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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- Angie Colip: Busy bowling season coming to an end The fall bowling season is definitely coming to an end. Spring is upon us. Winter coats have been traded in for spring jackets, the temperatures are rising, the sun is shining and the days are becoming longer. These are all signs that our bowling seasons are winding down.
- Mike Lopresti: Pacers finally respond to critics So maybe the Indiana Pacers don't like being called wussies. Is that all it took, an on-air jab from Charles Barkley? Some brash talk, apparently, from Atlanta Hawks guard and Indianapolis native son Jeff Teague? Or was it the stark reality that they were closing in on owning the notorious legacy of a team that melted in the bright lights, faster than frozen yogurt?
- Rick Bramwell: Morel season off to a slow start The expectations, brought on by a harsh winter, have turned into a wait-and-see situation for morel hunters. A cooler than normal spring has put the tasty little sponges on ice.
Ken de la Bastide: Familiar names coming to Anderson
Names familiar to racing fans will be competing this weekend at Anderson Speedway in the CRA Super Series and USSA Sprint Car Challenge.
- George Bremer: Holmes becomes center of attention Khaled Holmes already was shaping up as one of the more interesting players to watch on the Indianapolis Colts' roster this summer. With Phil Costa's decision to retire on Monday, Holmes becomes one of the most vital.
Lady Ravens refusing to lose
The Anderson University softball team swept Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference foe Transylvania University on Saturday at Raven Field to finish a perfect 8-0 at home this season.
- Arabians mount another county title FAIRMOUNT — Beautiful sunshine and warm temperatures greeted the competitors for the Madison County Track Meet at Madison-Grant High School Friday afternoon. The Pendleton Heights boys and girls teams were looking to take the county for the third year in a row but Anderson and Lapel had other ideas. It started off as a record setting meet and finished with a bang as Pendleton was able to wrap up both titles. The girls held off a stiff challenge from Lapel to win 167.5 to 147 and the boys took the final event of the night to squeak out a 156.5 to 148.5 win over Lapel.
- Rick Bramwell: Improving weather should aid morels When I looked at my wilted daffodils Tuesday morning, I knew this would be a setback for morels. The long-range forecast through April 29 calls for near normal temperatures and above normal precipitation. This is good news for the blacks and grays.
- Ken de la Bastide: Hunter-Reay's blunder proves costly A lack of patience cost Ryan Hunter-Reay and teammate James Hinchcliffe a chance at victory last weekend in the Verizon IndyCar Series race at Long Beach.
- Angie Colip: Bowling week filled with perfection Congratulations to Trent Jarvis for rolling two perfect games in eight days. Jarvis shot his 19th perfect game in the TNT league on March 31. He finished out his night with a 784 series.
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