The last thing Nick Torrance wanted to do was celebrate prematurely. Crossing the line wheel-to-wheel with Black Key Bulls’ Spencer Brauchla, Torrance was nearly certain he and his Sigma Phi Epsilon teammates had won the 65th Little 500.
He knew for sure he had won when he saw the Sig Ep fans in the stands. They were erupting with cheers and storming onto the track.
Sig Ep’s margin of victory was just .024 seconds. Less than half a wheel’s length was the difference between first and second.
But the gap didn’t matter. All that mattered was they won.
“I was fairly confident, but I wasn’t super confident (we had won),” Torrance said. “Not confident enough to start celebrating. Then I looked around and saw our fans get really excited after they announced something I couldn’t hear, so I figured we won.”
Torrance’s last lap was Sig Ep’s fastest of the race. It capped a wild day for Sig Ep after needing to recover from an early crash to win their third Little 500.
Black Key Bulls finished in second with Beta Theta Pi rounding out the podium.
“There really wasn’t anything I could change,” Brauchla said after coming up just shy of repeating as Little 500 champions. “If there was any way to lose, for it to be that close and knowing there was nothing else that could be done, I can hang my ?head up.”
A rider victimized by the late crash in Black Key Bulls’ 2014 win, Torrance took advantage of his opportunity at a sprint Sunday.
He took the lead from Beta’s Chris Craig on the inside of the track coming out of Turn 2 on the final lap. He was able to hold the gutter on the inside line the rest of the way, pulling away from Craig and holding off a late surge from Brauchla.
Sig Ep was nearly out of the race 160 laps earlier when Chris Turi crashed on the front stretch.
The team was able to keep their composure even after the crash left them with half a lap to make up on the field without the help of ?the draft.
Together, Turi and Torrance combined with teammates Sam Anderson and Charlie Hicks to bridge the gap on the rest of the field. Not wanting to risk another mistake, Torrance rode the final 15 laps on the bike, conserving just enough energy to outlast Brauchla in the sprint.
“I thought we were done, I really thought we were done,” Torrance said. “Our strategy completely ?blew up.”
But as is often the case with the Little 500, strategies were constantly changing.
Delta Tau Delta threw the lead teams their biggest challenge when it nearly ran away with the race on lap 178. It opened an almost 15-second lead before a group of riders, led by Craig, drafted together to reel in Delts to set up the late sprint.
Delts’ charge may have cost Craig and his Beta teammates the race. Craig said he drained most of his energy pulling the field back within striking distance of Delts and didn’t have enough in the tank to fend off Torrance on the last lap.
“I got up there, I bridged them,” Craig said. “I just didn’t have enough.”
Looking back on his four years of riding, Torrance described the race win as ?a process.
Torrance was with Sig Ep when they finished 12th in 2012. They moved up to sixth in 2013 before finishing fourth last year.
Slowly, Sig Ep was becoming a regular contender, and Turi said Torrance was one of the main men responsible for turning Sig Ep from a middle-of-the-pack team to a Little 500 ?champion.
That’s why, when asked what the race win meant to him, Torrance was reflective, remembering the process.
“Four years of hard work, that’s what it means,” Torrance said. “I’m happy for the house, I’m happy for our guys. I’m glad I could ?deliver.”