ANDERSON, Ind. – Pit strategy and quick work by the DJ Racing team brought Bobby Santos III a long-awaited win in the Pay Less Little 500 Saturday night at Anderson Speedway.
Santos made his final stop Saturday during the 72nd running of the famed race on lap 403, emerging on the lead lap with Shane Hollingsworth and three-time Little 500 champion Kody Swanson.
Swanson slipped underneath Santos on lap 417 with an inside pass on the front straight, but his night came to an end on lap 424 with an engine problem.
With Hollingsworth leading the way, Santos on fresher tires steadily cut into the margin.
The final caution flag waved on lap 459, and when action resumed Santos was right on the rear bumper of Hollingsworth. He made the pass for the lead on lap 468 with a power move down the back straight.
Hollingworth, whose last pit stop came on lap 339, finished second more than seven seconds back of Santos. Tyler Roadhrig came home third, a lap down.
For Santos it was his first Little 500 win in seven starts, after finishing second in both 2019 and 2017.
An elated Santos praised his team as the best right after climbing from the car.
“The team gave me a great race car and did an awesome job changing tires,” he said.
“It’s unbelievable,” Santos added of winning the Little 500. “I thought I should have won this thing a couple of times before.”
Santos noted that he knew in the waning laps that he couldn’t make a mistake as he chased down Hollingsworth.
Hollingsworth, driving for Nolen Racing, has finished in the top five the past three years.
“The second set of tires were not good and we knew it would be a short run,” he said of pitting on lap 339. “I just drove my heart out the last 95 laps.”
Roahrig, who led more than 100 laps in the middle stages of the race, also said it was the need for tires that resulted in a late pit stop on lap 404.
“We had planned to stop after the 300 lap mark,” he said. “We just couldn’t seem to get any grip and lost the balance on the car. We learned a lot tonight and will be back next year.”
The fans in attendance were treated to tight racing among the front runners from lap 100 through lap 200, which was a green-flag run that featured Swanson and Roahrig on the point, chased by a tight pack including Brian Gerster, Santos, Caleb Armstrong and Kyle O’Gara.
Armstrong led from lap 185 to 204, when his car rolled to a stop on the front straight. He lost several laps in the pits and was never able to recover.
Ohio rookie Ronald Wuerdeman took rookie of the year honors with a 12th-place finish.
1. Bobby Santos III, 2. Shane Hollingsworth, 3. Tyler Roahrig, 4. Kyle O’Gara, 5. Eric Gordon, 6. Brian Tyler, 7. Caleb Armstrong, 8. Ken Schrader, 9. Jerry Coons Jr., 10. Mickey Kempgens, 11. Johnny Gilbertson, 12. Ronnie Wuerdeman, 13. Tommy Nichols, 14. Kody Swanson, 15. Scott Hampton, 16. Brian Gerster, 17. Aaron Pierce, 18. Shane Butler, 19. John Inman, 20. Kyle Hamilton, 21. Derek Bischak, 22. Doug Dietsch, 23. Dakoda Armstrong, 24. Chris Neuenschwander, 25. Chris Jagger, 26. Cory Setser, 27. Russ Gamester, 28. Billy Wease, 29. Christian Koehler, 30. Bryan Gossel, 31. Justin Harper, 32. Jacob Wilson, 33. Jeff Bloom.