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64th Pay Less Little 500 News & Notes

By Ken de la Bastide

Reward money

The side of the car of Rex Norris III carries an unusual message offering a $500 reward.

The reward is posted by Norris’ father, who owns a trucking company. Find someone with a CDL license, willing to drive a flat-bed semi that goes to work for the company will receive $500.

Norris said if he had two more trucks on the road, he would have brought another sprint car to Anderson Speedway for the Little 500.

Rookies have found success at Little 500

Although it isn’t like winning the Pay Less 500, capturing Rookie of the Year honors is an important accomplishment for any driver making his first start in the race.

Last year Jason Cox won the honors driving to a ninth place finish after starting 32nd and completed 491 laps.

Over the years a select group of drivers captured both rookie honors and later went on to win the race. That group includes Arnie Knepper (1956), Jim McElreath (1961), Jeff Bloom (1972), Bob Frey (1973), Larry Dickson (1974) Frank Riddle (1978) Bentley Warren (1991), and David Steele (1992).

McElreath, Bloom, Dickson all won the Little 500 in their first start.

International field

It’s not a surprise that 21 of the 42 drivers hoping to make the Little 500 come from the Hoosier State, but there are drivers from six other states and Canada at Anderson Speedway.

Seven drivers come from California, five from Florida, four made the trip from Michigan, two from Ohio and one each from North Carolina and Illinois. Little 500 veteran Ryan Litt made the return trip from Ontario, Canada.

Both ends of the spectrum
Michigan driver Kevin Feeney has made several Little 500 starts, but this year he is experiencing a unique situation.

Feeney’s son Kyle is looking to make his first start at the age of 18 and Feeney has entered legendary Angola driver Hank Lower in the field at the age of 74. The team is hoping that Lower can win the Little 500 rookie of the year honors.

Other rookie drivers hoping to make the starting field include: Travis Welpott of Pendleton, Jerry Kobza, who has been racing sprint cars for 25 years on the west coast, and Brian Gingras.

First wall contact
Last year Angola driver Tom Paterson will be remembered for flipping his sprint car several times along the front straight it what many consider the most spectacular crash in recent races.

Paterson ran over the rear tire of Jeff Bloom’s car and started flipping at the flag stand and came to rest in turn one.

Paterson was uninjured, but disappointed with the end result.

He is back to make another attempt for the Pay Less Little 500. During the Thursday practice, Paterson’s car got up into the marbles and made contact with the outside retaining wall in turn two.

Maybe that’s a sign of better things to come the remainder of the weekend.

Hogg returns to Little 500
In the 64-year history of the Pay Less Little 500 of the hundreds of drivers that have competed in the race, four have been women.

Michigan native Kelly Braithwaite was the first in 1984, starting 32nd and finishing 12th in her only start.

Wendy Mathis, Florida, was the next women to run the Little 500 in 2003 starting 32nd and driving to an 11th place showing. She returned three years later finishing ninth after starting 28th.

Her ninth place finish is the best to date for a female competitor.

Sondi Eden, Crawfordsville, competed in both the 2005 and 2009 races. Eden finished 26th in 2005 after starting 25th and in 2009 recorded a 23rd place showing after starting on the inside of the last row.

California competitor Shauna Hogg is looking to make her second Little 500 start this Saturday. In 2005 Hogg started 28th in the field and recorded a tenth place finish.