May 26, 2024 | By Jared Owen

Last-Lap Pass Decides Little 500 Family Affair

ANDERSON, Ind. — One Armstrong led at the white flag, while the other Armstrong took the checkered. For just the second time in the Little 500’s storied 76-year history, the race was decide on a last-lap pass, as Caleb Armstrong passed cousin Dakoda on the final lap to score the win in the 76 th Annual Little 500 Presented By UAW. The only other last-lap pass came all the way back in 1953 when Bob King passed Jonnie Key on the bell lap 71
years ago.

The winning move came on the backstretch during a green/white/checkered finish, giving him his first-career win in the race and Dakoda his second runner-up result in three years.

“I just kept messing with him. I knew he was going to be pushing it on fuel but I kept messing with him; I kept pulling up beside him there at the end to try and rattle his cage and make him slip up,” said Caleb Armstrong. “The restart before that he was really sporty so I didn’t think I was going to have a chance. I just got a really good restart and I was on him, then on the last lap I set it up on the diamond move, and the rest was
history.”

He was the runner-up in last year’s race to Jake Trainor, which was his third-straight top-five finish in the race at the time. After several close calls in years past, he was able to finish the job in dramatic fashion.

“I’ve been trying to chase this one for a while. I’ve been close in the past, I’ve just never been able to seal it with bad luck and mechanical issues. I think there was one year where I was leading with 30 to go when we had something break. That’s in the back of your head the whole time you’re out there. Everything worked out and it’s really cool, I still can’t believe it myself.”

While one Armstrong cousin was celebrating in victory lane, the other cousin was left replaying the final restart in his head. Dakoda Armstrong inherited the lead with just over 100 laps to go after Trainor was collected in an accident while leading. He had a commanding lead up until 12 laps to go when a caution bunched the field back up for the final push to lap 500.

“About 100 laps in the guys came on the radio and told me that they didn’t know if they put enough fuel in, doing the math they thought we were going to run out,” stated Dakoda Armstrong. “The last 100 laps I was actually in fuel conservation mode. We weren’t using much brake, we were just lifting early. The car was really fast but I think it burned off the right rear tire off a little bit. I saw those guys wreck in the top of the corner and I thought for sure we were going to run out of fuel.

“When I went to push for that green/white/checkered the car just wasn’t under me. I got a little too tight down in one and two and I had to push it. It just snapped on me and when I came off the corner I had no grip and he was there. This race means so much to our family and we’ve both finished second two years in a row. I wasn’t going to wreck our cars going side-by-side and the right rear was so burned off I couldn’t stick beside him anyways.”

After he was half a lap from victory, he now has his second runner-up finish in the past three years. Knowing how hard his family has worked on both his and Caleb’s race teams, his cousin being the one to get him at the end helps take away the sting of the near-miss just a little bit.

“Normally, it would but we’ve been through a lot to get here. This race means a lot more that we both ran good. It stings for sure, if it was someone else that was there, there would’ve been no way I would’ve let him in there, I would’ve nerfed him going into that corner there. Since it was him I gave him a little room and he did such a good job to get there. I tried to race him clean, I thought I could maybe stick it to his outside and drag race him to the line but I got into three and it didn’t stick.”

It was a dream scenario for the duo to be racing each other for the win in the biggest pavement Sprint Car race on the planet, echoed by the race winner.

“On those last couple restarts I was thinking about that in my head. This is the stuff you dream of,” explained Caleb Armstrong. “It’s five to go and you got a chance to win the Little 500, I’m on the lead lap and I’m racing my cousin. We’ve raced against each other for years. It was a fun one and I was glad I was able to get the better of him.’”


LITTLE 500 RESULTS

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