ANDERSON, IN, May 27, 2000 - Old friends, new friends, old drivers and rookies, same old race track nestled in the middle of the Guide Lamp complex in Anderson, the Little 500 is a national institution, second only to the Big 500...
ANDERSON, IN, May 27, 2000 - Old friends, new friends, old drivers and rookies, same old race track nestled in the middle of the Guide Lamp complex in Anderson, the Little 500 is a national institution, second only to the Big 500 in the eyes of many. Certainly it is to the complement of Florida drivers, eight in number, and rookies-count nine, and to Benny Rapp at 72, the oldest driver. Thinks of it, the youngest Shaun Farr at 17 against the eldest, Benny Rapp. What a field! This writer has been going to Anderson Speedway all the way back to 1956 when it was called Sun Valley Speedway. Sam Skinner won the first in 1947 which most Americans know only from reading a history book. A look at those old roadsters leaves one in total disbelief that they could run 100 laps much less 500 and on those skinny little recapped tires.
The character of this race is defined by the Indy 500 forty miles down the road. Qualifying is four laps, starters number 33 fastest eligible, bumping takes place, etc. The major difference is that Anderson is a tiny 1/4 mile oval, very high banked, but small. Thirty three cars make for drivers having to work intense traffic from beginning to end.
Pole sitter Dave Steele brought the field down for a clean start. Steele leaped far ahead with no traffic to mess with but that only lasted three laps when the tail enders started to be lapped, sometimes five at a time. Benny Rapp is the first car in trouble as he slows on the backstretch and heads to the pit to repair a minor oil leak.
Then the first of several crashes takes place in turn one as Kenny Hamilton, Derek Davidson, and Shaun Farr, tangle and Rich Leavell hits the wall very hard several times. His day is done. Hamilton loses 23 laps but soon is underway again.
Leader Steele brings out a yellow on lap 43 when he loses his front bumper in turn one. No more cold nosing back markers for the leader.
On lap 53 Brad Armstrong and Bo Hartley collide in what witnesses described as a stuck throttle situation. Hartley went nose first into the wall just ahead of the exit gate in turn three and a red flag had to be thrown to remove Hartley to ambulance. He was taken to St. Joseph Hospital where, thankfully, he was diagnosed with a mild concussion and released before the race ended.
By lap 61 at 8:42 PM the first rain shower slowed proceedings. It fell again more heavily on lap 108 and brought out another red flag. At this point Dave Steele pitted and was alleged to have had a crewman perform work on the car during the red. He was penalized one full lap resulting in him being 11th in the running when the green resumed track action. Steele gained all that back and by lap 178 was again reported leading the top four, Steele, Tony Elliott, Childers and Jeff Bloom.
By lap 191, nearing half way, USACer Tony Elliott began to assert himself and moved nearly a lap ahead of second place Childers who was looking over his shoulder at Steele now up to third place on the board.
Childers, Elliott, Steele and Todd Kane are shown on the lead lap at the 253 mark. Steele is honking at Elliott and claims him by lap 286. Steele then looks at Childers ahead, moves around him and laps him at the 333 mark. At 361 it is raining again, a short delay under yellow. Steel remains in charge all the way up to lap 475 and on 491 a pit fire develops on Todd Kane's car and officials call for an immediate red flag to deal with it. Fire in the pits is a constant hazard at Anderson and they deal with it promptly, no injuries.
This is the point where Dave Steele's fortunes began to turn. On the restart from the red condition with only eight laps to go Steele starts to falter. He runs on the straights and slows in the turns. He squiggles and jiggles every last ounce of methanol but he has clearly lost the race. Childers passes him on lap 495, continues on and into the lead at lap 498. Two laps later Jim Childers from Riverview, Florida has won his third Little 500 race.