By T.J. Buffenbarger
It may seem early to discuss the 70th edition of the Pay Less Little 500, but that event was brought to the forefront on Friday when Hoffman Auto Racing revealed that Eric Gordon would drive for them at Anderson next season. Here are my takeaways from the Gordon/Hoffman announcement.
- Gordon returning to the Little 500 adds to what has become an increasingly deep field over the past 5-6 years at the Pay Less Little 500. The race pace has picked up significantly during that time. While Gordon has not driven in the Little 500 since 2013 he has been around spotting for teams in the event including the Hoffman team’s effort last season. While Gordon’s famous #2 entry was a stout effort it appeared evident the increasing quality of the equipment and teams competing at the Little 500 had caught up with Gordon’s effort. With the Hoffman team Gordon can focus on the driving alone. This could be the edge needed to secure Gordon’s 10th victory in the Little 500. If anyone can stay out of the seat for three years and come back to win at Anderson it’s him.Gordon being out of the seat since 2013 should not be a concern. The last few seasons Gordon ran the Little 500 was one of the few, if only starts he would make all season.
- The other news revealed with Gordon driving for the Hoffman team was Tony Stewart not competing in the 2018 edition of the Little 500. Stewart will be traveling abroard this year on Memorial Day weekend after finishing third in his first attempt at the Little 500 last season. Even though he will not compete in this year’s event I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Stewart at the Little 500.
- Gordon’s most recent Little 500 victory was in 2010. Between 1998 and his last start in 2013 Gordon has finished all 500 laps at Anderson all but three times. That is remarkable considering the number of cars on track, pit stops, and all of the other factors that go into this one of a kind event. The Hoffman team has not always had luck on their side at the Little 500 crashing out one year before the first pit stop with Tracy Hines and suffering some front end damage that Stewart was able to power through last year. On paper with the Hoffman’s preparation and Gordon’s race savy this should be an excellent combination, but at the Little 500 strange things tend to happen to even the most prepared teams. That’s why Gordon having nine wins in the event is so remarkable.
It’s nice to have some hype and speculation about the most unique sprint car race in the world before the turn of the New Year. The 2016 edition saw a record turnout, but attendance has been solid for the Little 500 since I started covering it in 2001. It will be interesting to see how many of those new fans were there to just see Stewart compete and how many were hooked into coming back this season.