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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Paul Page returning as voice of IMS Radio Network
Longtime motorsports announcer Paul Page will return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network as its lead announcer next season.
- Ken de la Bastide:Where does Johnson rank? Ever since Jimmie Johnson captured his sixth Sprint Cup championship there has been an on-going debate as to where he ranks among the all-time great NASCAR drivers.
- Ken de la Bastide: End of a NASCAR era Almost quietly over the weekend as the Sprint Cup season came to an end, three veteran drivers probably saw their storied careers come to a close. Mark Martin, Jeff Burton and Bobby Labonte may never strap themselves into the driver’s seat and don their safety helmets again.
Ken de la Bastide: Johnson on verge of title
Unless there is a total meltdown by Jimmie Johnson’s team this weekend in Florida, the California driver will be hoisting the Sprint Cup championship trophy.
- Ken de la Bastide: Saving pavement sprint car racing Back in the 1970s when I first moved to the Hoosier State, pavement sprint car racing was sanctioned through USAC, with plenty of racing on tracks in central Indiana. Since then, times have changed.
Ken de la Bastide: Chase coming down to the wire
With both Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson surviving the two toughest tracks in the Sprint Cup Chase for the title, it appears the champion won't be crowned until the final race of the year. Kenseth and his Joe Gibbs
- Lambert claims late model 100 In his seventh appearance of the year at Anderson Speedway, Noblesville driver Mark Lambert finally scored a win in the season-ending 100-lap race for the McGunegill Engine Performance Late Models.
- Ken de la Bastide: Martinsville could decide NASCAR title Now that the Talladega race has ended without the big wreck that would shake up the Chase for the Sprint Cup title, competitors head to the half-mile Martinsville bull ring. Next to the Talladega race, the “big paper clip” that is Martinsville is the second most likely track to make or break the remaining championship contenders.
- Daleville's Pierce captures USSA title ANDERSON -- Aaron Pierce continued his dominance of the USSA Sprint Car Challenge by winning Saturday for the third time this season and capturing the inaugural championship. On UAW Paint the Night Pink at Anderson Speedway, which raised ov
- Anderson Speedway to decide 9 champs ANDERSON - Anderson Speedway returns to action on Saturday with UAW Paint the Night Pink Season Championships. Featured divisions include USSA Sprint Cars, MEP Late Models, Street Stocks, NASH FM ThunderCars, USSA Mel Kenyon Midgets, Front
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- Paul Page returning as voice of IMS Radio Network