ANDERSON, Ind. — Daytona 500 winner and USAC champion Ryan Newman will compete in the 74th annual Lucas Oil Little 500 at Anderson Speedway on May 28.
Newman, an 18-time NASCAR Cup Series winner, will be driving the Driven2SaveLives sprint car sponsored by Indiana Donor Network in honor of Anna Van Acker, a Mishawaka, Ind., resident who died in May 2021 at age 55 from complications of heart surgery.
Anna was a registered organ donor. Her husband, Robert, and members of the Van Acker family will be joined by Newman to remember Anna and her selfless decision to register to be an organ donor.
“The Little 500 is a prestigious, bucket list race that I’ve always wanted to race in,” said Newman. “Raising awareness for organ donation while getting to enjoy my passion for open wheel racing is equally exciting for me. I’m even more excited to get to honor someone on my car who said, ‘yes’ to donation.”
A native of South Bend, Ind., the 44-year-old Newman will attempt to qualify for his first Little 500. Newman owns victories in all three USAC national series and was the 1999 Silver Crown Series champion. One of his two career USAC sprint car triumphs came at Anderson Speedway in 2000.
Ironically, Newman will drive the same car that he won with at Anderson 22 years ago. The car was owned by Johnny Vance when Newman drove it, but has been campaigned by Aaron Pierce in recent years.
The Little 500 starts 33 non-winged sprint cars in 11 rows of three on a quarter-mile asphalt track with a race distance of 500 laps.
“I have been there, I have experienced it, and I know what it takes to get around there (Anderson Speedway),” said Newman. “It’s a pretty cool quarter-mile, high banked track. It is just like a baby Bristol.”
Robert Van Acker’s uncle Charles, made three Indianapolis 500 starts. Robert VanAcker introduced his wife, Anna to racing shortly after they married in 1998.
“She loved the thrills that a fast car provided,” he said. “I took her to her first go-kart race in Talladega and she said, ‘I love this.’”