LONG POND, Pa. (June 19, 2000) - The scheduled running of the Pocono 500 was postponed on Sunday due to inclement weather, and while the rain may have washed away some of the notes the John Deere Motorsports team accumulated over the weekend,...
LONG POND, Pa. (June 19, 2000) - The scheduled running of the Pocono 500 was postponed on Sunday due to inclement weather, and while the rain may have washed away some of the notes the John Deere Motorsports team accumulated over the weekend, it left them with a clean slate and an opportunity to improve on a 37th-place starting position. On Monday, the John Deere team led by driver Chad Little capitalized on that opportunity and finished the 500-mile race with a solid top-20 performance.
The on-track activities began promptly at 10 a.m. EDT on Monday so that the entire 200-lap race could be completed, but it would also allow the teams to return home early enough to prepare their transporters for the long haul out West this week. Little kept his end of the bargain and kept the No. 97 John Deere Ford out of trouble during the race that concluded less than four hours after the drop of the green flag; a feat not often accomplished at the difficult 2.5-mile tri-oval. The race saw only five caution flags, but 10 cars would retire from the race early.
Little had the John Deere Ford running in the top 30 by lap 50, and two early caution flags allowed the team to make a few minor air pressure and chassis adjustments to bring the green-and-yellow machine into the mix. Little bullied his way into the top 25 by the midpoint of the race, and a quick green-flag pit stop on lap 114 helped to advance Little through the field.
The fourth caution flag of the afternoon waved on lap 132, and needing only a quick track bar adjustment in addition to fuel and tires, Little returned to the track in 21st place. When the race went back to green on lap 137, Little diced his way to 17th less than 10 laps into the run with high-speed maneuvering. Three-wide racing down the frontstretch positioned Little for a charge into the top 15 with 50 laps remaining. A green-flag pit stop on lap 166 forced Little to regroup, but a caution flag waved on lap 183, once again bunching up the lead-lap cars. Little found himself in 19th place on the final restart, and over the last 13 laps, he made his way around two more competitors, crossing the finish line in 17th place.
Little finished the afternoon advancing 20 positions from the start of the race, and more importantly, picked up enough points to make his way back into the top 20 in points. Little currently occupies 19th place in the Winston Cup point standings, heading into the first road course event of the year at Sears Point Raceway scheduled for Sunday, June 25.
"This was a good way to finish our extended stay at Pocono. A top-20 finish here makes the delay seem bearable. You always want to get the race in on Sunday, especially with next weekend's race being held on the West Coast. It just wasn't possible yesterday, so we wanted to have a good one today to justify the time we lost at home, in the shop and from our families. We accomplished that today. We had a good car and we made the right changes to it over the course of the race. As a team we made a few mental mistakes this afternoon, but everyone was able to come back and correct any inconsistencies.
"Our finish looks to be good enough to get the John Deere Ford back into the top 20 in points, and we aim to stay there for the rest of the year. We still have some ground to make up to the top 15, but this weekend was a step in the right direction.
"This was a good warm-up for some of the driving techniques we'll be using on the road course next week, so I'm glad we were able to get the race in today. I'm pulling double-duty next weekend, racing in the Southwest Series race in Sonoma before the Cup event, so hopefully that added practice will allow us to repeat last year's top-20 performance at Sears Point as well."