Five-hundred laps around the quarter-mile Anderson Speedway in a non-winged Sprint Car would tucker out even the most veteran and finely-tuned driver, but Chris Windom’s exhaustion after climbing from his car Saturday night took a back seat to his elation over winning a second Little 500.
Windom took the lead on lap 427 and held off two-time Little 500 winner Dave Steele in the final 40 lap sprint to the finish for the victory, which paired up nicely with his 2011 triumph in the event that dates back to 1949.
“It’s the hardest laps of your life,” Windom told 51 TV on the live pay-per-view video broadcast Saturday at Anderson. “You have to go as hard as you can and you’re worn out. I knew that final last run there, Steele was on my ass, so I had to give it all I had. I can barely stand up, but we got the win.”
Steele ran in Windom’s tire tracks during the final run to the checkered flag, even getting close enough to give him a nudge with 30 laps remaining. Once Steele got into Windom and lost momentum, he was never able to mount another charge.
“I thought we were going to be pretty good,” said Steele. “(Windom) was just a little quicker there at the end. We got a little bit loose and he was setting a pretty good pace, so we had to settle for second.”
Even with a five-time race winner lurking from behind, Windom worked his late-race lapped car strategy to perfection.
“I was about as comfortable as I could be,” added Windom. “I tried to hit the lapped cars where I could get to the outside of them on entry so it would screw him up if he was on my butt. The last 40 laps were just a dash. I knew he was there and I just had to pick the pace up.”
Bobby Santos III, who won the pole for the 500-lap event in Thursday’s qualifying, led much of the opening stages of the race. Caleb Armstrong, who joined Santos in the front row at the start, took over the lead nearly 100 laps in. Those two showed the way until lap 162, when Brian Tyler broke just ahead of the leaders. Both Santos and Armstrong suffered damage and had their nights cut short.
Kody Swanson inherited the lead following the Armstrong/Santos incident. As the race logged circuits in the middle stages and teams used various pit strategies, Kyle Hamilton and Mickey Kempgens took turns up front as well.
But it was Windom who had the fastest car in the final circuits, just as he did back in 2011 when he won his first Little 500.
“I don’t think you can ever get used to running 500 laps around here,” said Windom. “I’m just as wore out as I was the first time I won it.
It feels just as sweet as the first one, but when I pop that bottle of champagne I think it might feel a little sweeter.”
Behind Windom and Steele, Kyle Hamilton, Jacob Wilson and Shane Hollingsworth rounded out the top five.
– By Matt Kentfield, Speed51.com Executive Director – Twitter: @MattKentfield
– Photo Credit: Speed51.com