Little 500: An Indiana Tradition


The lead group of riders racing down one of the track’s straightaways.

Harrison Levy

You may be asking what even is Little 500? Is it related to the Indy 500? The simple way to put it is yes and no. The IU Student Foundation’s bike race is dated back to the 1950s. Howdy Wilcox Junior was the executive director at the University’s foundation, with the race being replicated like the Indy 500. The original goal of the race was to raise money for student scholarships. The race is held in Bill Armstrong Stadium, surrounding Yeagley field home to the soccer teams. Of course like any race throughout the nation there are specific qualifications and ground rules to establish fairness. Starting in the spring semester there are qualifiers known as “Quals.”

This consists of 4 riders each time that race 4 laps around the track competing for the best time. The 33 teams with the fastests times qualify for the race. This determines your starting position in the race.

Now let’s talk about the track. The track is a quarter mile

oval made out of cylinder ash, one small mistake can end in chaos. The riders are to do 200 laps (50 miles) . Last year’s race on the final lap on the final turn end

ed in a big crash while multiple teams were sprinting to the finish.

Due to the race being so largely popular, the movie Breaking Away was created portraying a group of townies that enter the race as team “Cutters” because of Indiana Lime stonecutters. In the movie they go on to beat the fraternity house. The movie was based on the rider Dave Blaise, an IU grad who rode for Phi Kappa Psi. After the release of the movie, the real-life Cutters was formed and their first race in 1984 they won.

Since then they have won 14 more times and are the most winnest team in the history of the race. This year’s race was one to not miss. Cutters held the first position at the start of the race followed by Sigma Phi Epsilon, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Alpha Kappa Psi. I got to witness this race as my brother is on this year’s IUSF Steering committee. The steering committee is responsible for doing the work behind the scenes all semester long to make sure the race runs as smoothly as possible.  In the last twenty or so laps remaining, there were only 5 teams competing for the trophy. Leading into the final laps of the race as the sprinters were pedaling as fast they could, it was determined by a matter of milliseconds. Cutters was first, following behind was Delta Tau Delta and third place was Sigma Epsilon. Although at first the main focus was the race, it expanded into a week-long of activities including a women’s race that was added in 1988. The future’s looking bright for one of Indiana University’s honored traditions.