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.
- Sports Columns
- 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.
- Pendleton Heights held Heritage Christian scoreless PENDLETON — With three losses in their first three games, the Pendleton Heights Arabians baseball team was ready for a break-out win. On Thursday, the Arabians jumped all over visiting Heritage Christian to take a 10-0, five inning win at Bill Stoudt Field.
Rick Bramwell: Morel season just around corner
Winter was long, spring has not sprung and I am thinking this will be one of the best morel seasons in a long time.
- Rick Teverbaugh: HB trying a different area approach All right, we're going to try this once again. Apparently our plan to have our area coaches use emails and faxes to get results to us wasn't exactly a smashing success.
- Ken de la Bastide: Chase Elliott making headlines This past weekend at Texas Motor Speedway the two NASCAR races were won by some of the younger drivers in the Nationwide and Sprint Cup series.
- George Bremer: Spring brings renewed hope Bobby Abreu laced a line drive single into right-center field Thursday night. Not really a noteworthy feat for a 17-year Major League Baseball veteran with 2,437 career hits. But the venue was unique — Cashman Field in Las Vegas, home of the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s.
AU baseball sweeps HCAC doubleheader
The Anderson University baseball team swept conference rival Franklin College Saturday. The Ravens won the first game 3-2 and the second contest 12-11.
- Rick Teverbaugh: Already time to scrap baseball replay The new replay system being used by Major League Baseball is an abject failure and should be scrapped immediately. Is that too quick and too harsh an assessment of this high-tech boondoggle that has been in place for only a week? No and no.
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