T.J.’s Takeaways from the 2023 Little 500

Jake Trainor. (T.J. Buffenbarger photo)

By T.J. Buffenbarger

The 75th edition of the Little 500 at Anderson Speedway is in the books. Here are my late night/early morning takeaways.

  • I have been lucky enough to see some memorable performances in my lifetime at the racetrack in person. Jack Hewitt’s sweep of the 4-Crown Nationals, Donny Schatz winning the Knoxville Nationals after having to run the B-Main, and several others.

    What Jake Trainor and car owner Matt Seymour accomplished on Saturday at Anderson Speedway winning the 75th Little 500 goes right up on that same list of amazing accomplishments.

    Trainor drove a sprint car for the first-time last October at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park. From there he was pegged to drive the Seymour family’s second attempt at running the Little 500.

    Trainor, just 18 years of age and still a high school student teamed with 26 year old Seymour have opened eyes all week in Indiana. Trainor earning the outside front row starting position for the Little 500 turned heads and backed that up with the win Friday in the midget division at IRP.

    Seymour’s took their first crack at the Little 500 last year with Ken Schrader. After that first effort the team focused squarely on a return to Anderson next year. While Seymour felt they could win the race sometime in the next five years, the expectation was not to win it with a rookie driver in their second attempt.

    Trainor’s car visually appeared to get better as the race went on, their pit stops were flawless, and Trainor drove the race of his life and was physically spent at the end sitting on the stage for the victory interview.

    Afterwards I asked former Little 500 champion and legendary race car driver Bentley Warren if he felt like Trainor had the goods to potentially climb the ladder to the highest ranks in motorsports in the United States. Warren confirmed that without hesitation due to Trainor’s natural talent and his well-mannered demeanor. One would be hard pressed to find a better endorsement than that one from the likes of Bentley.

  • One thing to watch in any edition of the Little 500 is for mistakes or mechanical issues to take drivers out of contention. There was no shortage of that as Shane Hollingsworth, Tyler Roahrig, Kody Swanson, Tanner Swanson, C.J. Leary, Brady Bacon, and Caleb Armstrong all experienced some sort of mechanical issue that took away their chances of winning.

    The odd thing about this year’s failures are how they happened throughout the event. Instead of seeing them all happen around the same time they were almost evenly spaced out throughout the event from Brady Bacon pitting early after the first caution to C.J. Leary having issues while contending for victory late in the event.

    The way these contenders fell by the wayside made the event compelling and kept everyone wondering what might happen next after a driver fell out and a new contender would come to the forefront. Those issues gave the event a different twist than I can remember over my 22 years of coming to Anderson.

  • While on the drive back to my hotel I tried to figure out where I would rank the 2023 Little 500. After some contemplation I would place at or near the top of all of them I have attended in person.

    From Trainor’s incredible rookie victory, they rollercoaster of the contenders encountering issues I mentioned above, great racing, and incredible weather the 2023 edition will likely go down as my favorite for quite a while.

    There have been other editions that had closer finishes at the end, but from start to finish I felt the 2023 Little 500 was the most entertaining that I have attended.