For Indiana University students and alumni, this time of year means one thing – the Little 500. On Saturday in Bloomington, for the 65th time, 33 teams of student bicycle riders will take to an oval track in 11 rows of three, setting out on a quest to be the first to complete 200 laps and claim a piece of history.
Yes, the Indianapolis 500 has influenced the Little 500 from its 1951 inception, when IU Foundation director Howdy Wilcox founded the event to help raise scholarship money for working students, engage the current student body and, down the road, keep them involved as alumni.
Howdy Wilcox’ father, Howdy Wilcox Sr., won the 1919 Indianapolis 500. Although he died four years later in a racing accident at Altoona, Pennsylvania, when his son was just three years old, the son maintained a love for the “500” and modeled his IU race closely after it.
And having such a tight connection to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway didn’t hurt when it came time to publicizing his new event. Today’s #TBT comes from a snowy day in early 1951, when IMS president Wilbur Shaw climbed on a tandem bike with women from the IU Student Foundation Committee while official Indianapolis 500 starter Seth Klein showed the checkered flag.
A few months later, the Little 500 got underway at Indiana University. It’s still going strong.