Consistency the Key to Little's Success in '99 HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (April 22, 1999) The NASCAR Winston Cup season is already a quarter of the way through the 35-race schedule, but Chad Little hasn't forgotten the goals his team set out...
Consistency the Key to Little's Success in '99
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (April 22, 1999) The NASCAR Winston Cup season is already a quarter of the way through the 35-race schedule, but Chad Little hasn't forgotten the goals his team set out at the start of the year. The No. 97 John Deere team is on a mission in 1999 to eliminate mental mistakes and maintain consistency. They have kept their focus so far as Little has completed each of the eight races, and along with fellow competitor, Ward Burton, has completed the most laps.
Little has driven his green and yellow Roush Racing machine a total of 3,048 miles, to complete 2,674 laps of the 2,863 run this year. While Little and Burton have driven the same number of laps, Little boasts four additional miles on the track due to the varying lengths in venues. What makes Little's feat all the more impressive is the fact the John Deere Ford has the average starting position of 31st.
"When you are running up front you're given more respect, and the intense physical racing seems to decrease to a degree," said Little, whose average finish for the 1999 season is 17th. "The people in the back of the field are trying to claw all the way up front and they take more risks in doing so, which puts everyone around them at risk. Most of the accidents happen in the back of the field because there's a different mentality there. Up front, you concentrate on taking positions one at a time, while in the back you want to get two or three positions every time you make a run. It's just not possible and that's how the accidents occur."
In 1998, his first year with Roush Racing, Little had seven DNFs (Did Not Finish) and failed to qualify for the spring Atlanta race. Still, Little finished 15th in the Winston Cup standings, a jump from 36th in 1997. This year, the No. 97 John Deere Ford has qualified and completed each race, which allows Little to sit in the 11th position in the points race.
"If you asked people in the beginning of the year who they thought would have the most completed laps, I doubt Ward's name or mine would have been mentioned," said Little. "Of course, I say that heading into Talladega, where if you're more than five laps down it's because you're probably involved in one of the wrecks. If we can finish Talladega and still say we've run the most laps, I'd be very happy. It's been our goal all along -- run consistently and avoid the wrecks. I think I've done a better job of that this year and I attribute that to maturity.
"In 1997 and '98, there were a few accidents I should have been able to avoid, but mental mistakes caused me to be part of the accident," continues Little. "I think that's where Jeff (Hammond) has helped me as a driver to mature. He's a pretty calm guy, and he brings that calmness to the track. Jeff's a methodical strategist, and that's what I need right now. He helps me to keep my adrenaline contained, and not to get caught up in the moment."
As expected, with consistency, results follow. Little has posted two top-10 and four top-20 finishes this year. Little is only 14 points out of the top-10, and heads to a track that he has experienced past success.
"I'm excited heading to Talladega because we're taking a new car there, one that we feel is better than our Daytona car -- and that car finished ninth," said Little, who has six top-20 finishes at Talladega in 11 starts. "The No. 97 Roush Racing shop has a great superspeedway program even though this is our first year running the Taurus on NASCAR's superspeedways. We're approaching this weekend like we can win this thing, and if we do then we're guaranteed to keep our position in the laps completed category."
Just more proof that Nothing Runs Like a Deere.