BRISTOL, Tenn. (March 30, 1998) The disappointment etched on the faces of Chad Little's Roush Racing crew told the story of their day at the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. After watching Little fight his way from 34th place...
BRISTOL, Tenn. (March 30, 1998)
The disappointment etched on the faces of Chad Little's Roush Racing crew told the story of their day at the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. After watching Little fight his way from 34th place to seventh, the John Deere crew saw its best performance of the season cut short on lap 442 of 500 when the No. 97 Ford Taurus fell victim to a multi-car accident in Bristol's high-banked Turn 4.
What will be remembered as one of Little's finest performances to date in a NASCAR Winston Cup Series car ended when the lapped car of Mike Skinner tangled with Bobby Labonte's sixth-place machine after a restart on lap 441. As the two spun into the wall in Turn 4, they collected Little, who had no room on the tight .533-mile track to avoid them. Little wound up finishing 35th.
"That's just Bristol," Little said. "Things happen so fast here, you're either a victim or a hero. There's a fine line between the two, and we ended up on the wrong side today. What makes me smile is the fact that we were so strong. All the pieces of the puzzle are finally starting to fall into place, and we're proving every weekend that we belong up front."
Before the accident, Little had clawed his way through the field with one of the fastest cars on the track. His march to the front began when he pitted before the leaders on lap 27 to remove a strip of tape from the nose of his John Deere Ford. The stop, necessary to help the car run cooler, put him in position to lead the race after the leaders stopped for the first time on lap 53. With older tires, Little held onto the lead for nine laps before Rusty Wallace passed him on lap 64. Little stayed in the top-10 until he pitted again with the leaders on lap 105.
The middle portion of the race was Little's turn to shine. With several cars pitting out of sequence, Little found himself mired in 25th position after a restart on lap 239. With most of the cars around him racing just to stay on the lead lap, Little set his sights on reaching the top-10.
One by one, Little caught and passed 14 different cars in the next 90 laps. When the race's 11th caution flag flew on lap 373, the John Deere pilot found himself not only on the lead lap, but in 11th place directly behind Roush teammates Ted Musgrave, Jeff Burton, Johnny Benson and Mark Martin.
When the field returned to green-flag racing, Little moved into 10th as Wallace's No. 2 machine faded. Little snatched ninth place from Burton on lap 404, then disposed of Benson on lap 434. Poised for a top-five finish, the team made its final pit stop under caution on lap 437. The race-ending accident on lap 442 relegated the team to the 35th finishing position and dropped it to 22nd place in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series owner's point standings.
"Thankfully I'm all right, but it hurts to have a run like this end with an accident," Little said. "I'm just so proud of everyone on the John Deere team for working so hard for this. They all deserve better. "Jeff (Hammond) and Skip (Eyler) worked all weekend to set this car up for me and they gave me exactly what I needed to get the job done. I owe a lot to my spotter Phil Cook too for keeping us out of trouble coming up through the field. There was nothing either of us could do to avoid that wreck."
Source: NASCAR Online