The year was 1949 when a group of men gathered in the now demolished Anderson Hotel, across from the courthouse, to make an announcement that would have a lasting impact on Anderson.Joe Helpling, owner of the then named Sun Valley Speedway, announced plans for the first Little 500 at the track. It was an idea that was met with skepticism.Although Helping is credited with beginning the tradition of the Pay Less Little 500, it was the child of Bob Hopkins, who for many years was Helpling’s right hand man.I was saddened to learn that Bob “Hoppie” Hopkins passed away this week at the age of 90. I have known Hoppie for many years, he was still a fixture at the annual Pay Less Little 500 and the annual Hall of Fame luncheon.It seems every opportunity to talk with Hoppie brought about something else I didn’t know about the origins of the race, considered the richest pavement sprint car race in the world.Hopkins proposed the idea to Helpling of a 33-car field, starting three abreast, and racing for 500 laps, just like Indianapolis. The idea was spawned in March, 1949 after bad weather had postponed the racing card.Helpling was not impressed with the idea at first, but Hoppie was not to be deterred. A poll of customers at Helpling’s gas station showed overwhelming support for the concept.Hopkins pitched the idea to the AAA sanctioning body, which rejected the idea. Along with track announcer Harold “Dutch” Hurst they convinced the Mutual Racing Association to sanction roadsters for the Little 500.It probably didn’t hurt that Helpling announced there would be a $5,000 purse for that first race won by Sam Skinner.Hoppie was instrumental in getting television and movie stars to come to Anderson every May to be the grand marshal of the race.Since that first race in 1949 the Pay Less Little 500 has continued to grow through the years, attracting the top open wheel drivers to Anderson Speedway and thousands of fans on an annual basis.Hoppie was inducted into the Little 500 Hall of Fame in 1992, a member of the second class.When the 66th running of the Little 500 rolls around next May, my thoughts will turn to Hoppie with the wish that I could hear just one more story about how the race grew in the early years.In other racing news: The United States Speed Association sprint cars will return to Anderson Speedway this Saturday for a 50-lap event. The UAW Sprint Car Challenge will be making its third appearance at the track and will return on Oct. 5.California driver Tony Hunt is the current point leader. Local drivers Aaron Pierce, Brian Gerster and Bobby East will be competing.It was great to hear that Juan Pablo Montoya is returning to the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2014 to driver for Penske Racing. He will be joining Will Power and Helio Castroneves on the team.The IRL will be racing this weekend on the street course in Houston for two races on Saturday and Sunday.
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Rain doesn't dampen Brickyard fans' spirits
Despite threatening skies and chances of rain, fans at the Brickyard 400 were not disheartened by the forecast Sunday. Fans expected the race to be completed and were anticipating an exciting race for the Sprint Cup event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
- Fifth Brickyard for Gordon Indiana racing fans roared their approval of the kid they watched growing up in open wheel cars as Jeff Gordon scored his record fifth Brickyard 400 victory Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
- Dorer scores JEGS win at Anderson Florida driver Steve Dorer has had career moments at Anderson Speedway, and at other times ones he would just like to forget. Dorer recorded the biggest win of his career when he passed Chase Elliott on the final lap in the 2011 Stoops Freightliner Redbud 300. The next year he flipped in Turn 1 during the CRA Super Series event. He scored another highlight Saturday night by winning for the first time with the CRA/JEGS All-Stars Tour event in the Edgewater Woods 100.|ANDERSON — Florida driver Steve Dorer has had career moments at Anderson Speedway, and at other times ones he would just like to forget. Dorer recorded the biggest win of his career when he passed Chase Elliott on the final lap in the 2011 Stoops Fre
- Jones perfect in ARCA competition Georgia driver Brandon Jones remained perfect in the ARCA Racing Series by winning for a second time Friday at Lucas Oil Raceway, but he needed some misfortune to strike another driver for the victory.
- Hacker helping kids go to camp Born with an injury that affects the nerves controlling the muscles in his left arm hasn’t slowed Chris Hacker when he climbs behind a race car.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway mourns death of Garner
The death of three-time Indianapolis 500 pace car driver James Garner is rippling through the motor racing community.
- Marcum claims Late Model win Morristown driver Jeff Marcum has watched victories in the McGunegill Engine Performance Late Models slip away this season, but that changed Saturday at Anderson Speedway.
- Ken de la Bastide: Disappointing short track news abounds During the past two weeks, there has been disappointing news coming out of the local short track racing community.
- Atkinson wins Street Stock 75 New Castle’s Jason Atkinson appeared headed to a dominating win Saturday night at Anderson Speedway in the CRA Street Stock feature.
- CRA Street Stocks return to Anderson Speedway Racing action returns to Anderson Speedway on Saturday with CRA Street Stocks, NASH FM ThunderCars, Front Wheel Drives Figure 8s and Thunder Roadsters.
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- Rain doesn't dampen Brickyard fans' spirits