Steele Gets 61st Pay Less Little 500 Victory After Classic Battle With Gordon

Florida driver Dave Steele won a classic battle with Eric Gordon to visit victory lane in the 61st running of the Pay Less Little 500 at Anderson Speedway on Saturday.

With 185 laps remaining most of the front-runners in the Little 500 field were eliminated either through accidents or mechanical problems leaving Steele and Gordon, the eight-time Little 500 champion, to battle for the victory.

Although only 11 cars were running at the mid-point, all eyes were on the pitched battle between Steele and Gordon. Both knowing the chess match between the two veterans would determine the winner.

Gordon opted to make his second mandatory pit stop at lap 315 when pole sitter Tony Elliott brought out the 11th caution when his engine expired.

That left Gordon in second, one lap behind Steele. For almost 100 laps Gordon tried both high and low to get around Steele and back on the lead lap to no avail. With Steele still having to make a second stop that would give Gordon the advantage.

On lap 412 Steele bumped the rear of Alexandria driver Donnie Adams Jr. causing him to spin in turn four and giving the Florida driver the opportunity to pit. Steel changed the right rear tire.

As Steele was emerging from pit road there was controversy. With Steele exiting the pits it appeared he would beat the pace car to the blend line and be on the same lap as Gordon. Gordon pulled down below the pace car and blocked Steele from remaining on the lead lap.

Race officials determined that Gordon intentionally blocked Steele ad ordered Steele to the end of the field, the only other car on the lead lap.

Following the restart Gordon opened a straight away lead, but with fresher tires Steele was closing the gap. When Gordon got caught in lapped traffic, Steele dove to the inside to make the pass for the lead entering turn one with 33 laps remaining.

From there Steele cruised to his second Little 500 title by 9.091 seconds followed by
Gordon. Adams finished third, three laps down followed by Jacob Wilson and Ryan Litt.

Steele, who won the Little 500 in 1996, has come close to visiting victory lane several times since but always came up short.

“It seems like 50 years since I won here before,” Steele said. “This win is a little better.”

On the tight racing with Gordon, Steele said the two veterans have sliced and diced against each other over the years.

Gordon believed he should have been declared the winner and denied blocking Steele.

“The blend line is in the middle of the corner,” he said. “I was not ahead of the pace car. Steele and the push truck were behind me. I was hosed.”

Gordon said his car got loose and he was unable to move off the bottom of the track without spinning the tires.

Adams said the team gambled on their second pit stop and took fuel only and didn’t change tires.

“I had too many laps on the second set of tires,” he said. “I’m happy that I finished the race.”

California driver JoJo Helberg drove to a sixth place finish to earn the Herald Bulletin’s Rookie of the Race honors. Helberg tangled with Jacob Wilson on lap 161 on the front straight, but both continued to finish the race.

Daleville’s Aaron Pierce was leading on lap 239 when the lapped car of Mike Koss broke a suspension part and drove up the track collecting Pierce in the third corner.

Brian Tyler, the 2006 Little 500 champion, grabbed the lead on lap 114 with an inside move on Elliott, but four laps later the motor failed in his Contos Racing entry.

Two other former winners Jeff Bloom and Chet Fillip were eliminated from the event by lap 50 because of accidents.

Last year’s winner Shane Cottle driving for Contos Racing failed to complete a lap when he made contact with Jimmie McCune at the start/finish line and came to rest against the inside barriers.

There were 12 cautions for 133 laps and five different drivers swapped the lead a total of eight times. There were 10 cars running at the finish.

For additional information on Anderson Speedway call (765) 642-0206.