LAS VEGAS (March 5, 2000) - In a city accustomed to hosting title fights, it was a battle of Titans in the desert on Sunday as Lady Luck battled Mother Nature during NASCAR's main event, the CarsDirect.com 400. In the end, Mother Nature scored...
LAS VEGAS (March 5, 2000) - In a city accustomed to hosting title fights, it was a battle of Titans in the desert on Sunday as Lady Luck battled Mother Nature during NASCAR's main event, the CarsDirect.com 400. In the end, Mother Nature scored the knockout as the 400-mile race, scheduled for 267 laps, was shortened to 148 laps as a steady rain fell on the arid ground. The John Deere Motorsports team headed to Las Vegas Motor Speedway having tested their primary car just five weeks prior, and for driver Chad Little, it appeared the extra track time paid off. Little posted a solid qualifying effort on Friday putting the John Deere Taurus in the 27th position for the start of Sunday's race. The field took the green flag as the looming weather system began to drop precipitation around the 1.5-mile facility. The first green-flag run of the afternoon lasted only 20 laps as the precipitation increased and brought out the first of two yellow flags. During those first 20 laps, Little was able to gain eight spots moving the John Deere Ford into 19th position. The crew used the caution period to put four tires on the car and sent Little back onto the track in 23rd place. With many teams opting to take just two tires, the John Deere crew posted a blistering 15-second pit stop, keeping Little in the hunt for checkered flag. The field ran 20 laps under caution before the red flag waved signaling a complete stoppage in the event. After a 30-minute delay, and light drizzle, the signal to re-fire engines brought the 43-car field back to life. The race resumed green-flag action on lap 46, and the battle to beat the weather began. Unknown to the crews, a 100-lap shootout would determine the final outcome, but an ominous radar screen hinted at the unfolding situation. The John Deere Ford was strong at the end of the first run and after getting shuffled back at the restart, Little began a charge from 29th position on lap 66. The second round of pit stops came on lap 96, and Little brought the No. 97 machine into the pits under the green flag, running in 21st place. After the cycle of pit stops, Little cracked back into the top 20 on lap 137. Just seven laps later the speedway was once again covered in a mist of precipitation and the race went back to yellow flag conditions. Little was still solidly positioned in 19th place, and was shown as the last car on the lead lap. Jeff Hammond, the John Deere Motorsports crew chief, then radioed Little into the pits for four tires and fuel hoping the race would go back to green-flag racing one last time giving them an advantage as most teams did not pit surmising the race would not resume. Had the race gone back to green, Little would have had a full load of fuel and four fresh tires while the rest of the lead lap cars would have needed to pit. The gamble had no consequence on track position, as Little was one of two lead lap cars that opted to enter the pits, and after a quick chassis adjustment, fuel and tires, Little exited the pits still in 19th position. Mother Nature did not cooperate, and Lady Luck did not prevail as the race went to red flag conditions for a second and final time on lap 148. The race was called shortly after 3 p.m. PST, and Little finished the day in 19th, completing all 148 laps run and earning 106 points in the standings. The 19th-place finish moved Little up four spots in the Winston Cup point standings as he now occupies 17th place, less than 15 points out of 15th. The John Deere crew heads to Atlanta this weekend for the Cracker Barrel 500 scheduled for Sunday, March 12.
"We had a good car this weekend, but we never really had a chance to show its full potential. While we completed 148 laps today, 30 of them were under yellow, and that didn't allow us to establish a rhythm.
"We came into the pits on the last caution just hoping the race would go green one more time. That way we would have been one of two lead lap cars that pitted, and as the pit cycle played out we would have been running up front. That wasn't the case, but it didn't hurt us because we were the last car on the lead lap.
"The crew did a nice job on pit stops today, and consistency paid off as we gained four spots in the point standings. We need to keep that focus heading into Atlanta, and there's the chance we can pick up a couple of more spots with a strong run next Sunday."