CONCORD, N.C. (March 22, 2000)Â¾ It was a Tuesday of a different sort at the Roush Racing Concord (N.C.) facility as nearly 40 members of the North Carolina state and local FFA chapters got a first hand look at the recently opened...
CONCORD, N.C. (March 22, 2000)¾ It was a Tuesday of a different sort at the Roush Racing Concord (N.C.) facility as nearly 40 members of the North Carolina state and local FFA chapters got a first hand look at the recently opened state-of-the-art motorsports shop.
The group of 40 students and state officers from South Rowan, Mt. Pleasant, Smoky Mountain and Northwest Cabarrus spent four hours touring the facility, picking up insights from crew chief Jeff Hammond and enjoying a special round-table discussion with John Deere Motorsports driver Chad Little. Little, who traveled to Louisville, Ky., last November to unveil the FFA/John Deere Taurus, has taken a special interest in the agricultural education group that has over 450,000 members across the United States.
The special Open House event leads up to the May 28 running of the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
A commemorative FFA/John Deere Ford will run in the 600-mile race, and National FFA officers will be in attendance for a scheduled pre-race presentation. Little's participation in the 20th annual UAW-GM Teamwork Parade on May 23 will complement John Deere's and FFA's efforts to bring attention to the extended relationship between the two organizations.
John Deere, who has been a corporate sponsor of FFA for 56 years, announced a joint relationship last year with FFA that will increase its involvement with the group in three distinct phases. In
Phase I of the new FFA/Deere program, sales of co-branded products, such as a special die-cast model of the No. 97 FFA/John Deere Ford, will help develop FFA initiatives at the national level while benefiting local chapters.
Phase II, Community Connection, will continue to build on strengthening the local community. A pilot program is being launched this spring with 25 FFA chapters across the nation. Chapters will be selling FFA/John Deere co-branded merchandise while educating the community about FFA.
"FFA is dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of young people through education by encouraging leadership, personal growth and career success," commented Little following his discussion with the group. "When I spoke in front of nearly 18,000 students in Louisville (Ky.) last November, I realized how important this organization is to the development of our young people on a nationwide scale. FAA is developing the leaders of tomorrow, and has grown from its farm roots to include our cities and rural communities. As impressed as they may have been about our facility today, I was equally impressed by the intelligence and level of maturity this group exuded."
Among the questions posed to Little during their discussion involved his initial involvement in racing, and how he was able to balance his prospering career with his studies.
Little, a 1988 graduate from Gonzaga School of Law, told of his racing roots in the Pacific Northwest. "I competed in the early 80s on the NASCAR Northwest Tour and the ASA (American Speed Association) West late model series through family-funded operations," Little said. "Part of the deal I made with my parents after graduating with a marketing degree from Washington State was to further my studies into law. They set me down and told me that they would only continue funding my race career if I graduated from law school. That motivated me to accomplish my goal, and I'm proud to say I did that passing each and every class I took. I knew I wanted to be a race car diver, and attaining my law degree was something I knew I needed to accomplish to keep my dream alive."
Competition became a topic of interest, and more specifically, how 43 participants can get along on a weekly basis without repeated confrontations. "Motorsports is unique in the fact that 43 competitors get together each weekend to compete," Little said. "The most important aspect of NASCAR competition is keeping separate on-tracks activity from your life outside of racing.
Nowadays most drivers stay on the track's grounds for the duration of the weekend, to maximize our time with our families and to retain a bit of normalcy in our lives. We have a separate area where all the competitors stay and each weekend it becomes a small, self-reliant community. In order for that to happen we all need to help each other out if there is a problem, and that's where putting your on-track activities aside comes into place. Most of the drivers have children, and we encourage all of them to play and interact with one another. Personal feelings are put aside for the sake of our families, so that they can have a life similar to those across the United States."
The tour of the facility given by two-time Winston Cup champion crew chief Jeff Hammond was another highlight of the afternoon's activities.
Hammond's 25 years of experience on the Winston Cup scene provided the backdrop for a tour that showed the progression of a Winston Cup car from its beginnings as a frame, to the addition of a sheet metal body, and finally paint and decals.
"The processes that we go through in the production of each of our cars is based off of a model," said Hammond. "We are responsible for following a set rule of procedures to ensure that each car is not only built to NASCAR specifications, but to an even higher set of standards that we have at Roush. These procedures have been developed to add reliability and consistency to the cars we build. These principles are the same as in any job you are employed in - mechanic, agriculturist, or businessman. The components of motorsports, on both the competition and production side of things, provides an insight into real life obstacles people must face everyday." The partnership of FFA with a leader in America's heritage of agriculture, John Deere, and the fastest growing sport, NASCAR, will continue to give visibility to the enhanced FFA/John Deere relationship. This and upcoming race-related events will also give FFA the opportunity to showcase the students that are making a difference in their schools and communities.