Cracker Barrel 500 Notes and Quotes HAMPTON, Ga. (March 12, 2000) - Chad Little and the John Deere Motorsports team traveled to Atlanta this weekend hoping to extend a streak to three in a row. They weren't looking for the third ...
Cracker Barrel 500 Notes and Quotes
HAMPTON, Ga. (March 12, 2000) - Chad Little and the John Deere Motorsports team traveled to Atlanta this weekend hoping to extend a streak to three in a row. They weren't looking for the third straight race with a presence of rain; rather, they were focused on capturing their third straight top-10 performance at Atlanta Motor Speedway, a feat that began in the spring of 1999. The weekend started on a promising note as Little posted the fourth quickest time during Friday's second practice session leading into qualifying. The one-lap qualifying run that followed was impressive, as Little turned in the 13th fastest time around the 1.54-mile oval. By way of his 13th-place starting position, Little also extended a streak of four straight top-25 starting positions at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Rain looked to factor into the equation prior to the race, but the only threatening storm passed on Saturday afternoon washing away the Happy Hour practice session. Without the final practice before the race, Little conferred with crew chief Jeff Hammond on the best setup based upon their notes and previous experiences. The drop of the green flag to start Sunday's Cracker Barrel 500 occurred just after 1:00 p.m. EST, and with not much ground between the No. 97 Ford and the leader, Little moved the John Deere machine into the top 10 on lap 58, following the second of 10 caution periods. A quick stop by the John Deere crew allowed Little to make his way up to eighth position before the next caution flag waved on lap 69. The green-flag run that followed resulted in Little's ability to stay on the lead lap for the remainder of the race. When the race went back to green-flag racing conditions on lap 77, until the next caution on lap 182, Little fought to stay ahead of the dominant No. 31 car. A green-flag pit stop occurred midway through the run, and while the leaders pitted, Little stayed out on the track to earn five bonus points. Little fought hard to keep from going a lap down late in the run. Battling his way to 10th place on lap 169, to keep pace with the leader, Little kept the No. 31 machine in his rearview mirror, never allowing him to close within three car lengths. Perseverance paid off, as a timely caution flag appeared with Little was solidly positioned in the top 10, the last car on the lead lap. The race came down to the final 14 laps, and as the final caution period came to a close, Little was running in sixth position. The John Deere Ford had run as high as fourth place before the final dash to the checkered flag, but time was not on Little's side as he was unable to make up enough ground under green flag conditions to contend for the fifth spot. The sixth-place finish established Little's best performance of the season, and moves him up six spots in the point standings. Little currently occupies the 11th position in the Winston Cup points standings, following his third top-20 performance in the first four races of the 2000 season. Little trails the 10th-place car of Ken Schrader by only two points heading into next weekend's Mall.com 400 at Darlington Raceway.
"This is the type of run we needed to put up this weekend. This performance was an entire team effort, the John Deere crew did a solid job on pit stops, Jeff (Hammond) and I were able to communicate the changes we needed, and everything we did seemed to work out in the long run. We knew heading into this weekend that a solid performance would allow us to gain a few spots in the standings, and based upon our past history here, I think that added to our level of confidence. This may only be a one-and-a-half-mile track in distance, but it races like a superspeedway, and those are the types of tracks we seem most comfortable running. "This car was re-skinned during the off-season, and it's the same one we've taken here the past few times. It only races at Atlanta, and seeing how there wasn't any major damage, I'm sure it will be back here at the season finale. We need to build off of this performance, like we've done so far improving each weekend we raced, and if we can do that we'll put ourselves in the position to accomplish our goals at the end of the year."