RICHMOND, Va. (September 9, 2000) - It was just one of those nights. That's about the only way to describe Saturday night's race at Richmond International Raceway for Chad Little and the John Deere Motorsports team. Little started the race in...
RICHMOND, Va. (September 9, 2000) - It was just one of those nights. That's about the only way to describe Saturday night's race at Richmond International Raceway for Chad Little and the John Deere Motorsports team.
Little started the race in 39th position by way of qualifying, and unfortunately, the .75-mile facility only has 40 pit stalls, which meant the No. 97 crew would have to share a pit until one of the other 42 competitors withdrew from the 400-lap race. The John Deere team would complete two stops while sharing a pit stall, and regrettably for Little and the crew, one of those stops would result in the loss of a lap.
The second of eight caution flags waved on lap 55, and Little used the slowdown to enter the pits to free up the tight-handling car. Following the stop, NASCAR officials said that Little had failed to beat the pace car out of the pits, resulting in the loss of one lap. So as the race resumed, Little found himself serving a penalty in the pits as the field took the green. It would only take an additional 30 laps for Little to lose a second lap to the field as the John Deere Ford once again got up to speed.
To make matters more difficult, the team was forced to move down pit road from pit stall 39 to pit stall nine as the third caution came out on lap 103. The team scrambled to get their air hoses set up, two cans of fuel and four tires ready as the car came down pit road. The over-the-wall crew managed to complete the stop and sent Little back on to the track in 38th position.
At the halfway point of the 300-mile event, Little had moved up to 33rd position, as attrition became a factor in the race. Little was still two laps down to the leaders at lap 200, but he managed to keep from losing another lap as the next green-flag segment lasted 126 laps.
On lap 285, Little radioed into the pits that he began feeling ill. Attempts to re-hydrate Little had failed and the team combed the garage to find a relief driver. As the sixth caution flag flew on lap 316, Brett Bodine, who earlier retired from the race, substituted for Little and drove the John Deere Taurus for the last 78 laps. Bodine re-entered the track seven laps down after the driver switch, but guided the John Deere Ford to a 29th-place finish.
The John Deere team ended the night seven laps down to race-winner Jeff Gordon, but held on to 19th place in the Winston Cup point standings. The team will next compete at New Hampshire International Speedway on Sunday, September 17.
"That had to be one of the toughest nights I've ever had. It just felt like we were behind the eight ball from the start. We lost a lap early on pit road, and then we were in the pits as the race went back to green. Right now I'm just exhausted. I started getting stomach cramps midway through the race, and I just felt that driving in that condition would not only be a danger to myself to but to the other competitors. I want to thank Brett (Bodine) for finishing the race, and his efforts allowed us to keep our spot in the top 20 in points."