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Hunt Captures 64th Pay Less Little 500 Pole; Helberg and Pierce Complete Front Row

By Ken de la Bastide

(May 24, 2012) – 
It has been 52 years since a driver from California has started from the pole position for the Pay Less Little 500, but Tony Hunt accomplished the feat on Thursday at Anderson Speedway.

Fifteen drivers locked themselves into the starting field for the 64th running of the annual classic at Anderson Speedway.

With clear skies and warmer temperatures than a year ago, no one got close to the record time set in 2011 by Muncie’s Aaron Pierce.

Hunt turned the four-laps in 45.013-seconds with a fast single lap of 11.207-seconds.

A.J. Shepherd from California won the pole position in 1960.

Hunt didn’t realize he was the second driver from California to earn the pole position, but did know no driver from that state has won the Pay Less Little 500.

“We didn’t expect to get the pole,” Hunt said. “The practice speeds didn’t indicate that at all. I made some changes and tweaked the car a little.”

After posting the quickest time early in the qualifying session, Hunt had to wait and watch as driver after driver went out trying to knock him from the top spot.

“I wasn’t sure,” he said of winning the pole. “When Jeff Bloom went out and turned a lap in 11.2 seconds, I didn’t know.

“This means a lot,” Hunt said. “This motor only has 650 horsepower, so it shows you don’t have to spent $40,000 on an engine.”

Fellow Californian JoJo Helberg will start in the middle of the front row with a four-lap time of 45.133-seconds and a best lap of 11.190-seconds.

“The car was too tight,” he said. “I made some adjustments thinking it would make the car loose, but it got tight instead.

“I’m surprised we ran as well as we did,” Helberg said. “I’m happy. It was a lot better than when I first got started.”

Pierce will start on the outside of the front row with a four-lap time of 45.277-seconds and a fast lap of 11.246-seconds.

“The track conditions were a lot different than a year ago,” Pierce said. “I’m pleased with a front row start.

“I missed up on the third lap or I might have run laps in the 11.2 and 11.3-second range and been where Tony (Hunt) is,” he said. “Everybody is so close, one slip really costs you.”

Peru driver Russ Gamester, nine-time Little 500 champion Eric Gordon and three-time race winner Jeff Bloom will start in the second row.

Kokomo’s Shane Cottle in one of the two Contos Racing cars will start ninth and Brian Tyler in the matching car will roll-off 15th.

Travis Welpott, Pendleton, posted the 28th fastest time of the day and Anderson’s Jim Sheets the 30th quick times. Both drivers will have to ride out “bump” day starting at 1:30 p.m. to learn if they made the starting field.

There are 41 cars entered in the Little 500 and 35 took a time on Thursday.

The 33-car field will be set during second round of qualifications on Friday afternoon. On Friday Night, The Ohio Express concert will be showcased at 7:30 pm. The 64th Pay Less Little 500 goes green approximately at 8 p.m. on Saturday night.

Tickets are available for the historic 64th Pay Less Little 500 at $28 for reserved seating. For more information, contact the Anderson Speedway Ticket Office at (765) 642-0206.