Men’s teams will most likely be riding on a wet track when the 67th running of the Little 500 starts at 2 p.m. this Saturday.
The current forecast predicts between an 85- and 95-percent chance of rain in the eight hours leading up to the race. However, by the start of the race, the chance of rain drops to 20 percent and will not go above 25 percent during it.
Junior Joe Krahulik of Sigma Alpha Epsilon said he does not see the rain changing the way his team approaches the race but does believe his team could benefit from a wet track. He said riding in mud-like conditions can wears riders down.
“I think teams that are physically smaller are going to have to be a little more conservative because the wet conditions benefit bigger, stronger guys,” Krahulik said. “I think it’s looking good for us. It will slow the race down a little bit, and hopefully it makes it easier for me to get to the last lap.”
The potential of rain does not intimidate senior Charlie Hammon of Black Key Bulls. Hammon said he’s disappointed the race will likely be cold because the team has prepared in mid 70- and 80-degree conditions in the days leading up to the race. He said the team will now have to bring a little extra toughness.
“There were times it rained throughout track practices this spring,” Hammon said. “I encouraged everybody to go to the track to learn what it feels like to ride on wet cinders. When it comes to being in that environment, we’ve done it. It’s not gonna stop us.”
With the race approaching, Hammon said he is concentrating on his teammates rather than himself. He’s ridden in Little 500 twice before, but two riders — Kevin Mangel and Noah Voyles — on the Black Key Bulls are riding in their first Little 500.
“The big thing is having confidence in yourself, confidence in the training plan that we’ve gone through and confidence in each other,” Hammon said. “We’re trying to focus on each other. This is the capstone of a huge year of training and huge year of brotherhood.”
Hammon said a win would mean a lot to him. During his freshman season he was a member of the champion Black Key Bull team but did not ride in the race. After heartbreaking finishes within a second of the champions in his sophomore and junior seasons, a win this year would be the perfect conclusion to a decorated riding career.
“I definitely have a fire in my belly,” Hammon said. “I know what winning feels like from an observer on the team but not know what it feels like to actually race and win the competition. It would mean a lot just to prove to myself that we can do it and I can do it.”
For Krahulik a potential win is hard for him to think about. He said however his team finishes in Little 500, he will immediately begin thinking about next year. Regardless, he feels like he’s already a champion.
“I think as far as the goals of Little 500, we’ve gotten so close and had so many good times together that a trophy is kind of a formality and the cherry on top,” Krahulik said. “We’ve pretty much become best friends. I feel like at this point, it almost feels like we already won.”