Little proves solid again at Daytona By Shawn A. Akers DAYTONA BEACH, Fl. (Feb. 14, 1999) At least Jack Roush had one of his five NASCAR Winston Cup drivers challenging for the win in the latter stages of Sunday's Daytona 500 at Daytona ...
Little proves solid again at Daytona By Shawn A. Akers
DAYTONA BEACH, Fl. (Feb. 14, 1999) At least Jack Roush had one of his five NASCAR Winston Cup drivers challenging for the win in the latter stages of Sunday's Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.
But then again, it might not have been the one that most people would have thought of. It wasn't Mark Martin, and it certainly wasn't Jeff Burton, either.
But there was Chad Little, putting his No. 97 John Deere Taurus right in the thick of the battle in the final 25 laps of Sunday's "Great American Race." And while he got caught out of the draft and wasn't a factor at the end, Little claimed his second straight top-10 effort in the Daytona 500, a ninth-place finish, and was the one holding up the Roush banner at the end of 200 laps.
"I think we surprised a few people today, but heading into this event we were always confident about getting another top-10 finish," Little said. "The crew did an excellent job of preparing this car in the off-season, and they performed well in the pits -- that's something we're going to need to do consistently to stay in the top-15 in points. Our goal is to eliminate mental mistakes this year, and we all did a good job of that today."
Little hopes to prove that the 1998 season was no fluke, a year in which he finished 15th in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings. One of his primary goals is to finish in the top-10 in the points in 1999, and his finish on Sunday was a strong indication that he'll be a contender to do just that.
While Martin's and Burton's circumstances relegated them to 31st and 35th-place finishes, respectively and Kevin Lepage and Johnny Benson finished 13th and 17th, respectively, Little put himself in a position late in the event to win the race, if not earn a solid finish.
A late caution flag allowed several cars, including Little's, to get into contention, and a 23-lap sprint to the finish would determine the outcome. Little pushed his Ford all the way to fourth place by lap 180.
But as luck would have it, Little got caught out of the draft with 10 laps remaining, and his hopes for earning his first NASCAR Winston Cup victory were doused. He wasn't able to hook up with the lead pack again, and settled for a ninth-place finish.
"We had a strong car all day, and we were able to use both grooves to move up on the field," Little said. "We just didn't catch a break at the end of the race, and lost the draft. That's not to say we didn't have some good luck. We missed the big wreck today, and that's something that didn't happen a few times last year."
Little had a disappointing seven DNFs a year ago, but still managed to finish in the top-15 in the points. That's why he was happy he barely missed a 12-car accident on lap 135.
Little was behind Kenny Irwin's machine when Irwin bumped teammate Dale Jarrett, which in turn caused the pileup and ended the day of many of those involved. Little was able to run up the high groove, and thereby avoided the chain reaction that gathered many of the front runners, and allowed him to continue his fight to the front.
Two of the drivers involved in the big accident were Martin and Burton.
Little said he was pleased with the top-10 finish on the superspeedway, and is looking forward to the DieHard 500 at Talladega in April, where most likely the John Deere team will use the same car.
"The Taurus handled surprisingly well on this race track, and it should be a competitive car for us at Talladega, as well," Little said. "We learned a lot of information about the Taurus over the past 10 days, and now we need to see how we can use it to make us better. Needless to say, we're pretty pleased with it, and since this car didn't sustain any damage, you'll see it again at Talladega."
Source: NASCAR Online