Sunday, May 22, 2022

1971 – Wise wins Little 500

Herman Wise proudly displays his trophy after winning the Little 500. 

Anderson, Ind. (May 22, 1971) - Herman Wise, taking the lead on the 152nd lap, led the rest of the way to win the 23rd annual “Little 500’’ sprint car classic Saturday night at Sun Valley Speedway.

Wise took over from Chuck Amati, who had taken the original lead, and opened up a formidable gap. The Atlanta, Georgia, driver had brief relief from Bill Burks Jr. of Marion, Ill., but hopped back in the car a few laps later when the race was stopped due to an accident.

The mishap came on the 405th lap in which Bill Tennill, Shelbyville, Ky., became the second driver to die of injuries suffered in the “Little 500”. Tennille’s car collided with Chet Johnson’s machine on the third turn after Johnson had smashed the wall. Pinned in the wreckage, Tennill, 26, was pronounced dead on arrival at St. John’s Hospital.

Amati finished third behind Bill Cassella of Weirton, West Virginia. Fourth was Benny Rapp, Toledo, Ohio, who started from the pole and challenged midway through before dropping back. Johnny Albrechtsen of Winnipeg, Alberta, Canada, was fifth, followed by Buzz Gregory, Indianapolis, the only former winner in the field, with relief help from Cliff Cochran of Benton, Ill. Ray Wright of Elkhart, Ind., was seventh.

The fatal wreck was only the second in “Little 500” history. Harry Kern of St. Paul, Minn., died as a result of a collision in the second turn of the 1967 race.

Wise, driving a Chevy-powered machine, started from the fifth qualifying spot in the middle of the second row. He quickly moved into second place and trailed Amati until the early leader made his first pit stop on lap 152.

It was a rags-to-riches finish for Wise, who finished dead last in the 1970 “Little 500” chase. Wise is a former veteran of the United States Auto Club sprint car circuit.

Chuck Amati led from the first lap until he pitted on lap 152. A lengthy fuel stop put in back in the field, with Wise taking over the top spot. Wise would pit 50 laps later, getting in and out in good order and holding off Albrechtsen to maintain the lead.

Wise continued to set a blistering pace as the track started to take its toll on man and machine. Amati would have gas consumption issues, Bill Cassella blew a tire, and Bobby Kinser blew an engine, though he managed to get back into the race later.

Oil deposits on the track made the going slippery. Albrechtsen dropped out of contention before lap 350 was completed. Polesitter Benny Rapp, meanwhile, set a steady pace and moved into second place.

Rapp began losing ground on Wise around 400 laps and Cassella, Amati and Albrechtsen passed him within the next five circuits. While Wise was completing his 405th lap, Chet Johnson smashed the wall and Bill Tennill car careened up over him, pinning Tennill in the wreckage. The race was stopped while Tennill was freed from his machine and transported to St. John’s Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Results –

1. Herman Wise, Atlanta, Ga.
2. Bill Cassella, Weirton, W.Va.
3. Chuck Amati, Greenfield, Tenn.
4. Benny Rapp, Toledo, Ohio
5. Buzz Gregory, Indianapolis
6. John Albrechtsen, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
7. Ray Wright, Elkhart, Ind.
8. Bob Kinser, Bloomington, Ind.
9. Kenny Simpson, Bedford, Ind.
10.Dan Bowlen, Bloomington, Ind.
11.John Luderman, Reading, Mich.
12.Dick Jones, Whitewater, Wis.
13.Dave Scarborough, Largo, Fla.
14.Dick Sutcliffe, Greenwood, Mo.
15.Bobby Sitz, Arcola, Ill.
16.Bill Harter, Hagerstown, Ind.
17.Johnny Auxter, Lindsey, Ohio
18.Dick Gaines, Seymour, Ind.
19.Jack O’Donnell, Fullerton, Calif.
20.Bill Tennill, Shelbyville, Ky.
21.Chet Johnson, West Terre Haute, Ind.
22.Sheldon Kinser, Bloomington, Ind.
23.Ron Larson, White Bear Lake, Minn.
24.Jim Hines, New Castle, Ind.
25.Casey Jones, South Bend, Ind.
26.Oscar Fay, Mishawaka, Ind.
27.Elmo Smalley, Waverly, Ohio
28.Bernie Graybeal, Shelbyville, Ky.
29.Jerry Powell, Indianapolis
30.Bill Hughes, Jim Thorpe, Penn.
31.Mark Caldwell, Bunker Hill, Ind.
32.Bob Skinner, Muncie, Ind.
33.Jerry Blundy, Galesburg, Ill.

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