Chad Little Bristol Preview

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (August 26, 1999) * Greek mythology holds sacred the tale of the phoenix. Engulfed by flames as it nears its death so that a new phoenix may rise from the ashes, the legendary creature symbolizes immortality and ...

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (August 26, 1999) * Greek mythology holds sacred the tale of the phoenix. Engulfed by flames as it nears its death so that a new phoenix may rise from the ashes, the legendary creature symbolizes immortality and resurrection. So fitting is the name that the John Deere Motorsports team has nicknamed Chad Little's JR-26 Winston Cup car, "The Phoenix." The sixth annual Brickyard 400 was a memorable experience for Little and the John Deere crew, not for the final result, but for an accident that occurred on lap 43. Two weeks ago in Indianapolis, the No. 97 John Deere Ford Taurus was turned into the outside wall of the famed speedway. Driver Chad Little took a good hit but walked away from the wreck uninjured. The same couldn't be said of the car, however, as it was towed into the garage. The story that follows chronicles the rebirth of JR-26, but leaves the final chapter to be written at Bristol Motor Speedway this Saturday night under the lights. Two days following the Brickyard, the Roush Racing staff took the mangled machine, removed the race engine, and began cutting apart the body. The following day, Tuesday, August 10, the cockpit of the car was transported to Liberty, N.C., where new front and rear clips were installed. The "front clip" is shoptalk referring to the region where the front wheels are attached and the engine rests. The rear clip houses the fuel cell and rear wheel mounts. The team finished the work in one day and promptly transported the car back to Mooresville, N.C., home of the No. 97 John Deere race shop. "When we rolled the car of the transporter Monday morning, the cockpit looked to be fully intact so we decided to cut off the body to see if we could replace the clips and build a new body," said crew chief Jeff Hammond. "Besides being our Indy car, this car also served as our Bristol car a few months early, and with the success we had with it there last time, we felt it would be worthy of salvaging."

The next two days saw the car fitted for the engine mount and front and rear suspension components. Beginning that Friday, a six member fabricating team took pieces of sheet metal and began shaping them around the body of Little's Taurus. Ten days later, the body was completed and the car received a coat of famous John Deere green paint. From the crumpled frame and damaged sheet metal, a new John Deere machine was completed less than two weeks following the disastrous wreck. Now sitting in the transporter awaiting delivery to Bristol Motor Speedway the new JR-26 will compete once again with Little behind the wheel. "When I got back to the garage at Indy after being released from the infield care center, I took one look at the car and figured it would be used for scrap metal," Little said. "The following Tuesday I called the shop while I was at an appearance, and Jeff (Hammond) told me the crew was already getting the car prepped for the new body. In that two-week span the entire car has been rebuilt and is ready to go 500 laps at Bristol this weekend. "This has always been one of our more successful short-track cars, and to be able to take it to Bristol three weeks after the Indy accident, it adds a little confidence heading into this weekend. I can't say enough about the guys at the shop. They've been doing a great job of putting competitive cars on the track, and hopefully this one will live up to its name this weekend." Little heads into Saturday's Goody's Headache Powder 500 currently 21st in the Winston Cup point standings, but only time will tell if JR-26 can withstand the bumping and banging of Bristol Motor Speedway to seals it fate as the "The Phoenix" of John Deere Motorsports.

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Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Chad Little