CHAD LITTLE LOOKS FOR VICTORY IN WATKINS GLEN LYSOL 200
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- Chad Little began his NASCAR Busch Grand National career at Watkins Glen International, when he finished 29th in a one-time drive for Barry Owen in 1992.
Next weekend, Little comes full circle at the scenic Finger Lakes circuit, when he will be one of the drivers to beat in the June 25 Lysol 200 in his Bayer Aspirin Ford.
Little opened the year with his first Busch Grand National victory, when he took the Mark Rypien-owned Ford to victory lane at Daytona in the Goody's 300. Since then, he's performed well at every stop on the tour, with victories at Rockingham, Loudon and Charlotte, plus several near misses. He enters the Lysol 200 ranked second in the point standings, only 178 counters behind Johnny Benson.
"I'd be disappointed if I wasn't a contender at Watkins Glen," said Little. "I'd like to win that race. I started my Busch Grand National career at the Glen, and I've always enjoyed road racing."
While road racing is a once-a-year change of pace for most of the Busch Grand National regulars, it's like a return to the roots for the 32-year-old Spokane, Wash., driver.
"I love racing on the road courses," Little said. "In the Winston West Series, we even got to race on the street courses, and that was a lot of fun. I wish we ran more road courses."
Little became the only driver in the history of the NASCAR Winston West Series to win rookie of the year and championship honors in successive years (1986-87). With his championship and a law degree from Gonzaga School of Law in hand, Little moved to the Winston Cup Series in 1988 looking to continue an impressive string of successes.
Instead, he found disappointment, seeing limited success driving his own car in addition to rides with Junie Donlavey, Cale Yarborough and Harry Melling. He recorded two top-10 finishes in 85 races, with his best outing an eighth at Talladega in 1992.
The following year, Little met with Greg Pollex. While Little wished to continue in Winston Cup, he was persuaded to move to the Busch Grand National Series. Joining the effort was NFL quarterback Mark Rypien, a former classmate of Little.
"I wanted to continue running Winston Cup," Little recalled. "When Mark and Greg put the deal together, it was their foresight that made us run in Busch Grand National. It turned out to be a good deal."
The team scored two top-five finishes in a limited 1993 schedule, and opened 1994 with a third in the Goody's 300 at Daytona. A strong finish to the season pulled him up to third in the final points standings, and served to a prelude to his strong 1995 performance.
Today, Little is running to win every race on the Busch tour.
"We really have been trying to get that kind of mindset," Little explained. "We've done nothing really magical. We've got the same cars, the same people. I just guess everything came together. Towards the end of last year, we really were starting to run pretty good. We ran up in the top five or ten through the last half of the season.
"This year we just took it up one more step, where instead of the top five or the top 10, we are actually running in the top first, second or third positions."
Mike McLaughlin, Johnny Benson, Phil Parsons, Jason Keller and Larry Pearson, plus Winston Cup "invaders" Terry Labonte, Jimmy Spencer, Ricky Craven and Steve Grissom, agree on one thing for the Lysol 200 -- Chad Little will be one of the drivers to beat. For ticket and camping information, call (607) 535-2481.
J.J. O'Malley/Watkins Glen International