New England Open-Wheel Ace Making Little 500 Debut

New England Open-Wheel Ace Making Little 500 Debut

By Koty Geyer:

Anthony Nocella has won in nearly everything he has climbed behind the wheel of in the Northeast and New England regions of the country.  Everything from Tour-Type Modified championships and a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, to NEMA wins and NEMA Lite championships, and even a Supermodified win and a victory indoors at the Rumble in Fort Wayne.

Now, the Massachusetts driver has his sights on the 76th Annual Little 500 Presented By UAW next weekend.  Not only will it be his first Little 500 and Anderson Speedway appearance, it will also be his first race in a Sprint Car.

It’s been an event that’s been on Nocella’s radar for some time, thanks in part to a former car owner and fellow Massachusetts native in Matt Seymour, the defending Little 500 winning car owner with driver Jake Trainor.

“I’ve always kind of wanted to go, especially after doing some of the Midget stuff around here with the Seymour’s and stuff.  They had talked about it but we never did anything,” said Nocella.  “When they got theirs and started running the last couple years, we’re just down the road from them so we started talking to them.  We watched what they did and they kept trying to convince us to go, so we finally put one together and figured we’d go give it a try.”

While Nocella will bring a family-owned car to Anderson, he will have the help of the reigning champions to get acclimated to the track and the Sprint Car.

“It’ll definitely help a lot.  I know they have some decent stuff, I’ve raced with them for a long time.  Seeing what they were able to do last year gives you some confidence going into it, especially considering it’ll be my first race in a Sprint Car.  That’ll be interesting on its own with how big the race is.  It’s such a long race and it gives us a little confidence knowing we can at least get some stuff from them.”

He has made his racing career in the open-wheel ranks, but he had never been in a Sprint Car until this past weekend for a test session.  The Sprint Car doesn’t compare to any one car he has driven in the past, but there’s just enough from each car he can piece together to help him come next week.

“I finally went this past Saturday and practiced, it was my first time in a Sprint Car and I was able to get 50-60 laps in it.  I guess in the Midget there’s a little bit, you don’t have the power or anything but it’s a similar type of car, just smaller.  The longer races I’ve ran in a Modified, I can take a little bit of that.  With the Supermodified power-wise, you can take that but it’s also different because you have the wing on it.  I guess I can combine a little bit of each and hopefully we’re competitive.”

Extra-distance races aren’t anything new for Nocella stemming from his experience with Tour-Type Modified racing, which includes the aforementioned NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win at New Hampshire in 2022 and a victory in the Islip 300 at Riverhead Raceway that same year.  However, 500 laps around Anderson Speedway brings an entirely different challenge, with 33 Sprint Cars on-track at the same time and constant action around the ¼-mile.

“I’ve just been watching some videos, try to learn different things for the race.  You try to be in halfway decent shape as far as driving for that long.  I’ve ran some longer races in different stuff but not that long.  Mileage-wise, I’m sure I have.  I’m sure that’ll be different, a fast pace around a little track like that is going to be tough on you.  Hopefully we have a good enough car to make it a little easier and go from there, hopefully I’ll be fine.”

One step at a time is the plan for Nocella during his Little 500 debut, which starts with qualifying on Thursday, May 23.  He hopes to use this year’s race as a learning experience for any future attempts at the Little 500.

“First, we have to make the race.  The biggest thing is making it to the end of the 500 laps, hopefully on the lead lap and go from there.  Getting to the end of the race would be big to learn stuff for the next time, especially for my first race in one and my first time there.  The more laps we can get through would put us much further ahead.”

We now sit less than two weeks away from the 76th Annual Little 500 Presented By UAW with three days of on-track activity leading up to the biggest pavement Sprint Car race in the world. The 76th Annual Little 500 presented by UAW will be held on Saturday, May 25th at 8:00pm. Tickets for the event are available now and are reserved seating only. All tickets are $45 and can be purchased online HERE or by calling Anderson Speedway Monday through Friday from 10am-4pm. The event will also be streamed live on DIRTVision. For more information on the Little 500, visit us at and on Facebook, Instagram, and X.