In only his second career start in a sprint car, rookie driver Jake Trainor captured the 75th running of the Lucas Oil Little 500 presented by UAW passing Kody Swanson with 54 laps remaining.
Trainor started on the outside of the front row and ran on the lead lap the entire distance to become the first rookie to win the classic at Anderson Speedway since Greg Leffler accomplished the feat in 1981. Trainor showed the savvy of a veteran around the high banked quarter-mile track, racing most of the night in the top five.
“ I don’t know what to even think right now,” Trainor said in the Peterman Brothers victory lane after a champagne bath from his elated crew.
“This is my second sprint car race ever and I just won the Little 500,” he said. “All my guys were great on the pit stops and felt I was cruising the whole time. Trainor said once he closed on Swanson, he wanted to make the pass to take the lead, noting he wanted Swanson to have to pass him. Trainor had to survive a restart with less than five laps remaining when Doug Fitzwater spun coming off turn two on lap 495.
Caleb Armstrong claimed the second spot with a pass of Swanson on the final lap. Armstrong pressed Tyler Roahrig for close to 100 laps before running out of fuel earlier in the race while running second.
“I was there all night,” he said of running with the lead pack. “It’s always the same stuff every year. If I didn’t run out of fuel maybe I would have won.”
Swanson battled an ill handling car most of the race with a leaking power fluid line pumping fluid onto his leg. He soldiered on to take the lead when problems beset Roahrig during a round of pit stops on lap 282.
“I have no complaints,” Swanson said of the third-place finish. “After the first pit stop on lap 180, I had a steering problem, it kept getting worse.”
Jacob Wilson and Derek Bischak rounded out the top five. Roahrig, looking for a third consecutive win, had to pit twice on lap 382 when the crew failed to tighten a wheel nut and lost five laps before joining the field. Before that it was Tanner Swanson leading Roahrig in a tight battle before his night ended with a power plant issue.
It was a race of attrition early with Bobby Santos, Shane Hollingsworth, Brian Gerster all taken out in incidents. The race was slowed a total of 12 times by cautions for 120 laps and a red flag. The race saw six lead changes among four drivers.