Saturday, May 27, 2023

1961 – McElreath Takes Little 500 Classic

Jim McElreath is joined by his wife Shirley (left) and car owner Dizz Wilson (left) after the popular Texan won the Little 500.  

Anderson, Ind. (May 27, 1961) - Jim McElreath won the 21st annual Little 500 sprint car classic at Anderson's Sun Valley Speedway Saturday night raiding the lead all the rest of the way after assuming it on the 62nd lap.

The race was marred by a fatal accident, the first driver fatality in the history of Sun Valley Speedway which claimed the life of Frank Toth of Richmond, Ind.

Toth, the only driver who had started all 12 previous Little 500 events, had his #6 Ford climb over the left front wheel of the #5 driven by Hark Arnoldi of Detroit, Mich., while the two were moving through the main-stretch on the 88th lap. Toth's machine flipped end-over-end once, then rolled over sideways three limes coming to rest against the retaining wall on the first corner. The 35-year-old veteran was killed instantly.

Arnoldi’s machine veered into the infield momentarily, but he regained control of the car and continued in the race.

McElreath’s win marked the first time that an Offenhauser-powered machine had ever won the Little 500. There were only two Offenhausers entered in the field. The other, driven by Leroy Neumeyer of Compton, Calif., had mechanical issues during warmups and couldn’t start in the field.

Clare Lawicki of Madison Heights, Mich., who won the pole position for this year's Little 500 during the first day of qualifications on May 13, was second to McElreath in Saturday's classic.

Dick Pratt of Union City, Ind., took the lead in the #20 Wood-Welding Shop car on the lap and held it until McElreath took over on the 162nd circuit.

A crowd estimated at between 10,000 and 11,000, just short of the all-time record set at Sun Valley last year, witnessed the event.

Results –

1. Jim McElreath, Arlington, Tex.
2. Clare Lawicki, Madison Heights, Mich.
3. Red Renner, Dayton, Ohio
4. Dick Carter, Breckinridge, Mich.
5. Bill Kimmel, New Middletown, Ohio
6. Woody Huntington, Milroy, Ind.
7. Jim McCune, Toledo, Ohio
8. Al Beale, Toledo, Ohio
9. Jim Murphy, South Haven, Mich.
10.Bob King, Muncie, Ind.
11.Don Friend, East Detroit, Mich.
12.Johnny Noble, New Castle, Ind.
13.Hank Stickney, St. Clair Shore, Mich.
14.Dick Kuenstler, Chicago
15.Calvin Gilstrap, Salem, Ind.
16.Allen Barr, Columbus, Ind.
17.Leon Wieske, St. Clair Shores, Mich.
18.Rollie Beale, Toledo, Ohio
19.Dick Pratt, Union City, Ind.
20.Norm Rust, Novi, Mich.

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