who ironically gave Smith his very first ride in a sprint car in 1974. Unfortunately a left front brake issue was discovered during warm ups that could not be repaired in time for the race. Smith soldered on and was up to 12th place when he tangled with Bryan Clauson between turns three and four. Smith cited wanting to race the Little 500 one more time in his career as the reason behind competing this year.
- Former winner Brian Tyler started off a nightmarish week for the Contos Racing team that is based just a few minutes from Anderson Speedway. Tyler pounded the turn three wall after the left front wheel came off the car. Tyler called around to find another car and found the Banjo Racing #51 car siting with only the engine in the car. After a non-stop 10 hour assembly session Tyler put the car into the top 15 in qualifications and was running near the front until his engine expired just past the hallway mark.
- Jarrett Andretti became the first in his family to compete in the Little 500. Unfortunately Andretti found the wall on lap 94 and was taken out of contention. During the entire day Jarrett and his father John seemed to be enjoying the entire atmosphere of the Little 500.
- Chris Neuenschwander and Geoff Kaiser turned in noteworthy performances Saturday during the Little 500. Kaiser filling in for the injured Tyler Rohrig ended hung around the top five most of the day finishing fourth. The race was the first Little 500 effort for both Kaiser and the Speed Chasers’ race team. Neuenschwander also hung around the top five most the day driving Ron Koehler’s car until an incident on lap 427 stalled his effort. Neuenschwander recovered from the incident to finish sixth.