May 28, 2014

DE LA BASTIDE: Indy, Little 500s provide great racing


---- — For the fourth consecutive year, the Indianapolis 500 was determined during the final laps, helping the May classic regain popularity with fans around the world.

Ryan Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves battled during a six-lap shootout before a crowd estimated at 230,000. Hunter-Reay made a daring pass, actually using the grass to pass Castroneves, who was looking for his record-tying fourth Indy 500 victory.

Verizon IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials made the right call by red-flagging the race to repair the Safer barrier and clean up debris following Townsend Bell’s accident.

Last year Tony Kanaan got his first victory by passing Carlos Munoz on a restart followed by an accident in turn one by Dario Franchitti.

In 2012 Franchitti won when Takuma Sato attempted to make an inside pass on the final lap in turn one and crashed.

The finish of the 2011 race was memorable when leader J.R. Hildenbrand crashed on the final lap in turn four while passing a lapped car, handing the victory to Dan Wheldon.

Although the 2014 race didn’t break the record set in 2013 for lead changes (68), it did produce the second-closest finish in the 98-year history of the race and was the second fastest in terms of the winner’s average speed.

It makes race fans look forward to the 2015 race.

Jacob Wilson made it two wins in a row in the Pay Less Little 500 at Anderson Speedway before probably the largest crowd in many years.

What was unfortunate was problems beset many of the contenders for the win, including Shane Cottle, who for the second year lost an engine in his Contos Racing entry.

Bryan Clauson, Aaron Pierce, Brian Tyler and Chris Windom were all either involved in an accident or suffered mechanical woes.

Rookie Kyle Hamilton, making his second career sprint car pavement race in the Little 500, did a masterful job of keeping the Bobby East machine out of trouble to finish fifth.

I was disappointed that only 34 cars attempted to make the starting field for the Little 500 this year, but the quality of the field was excellent and qualifying produced one of the fastest, if not the fastest starting field in the 66-year history of the race.

Dave Steele lost an engine and didn’t make the trip to Anderson and 2013 rookie of the year Garrett Green opted to race elsewhere.

My hope is that more teams will make the trip to Anderson Speedway for the 67th running of the Pay Less Little 500.

In other racing news

Did it surprise anyone that six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmy Johnson won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte over the weekend? With the series traveling to Dover this weekend, Johnson could make it two wins in a row.

Kurt Busch doing the Indy-Charlotte double had an impressive run at the Indianapolis 500, finishing sixth by climbing up through the standings late in the race. Busch lost an engine at Charlotte and was unable to complete the 1,100 miles.

Ken de la Bastide may be reached at