Friday, May 29, 2015

1976 - Gaines Earns 2nd Little 500 Crown

Dick Gaines enjoys the spoils of victory.

Anderson, Ind. (May 29, 1976) - Dick Gaines walked out of Sun Valley Speedway Saturday night a little bit tired, awful happy and nearly $5,000 richer after leading the field home for the 1976 edition of the Little 500.

The Floyds Knob, Ind., resident crossed the finish line two hours, seven minutes, 14.49 seconds after starting from the pole position to earn his second win in this premier sprint car event.

"It got awful rough during the last part of the race," said Gaines who previously won in 1973. "Something went wrong during the last 100 laps or so. The car felt like it was going to shake me to pieces. I knew where I stood, though, and I wasn't about to let up any."

Gaines finished the grind over four laps ahead of Martinsville's Mike Johnson. But all was not as easy as it appeared.

Gaines jumped into the lead from the start with Columbus' Butch Wilkerson in close pursuit from his outside front row position. By the 50-lap mark, Wilkerson had overtaken Gaines with Ed Angle running a close third.

By the 60th lap, Gaines fell to fourth, trailing Wilkerson, Angle and Bob Luscomb.

The first major incident of the evening occurred on the 62nd lap when Ron Dorsett spun his Dennie Weatherford Chevy into the path of Danny Smith's ride. Both cars ended up against the retaining wall along the first turn and were done for the evening.

Angle had taken the lead by the 75-lap mark, but was unable to gain any substantial advantage over Wilkerson or Gaines. Gaines overtook Wilkerson, setting the stage for some close racing between himself and Angle until he took the lead on lap 170. Gaines was never headed again, building a gradual lead over the remainder of the competition.

Three-time winner Darl Harrison, although never applying any real pressure on the front-runners, remained in the top 10 until his engine ceased on the 300th lap. Angle was having some handling problems but held on to finish third behind Johnson.

Wilkerson eliminated himself on lap 409 when he lost control of his car near the end of the backstretch and smacked the wall, taking Bobby Adkins and Danny Milburn with him. Adkins was forced out of the running due to the mishap, but Milburn was able to continue.

Perhaps the biggest thrill during the evening (and nearly the most costly for Gaines) occurred on the 497th lap when Chuck Mosley, driving his own Chevy-powered machine, lost it coming onto the main stretch directly in the path of the oncoming Gaines. The eventual winner found room, however, to guide his Kinser Brothers Chevy between the broad sliding Mosley machine and the outside wall with less than a foot to spare. Gaines then coasted under the checkered flag, and then announced he would be back next year to try for number three.

With his Saturday night victory, Gaines collected $4,910 out of a purse in excess of $19,000. More than 14,000 fans were on hand for the 28th annual event.

Results –

  1. Dick Gaines
  2. Mike Johnson
  3. Ed Angle
  4. Galen Short
  5. Robert Smith
  6. Bill Roynan
  7. Tony Solomito
  8. Ron Larson
  9. Chuck Mosley
  10. Bob Luscomb
  11. Billy Joe Havens
  12. Danny Johnson
  13. Danny Milburn
  14. Butch Wilkerson
  15. Bucky Boughan
  16. Bobby Adkins
  17. Allen Barr
  18. Bill Ludington
  19. Casey Jones
  20. Bernie Graybeal
  21. Leon Thickstun
  22. Bob McDaniel
  23. Darl Harrison
  24. Danny Landis
  25. Mike Blake
  26. Tim Boyd
  27. Curt Kelley
  28. Ron Semelka
  29. Kenny Simpson
  30. John Batts
  31. Ron Dorsett
  32. Danny Smith
  33. Charlie Wilmot

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