By T.J. Buffenbarger
The 71st edition of the Pay Less Little 500 presented by UAW is in the books. Here are my immediate takeaways from the event:
- Kody Swanson was at the wrong 500 this weekend. Swanson’s dominance not only in the Pay Less Little 500 presented by UAW, but in various open wheel divisions the past several seasons should make him a shoe in for a ride during the month of May at Indianapolis. Swanson put in a dominant performance essentially holding a lap to himself toward the end.
Maybe its Swanson’s mild-mannered nature, but he deserves a chance at the Brickyard sooner than later. Even some potential issues with his steering box couldn’t derail Swanson and his Nolen Racing team as the problem was resolved during the first pit stop. On track Swanson was in a league of his own the entire night with the result on Saturday’s race never in doubt.
- Chris Windom finished a race this week. After having a stretch of incredibly bad luck crashing hard at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis with the only good fortune being the ability to walk away from the crashes, Windom put out a gutsy performance after all of those big crashes to score a fifth place finish. Under normal circumstance Windom and car owner Jason Goacher may not be pleased with fifth, but considering how most of the week went for Windom it was a small victory.
- One of the key moments took place mid-way through the race when Bobby Santos III was penalized for passing the pace truck under caution following the pit stops on lap 199. Santos eventually got back on the lead lap and was running laps close to Swanson’s for a short period of time, but in the end Santos was resigned to the same fate as everyone else looking at Swanson’s back bumper.
- There were contenders…then there weren’t. Pit stops eliminated contenders quickly again as several drivers were caught out after both rounds of stops. Just like last year’s race caution periods were difficult to come by late with more than half of the field eliminated. When the caution finally appeared on lap 344 none of the leaders took a chance of another caution. Eight cars were left on the lead lap after the first cycle, but the second cycle eliminated Wilson and Gerster falling laps down in the pit area. This came after Wilson made an exceptional pit stop that moved him up several positions during the first round of stops.
- It doesn’t matter if someone dominates or if it comes down to a close finish, the Little 500 is an amazing race. From the pre-race pageantry to watching drivers pick their way through traffic for three hours there is nothing else like it. If you haven’t been to this race, the Little 500 needs to be added to your sprint car bucket list.