SPEEDWAY, Ind. (August 5, 2000) - Chad Little and the John Deere Motorsports crew traveled to Indianapolis this week on a mission - to finish their first Brickyard 400 and to put together a run reflective of John Deere's new trademark logo of a...
SPEEDWAY, Ind. (August 5, 2000) - Chad Little and the John Deere Motorsports crew traveled to Indianapolis this week on a mission - to finish their first Brickyard 400 and to put together a run reflective of John Deere's new trademark logo of a deer taking off. The weekend was a success as Little picked up his 12th top-20 finish of the season and advanced 20 positions from the start of the race in the process.
The John Deere team unloaded the car on Thursday - the same car that they tested three weeks prior at the Ford test - but struggled to find the speed needed to lock into a top-25 starting position. Little and crew chief Jeff Hammond elected not to re-qualify on Friday to concentrate on race setup, therefore, the John Deere Ford would line up in the 39th-starting position for Saturday's seventh annual Brickyard 400.
Luck had not been on Little's side, as his three previous Brickyard events all resulted in DNFs. When the green flag dropped starting the 160-lap race, Little commented that this year would be different. The 400-mile race around the historic 2.5-mile oval was slowed only twice for cautions with the second caution coming by lap 42. Little had advanced to 36th place by the time the second caution waved, but the team used a bit of strategy that would ultimately pay dividends by the race's end. Little came into the pits for a two-tire stop and when the race went back to green, the No. 97 Ford was shown in 25th position, netting the team 11 spots on the track.
As the field began to spread out following the restart, Little went on to run times that would place him in the top 10. One by one, the No. 97 Ford made its way up the leaderboard, and by the midpoint of the race Little was shown in 17th place. Little entered the pits on laps 83 during green-flag racing, and when the field finished the cycle of green-flag pit stops Little had dropped to 28th place. Little was forced to once again make his way through the field, at the same time trying to stay ahead of the race leaders who were closing the gap. Little could see the race leaders in his rearview mirror by lap 107, but by turning laps time faster than the rest of the field, Little was able to stay ahead of the Nos. 2 and 18 cars until the next pit stop on lap 121.
The John Deere team again opted for a two-tire stop, and this time Little re-entered the track in the same position he came into the pits, 21st. With the ability to run the rest of the race on fuel and tires, the pit stop on lap 121 would be the last of the day. Little made his way into the top 20 on lap 139, and with the laps winding down, Little earned one more spot over the last ten laps. Little brought the John Deere Ford across the finish line in 19th, reversing his three-year trend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Little's 19th-place performance dropped him one spot in the Winston Cup point standings to 22nd, but he closed the gap to 15th-place to 103 points. The John Deere team takes to the road course at Watkins Glen next Sunday for the second of two road-course events on the Winston Cup schedule.
"We had a good car out there today. We didn't need to make any major changes to the John Deere Ford, and that was important since most of the race was run under green. When you have a race that runs mostly under green you really see who has the best car. That's because you don't usually get too many lucky breaks and you don't have the time in the pits to make any major chassis adjustments. There was still some strategy involved in today's race, we came into the pits under the second yellow and took two tires, and we did it once again on the last stop. The first time helped us gain ten spots and the last stop kept us within striking distance of the top 20.
"It's nice to finish this race with all the history and lure that this venue is know for. We've also got a proven race car that we can possibly take to Michigan in two weeks. It looks like we fell one spot in the points, but at the same time we've closed the gap to the top 15. That will be important as we head into the next couple of races, to keep chipping away the distance between us and 15th place."