PENDLETON — After making up significant ground from his starting position, Pendleton’s Travis Welpott had his 10th Little 500 end sooner than he wanted.
The full-time Pendleton Heights Middle School teacher and part-time racer started 27th and finished 19th at Saturday’s 74th Annual Lucas Oil Little 500 presented by UAW at Anderson Speedway.
“We got off to a good start and were moving up methodically,” Welpott said of his race. “We were taking our time but we were going forward.
“Before halfway we were somewhere around (eighth place). We had one pit stop where the push truck didn’t get to us and hurt us a spot or two, but we were running pretty solid until about 130 laps to go when we had a motor overheating. We were fighting it the last half of the race. It finally started expiring, then I got spun, and we chose not to put it back out there.”
It was Welpott’s 10th time competing in the historic 500-lap event on the ¼-mile oval track in Madison County.
On Saturday, he completed 352 of the 500 laps.
If not for the motor issue, Welpott thought they might have been able to get a Top 10 finish.
“The first half of the race went really pretty much the way we wanted it,” Welpott said. “I felt like were putting ourselves in a position to get a Top 10. I don’t know where it would have been from there.
“Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve doesn’t really help now.”
In each of his 10 races, Welpott’s sprint car has finished either equal to or better than where he started. His best finish in the race was ninth in 2019, when he also started in the 27th position. He was a 10th place finisher in 2021.
“We were about 12th quick at practice and we were feeling pretty good going into qualifying,” Welpott said. “I just didn’t hit my marks well and it put ourselves in a hole. That’s probably the biggest disappointment of the weekend, not starting a little higher.”
Running on a lesser budget than some of the bigger sprint car teams, Welpott said he was happy to see them be able to move up toward the front and compete with some of the top sprint car teams in the country.
“We had the car to be right in there. That was pretty satisfying knowing what we were up against and to be in the fast group,” he said. “We knew we had a good race car. It’s good to know you’re good and competitive, but it’s tough when you don’t get to complete it with all that hard work. I’m definitely grateful to get it in (the race) with the competition we’re going against and the budgets we are going up against.
“You always want to do a little better. Unless you win, though, you are not totally satisfied.”
Tyler Roahrig, who started on the pole, won the race for the second straight year.
Correction: In the story “From classroom to race cars,” published May 26 in The Times-Post, the distance of the Little 500 was misstated. The race is 500 laps on a quarter-mile track, or 125 miles.—