ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Feb. 27, 2000) - The second race of the 2000 Winston Cup season was as much a race against the pending weather as it was between the 43 competitors on the track. While the entire 393-lap race was completed, the gloomy weather ...
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Feb. 27, 2000) - The second race of the 2000 Winston Cup season was as much a race against the pending weather as it was between the 43 competitors on the track. While the entire 393-lap race was completed, the gloomy weather overhead had an impact on pit strategies up and down pit road. Even more important, as the pit strategies began to play out in the final 50 laps of the race, tire wear became an important variable in the speed equation. North Carolina Speedway, notorious for putting Goodyear's rubber to the test, was no less challenging this year.
Chad Little held the 38th starting position for the start of Sunday's Dura-Lube/Kmart 400, but the car seemed to find the track during Happy Hour on Saturday, as Little posted the sixth fastest time of the practice session. It would be a rough road ahead, and early in the race Little was caught up in an accident that saw the Nos. 13 and 42 cars spin across the apron of the 1.017-mile oval. The accident brought out the first caution flag of the afternoon on lap 18, and Little received some damage to the front left fender of his No. 97 Ford in the chain reaction of events. The caution allowed Little to bring the car in for some cosmetic attention, and Little returned to the track in 41st position.
As the green flag waved once more on lap 23, the green and yellow machine made its way through the field on its most profound run of the day. Before the next pit stop on lap 87, Little advanced 13 positions and the John Deere Ford was just three spots outside of the top 25. Little completed a quiet charge into the top 25 on lap 146, as he began turning lap times comparable to those of the leaders.
The leaders posted a blistering pace, and Little was battling his way towards the top 20, albeit one lap down. The fourth and final caution of the day came on lap 187, and Little used the break in the action to take on four tires, fuel and a quick chassis adjustment. Fast service from the John Deere crew put Little back on the track in 20th position, with the opportunity to do battle with the cars up to 15th place on the leader board.
Little would make two more green-flag pit stops, with the last stop of the afternoon coming on lap 325. The race to the checkered flag was on, and Little made his move from the 19th position as high as 15th on lap 363. As the final lap approached, Little tried to hold off the No. 5 car across the finish, but driver Terry Labonte made a move Little was unable to block. Little finished the race in 18th place, three laps down to race winner Bobby Labonte.
Little earned 109 points for his finish and moves into 21st place in the Winston Cup point standings. The John Deere Motorsports team heads West to Las Vegas for this weekend's CarsDirect.com 400 scheduled for Sunday, March 5.
"We had a real good race car at the start of the race, but as the laps began ticking away the car seemed to disintegrate. None of the changes we made in the pits were too severe, it was some air pressure and small track bar adjustments, but a small change here seems to be magnified out on the track. The tires held up well all afternoon, and that's always something you key in on at The Rock - tire management. Jeff (Hammond) came over the radio a few times to remind me to conserve the tires, and that allowed us to stay out on the track a few extra laps on the green-flag runs.
"The over-the-wall guys did a great job today, and it was their work that helped keep us from going a lap down before one of the cautions. Consistent pit stops will definitely have an impact on the points standings; now we need to have some better luck at the start of the race, and we'll be running up front with the leaders."