FT. WORTH, Texas (April 2, 2000) - Sunday's DirecTV 500 at Texas Motor Speedway was an emotional roller coaster for the John Deere Motorsports team. Emotions ran the gamut as early handling problems forced driver Chad Little to lose a...
FT. WORTH, Texas (April 2, 2000) - Sunday's DirecTV 500 at Texas Motor Speedway was an emotional roller coaster for the John Deere Motorsports team. Emotions ran the gamut as early handling problems forced driver Chad Little to lose a lap, but at the opposite end of the spectrum, good luck allowed the team to reclaim their lap, at one point being only one of two cars on the lead lap. At the end of the ride it was another solid performance as the team picked up their third top-15 finish of the season. In his second best qualifying effort of the 2000 season, Little was able to drive the No. 97 Ford to the 16th starting position. Unfortunately rain washed out Saturday's Happy Hour practice session, so Little and crew chief Jeff Hammond were left with some difficult decisions to make. An attempt was made to free up the car for Sunday's main event, but as the green flag dropped beginning the 500-mile race, Little battled a loose-handling condition. The team chased the car the first half of the 334-lap race, pitting each of the first three caution periods to perform various chassis adjustments that included track bar, spring rubbers and air pressure. The longest green-flag run of the day lasted only 64 laps, and unfortunately for the John Deere team, it was just outside of their fuel window. Battling to stay on the lead lap, Little pitted under green on lap 84 only to see the caution flag wave two laps later. This unfortunate set of circumstances forced Little to go down a lap to the leaders. The team's luck would change, however, as Little regained his lap on lap 156 as the sixth of 12 caution flags waved. The race went back to green-flag conditions on lap 159, and the 78 laps that followed would be the team's best of the afternoon. Little ran consistent lap times and chased down the leaders during this segment. Just as Little charged into the pits on lap 237, the caution flag wave and the pit stop was aborted as the John Deere Ford sped down pit road to stay ahead of the leader. As luck would have it, Little's aggressive driving kept him on the lead lap, one of two cars to do so. Little and teammate Kevin Lepage were shown atop the leader board with positions three through 43 at least one lap down. It didn't last long, as the race only went back to green for three laps before the ninth caution flag of the afternoon was thrown. Little was now one of 17 cars on the lead lap, challenging the field for a chance to take the checkered flag. Little maneuvered the John Deere Ford as high as 11th, but as the laps began ticking away, the green-and-yellow machine was in mired in traffic and fighting for every last inch on the track. The race ended with Little coming away with 13th place, and 124 points for his efforts. Little advanced to the 13th position in the Winston Cup point standings, 43 points outside of the top 10. The John Deere team heads to Talladega Superspeedway tomorrow for a quick two-day test session before heading to Martinsville Speedway for next Sunday's Goody's Body Pain 500.
"We knew we wanted to loosen the car up for Sunday, but it just started out way too loose. We lost Happy Hour because of the rain, and we were forced to judge how the changes would affect the car without actually running them on the track before the race. The guys in the pits did a good job today of not only putting on four tires and fuel, but also getting the chassis adjustments done each time.
"It seemed that before the tires got some heat in them, the car was loose all over, but as the run progressed the handling seemed to improve. It was one of those days that if the cards fell just right, it was anybody's race to win. This was another consistent run for the John Deere team, and another race to build some positive momentum."