Saturday, May 20, 2023

1972 – Rookie Wins Little ‘500’ Crown

Jeff Bloom is joined by the Little 500 queen, Denise Bever, after winning the 24th annual event.

Anderson, Ind. (May 20, 1972) – Jeff Bloom, a rookie from Elkhart, Ind., and the youngest driver competing in the race at 22 years of age, won the Little 500 sprint car classic at Anderson Speedway on Saturday night.

Bloom took the lead for the first and only time on lap 458. He passed Butch Wilkerson of Bloomington, Ind., who had pitted after leading the race from lap 345.

Wilkerson finished second and Ray Wright, also of Elkhart, Ind., was awarded third place unofficially.

Wilkerson led the race from the first lap to the 71st circuit, with Bob Kinser of Bedford, Ind., leading for two laps before Wilkerson reclaimed the lead again. Wilkerson would lead until lap 303, after which Kinser took over again. Kinser pitted after 345 laps and was unable to restart his car. Wilkerson assumed command once again with Kinser out of action.

Bloom, piloting his own Chevy-powered machine, started in the 22nd position and steadily worked his way to the front of the field. He grabbed the lead 42 laps away from the finish. His winning time was 2 hours, 12 minutes, and 10.09 seconds for the 500-lap contest.

The trouble-free race was marred by only one accident and a fire in the pit area, which involved Kenneth Kleet, a crewman with Chuck Amati of Greenfield, Tenn. Kleet was burned when Amati’s car caught fire during refueling early on in the race. He was treated for minor burns at an area hospital and released.

The track, which in many past years had become a mixture of oil, water, and hot tar, held up remarkably well and was still holding traction as the race came to a close.

A near-record crowd of over 12,000 saw the race. The race was sanctioned for the first time by the Anderson-based American Speed Association. Previous Little 500’s had been sanctioned by the International Motor Contest Association.

Results –

1. Jeff Bloom, Elkhart
2. Butch Wilkerson, Bloomington
3. Ray Wright, Elkhart
4. Dave Scarborough, Largo, Fla.
5. Ron Fisher, Kokomo
6. Mike Johnson, Martinsville
7. Steve Lehnert, North Olmstead, Ohio
8. Bob Luscomb, Orlando, Fla.
9. Tucker Nunnery, South Point, Ohio
10.Ron Semelka, Wauseon, Ohio
11.Ray Kenens, Lafayette
12.Dale Looper, Fort Worth, Tex.
13.Leon Thickston, Bloomington
14.Ron Koehler, South Bend
15.Richard Jackson, Kokomo
16.Bob Papoy, Salem
17.Bill Harter, Hagerstown
18.Jim Murphy, South Haven, Mich.
19.Ed Angle, Flora
20.Bob Kinser, Bedford

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