By T.J. Buffenbarger
ANDERSON, Ind. (May 28, 2022) — Tyler Roahrig overcame adversity to win the 74th Annual Lucas Oil Little 500 presented by UAW Saturday night at Anderson Speedway. Roahrig, from Plymouth, Indiana, bounced back from a mid-race incident that saw Bobby Santos III get upside down and Roahrig spinning down the front stretch. The red flag saved Roahrig from losing a lap, setting him up to charge back through the field to take the lead back with 125 laps to go and holding off Dakota Armstrong after a caution setup a five-lap shootout at the finish.
I try to be as mistake free as possible. I’m not saying I made a mistake when I went over top of Bobby, it was just a racing deal,” said Roahrig remorsefully even though the incident didn’t appear to be his fault. “I needed to be more aware of what was happening and what was going on. I was trying to get a run on (Santos), and then all hell broke loose on the front stretch and I went over top of them. Luckily, the the red came out. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. I can’t. I can’t believe the way it shook out. I mean, the front axles moved way back, both front shocks are bent. And it still drove good after that. I mean, it’s better to be lucky than then good.”
Roahrig started on the front row, but Brian Gerster got the jump at the start and led at the start with Kody Swanson and Roahrig in tow. They remained that way until lap 106 when Roahrig was able to get a run on Swanson, finally taking over the second position on lap 108. Roahrig did not waste any time taking the lead from Gerster on lap 111.
After a caution on lap 142 for Tanner Swanson tagging one of the water barrels coming off turn four, spilling water on the race track and white walling Swanson’s tires, setting up the start of the front runners starting to pit. On lap 198 when the caution appeared for Derek Bischak spinning, Tanner Swanson’s brother Kody ran into misfortune spinning on the front stretch after going over a wheel. Kody Swanson then went several laps down and put him out of contention for the victory.
By the time the pit stops cycled out Tanner Swanson ended up in the lead following having to pit earlier due to the incident he had to bring out the caution earlier in the race. Santos moved into second position and Roharig into third and set out after Tanner Swanson for the lead. All three drivers raced nose to tail until Shane Hollingsworth got sideways, causing Santos to check up. Roahrig and Santos made contact that caused Santos to ramp of Hollingsworth’s wheel and get upside down while Roahrig spun to the infield. Santos emerged from his car under his own power and Roahrig was able to restart at the tail end of the lead lap, but did not lose laps waiting for a push start because of the red flag.
Tanner Swanson was holding a comfortable lead when his car started to smoke, eventually causing him to be black flagged on lap 307. Two laps later Emerson Axsom spun on the backstretch and Swanson went to the pit area where his crew discovered the issue causing the leak could not be fixed, ending his evening.
After Swanson’s retirement Dakota Armstrong took over the point with Roahrig on his back bumper. As Roahrig was putting the pressure on Armstrong for the lead, the caution appeared on lap 359 when Travis Welpott spun in turn two after contact with Armstrong as Roahrig took the lead.
After the leaders pitted for the final time Scotty Hampton picked up the top spot from pitting earlier in the second half of the race. Hampton’s time up front was short lived after the lap 375 restart with Roahrig taking the lead and Dakota Armstrong moving into second.
Roahrig continued to pull away from the field until a caution with five laps to go when Ryan Newman hit the wall in turns one and two. Newman exited the car under his own power.
The restart with five laps to go put Dakota Armstrong right on Roahrig’s back bumper, but Roahrig was up for the challenge taking the victory over Armstrong, C.J. Leary, Kyle O’Gara, and Caleb Armstrong. Dalton Armstrong finished 9th to pick up hard charger and event rookie of the year honors.
Roahrig did the work behind the wheel but was quick to credit his crew for phenomenal pit stops throughout the event.
“My crew is the best, we’re all great friends. I love those guys to death and they are fast,” said Roahrig. “That’s why we practiced last night. I think we did two practices got the bugs out and the rust knocked off, and then they were doing 13-14 second stops. “That’s impressive for tires that big and being a sprint car.”
When asked about his thoughts on winning the event for a second time, Roahrig gave a humble answer indicating the magnitude of his name joining other legendary drivers with multiple Little 500 victories to their credit had not sunk in yet.
“You think of the guys that have won two or more or just multiple Little 500’s like Kody Swanson, Brian Tyler Eric Gordon, and Frank Riddle. They are all sprint car studs, just phenomenal drivers. When you think of pavement sprint car racing those are the names you think of and I don’t feel like I belong on that list. You know, I’m a late model guy that runs a sprint car. So, it is cool to win two.”