0.154 and 11.745 seconds.
Those two times have been all that has separated Gray Goat from back-to-back Little 500 titles. Instead, they’ve finished runner-up the past two years.
In 2017, Black Key Bulls maintained the lead throughout the final laps and never allowed Gray Goat, Cutters or anyone else to make much of a challenge at the end. But the following year was much closer.
When the white flag came down to signal the last lap in 2018, it came down to Cutters and Gray Goat. Cutters then-junior Noble Guyon got out in front on turn two.
Then, as they made their way around turn four, Gray Goat then-senior Sam Stratton had a shot at Guyon. But Guyon was able to hold off Stratton in a sprint to the finish.
“It was very nerve-racking,” Gray Goat sophomore Jack Dunsford said. “We just kind of had our fingers crossed the whole time. It was close, we wanted that.”
Despite having to replace two senior riders, the expectations the team has for itself remains the same as it’s been in years past. The only two returning riders from last year’s race day team are Dunsford and fellow sophomore Logan Tisdale.
Each time the riders train on rollers together, they watch tape from the past years like most other teams do in order to learn what they could’ve done differently. It also gives new riders an opportunity to see how the race works before actually stepping foot on the track.
“We’re just trying to get that momentum up, and I think we definitely have this year,” Dunsford said. “It’s a big motivator getting second two years in a row.”
Gray Goat has only been a team since 2008 but have yet to finish outside the top 15 and has placed in the top 10 six times. Considering it's an independent team rather than a fraternity, Gray Goat needed to find a way to recruit riders.
That led them to a place known for “freaky fast” service. The one place that’s consistently provided riders for Gray Goat has been Jimmy John’s.
Stratton originally worked at Jimmy John’s at 1827 E. 10th St. and recruited Tisdale to ride with Gray Goat. Tisdale accepted an invitation to join the team after attending a tailgate with other Gray Goat riders
At one point, there were three Jimmy John’s riders on the team. Another Gray Goat rider who works at Jimmy John’s is sophomore Nicholas Lazaroae. He didn’t come from the main location on 10th Street since he currently works at Jimmy John’s on Kirkwood Avenue. But it’s helped him prepare for this Little 500 season.
“It’s on a lower elevation and I’m constantly climbing a hill,” Lazaroae said. “That’s like a one- to two-mile sprint when I do a delivery. It makes it feel like you’re on the track, which is what I like about it.”
With the Little 500 race quickly approaching, Gray Goat has remained confident in whatever result comes its way, but the goal has never been more clear.
“We’re just trying to get over that hump,” sophomore Jake Richards said. “Come race day, if we don’t get that, it’s alright because it’s a learning experience again. But that’s our goal this year: to get over the hump.”
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