After a grueling 500 laps at Anderson Speedway (IN), Kody Swanson was the man standing in victory lane. The two-time defending USAC Silver Crown Series champion became the first Californian to win the Little 500, as well as the first driver to win both the Hoosier Hundred and Little 500 in the same year.
The deciding factor in Saturday night’s race came with less than 30 laps to go when fast qualifier Caleb Armstrong approached lapped traffic. Armstrong and Swanson’s cars touched in between turns three and four and Armstrong made ensuing contact with a slower car.
“Caleb was so good and trying so hard on that last stint and I got lucky that we caught lapped traffic,” Swanson told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I kind of had an opening and got all the way alongside of him. He tried to crowd me and I was on the apron, and we touched right rear to left.”
Armstrong’s incident with Swanson in lapped traffic would derail his hopes for a Little 500 victory after damage to his non-winged Sprint Car.
“I was trying to choose a lane so I went to the outside and then the inside lane went,” Armstrong recounted. “No one told me Kody came underneath me and just sort of pulled down and tried to pull back up and that’s when I had the problem with the right front brake. It’s just unfortunate that had to happen.”
While contact was made between the two leaders, there were no hard feelings between each other as it was chalked up as a racing deal.
“I was kind of in the catbird seat right there at the end and had a really strong car,” Armstrong recapped. “On that restart, I knew the traffic was going to be real critical. It’s just a shame that we came that close, 30 laps away from the win, but I know that we can come back next year and be strong. I have faith in the guys, and I appreciate these guys giving me a good race car.”
As with several of the past 67 editions of the Little 500, pit strategy played a key role. Swanson mentioned that he may not have been in the position he was if not for his Hoffman Auto Racing team’s performance.
“It’s hard to really measure the impact your crew has when you make two pit stops and gain positions each time,” Swanson said. “Some parts of racing it’s just getting a little bit of luck and catching the right break, and tonight we did.”
Two-time race winner Dave Steele survived to finish in the runner-up spot while veteran Jerry Coons Jr. rounded out the podium. Kyle Hamilton, a third place finisher a year ago, was fourth.
Bobby Santos III dominated the middle stages of the event, but a differing pit strategy on older tires set him back in the final finishing order to round out the top five.
-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Central NY & PA Editor – Twitter: @aaron_creed
-Photo credit: Speed51.com