RICHMOND, Va. (May 6, 2000) - Chad Little's 200th career Winston Cup start was a memorable one, but not for all the right reasons. Little and the John Deere crew spent the past two days in Richmond, Va., preparing for the first night race of the...
RICHMOND, Va. (May 6, 2000) - Chad Little's 200th career Winston Cup start was a memorable one, but not for all the right reasons. Little and the John Deere crew spent the past two days in Richmond, Va., preparing for the first night race of the season.
The weekend got off to a promising start as Little qualified the No. 97 Ford in the 26th position for Saturday's 400-lap race. With a solid first-round qualifying effort, the John Deere team was able to focus its attention on race setup, and with all of the events of a typical three-day show squeezed into two action-packed days, this was an important feat.
The green flag dropped on the 43-car field shortly after 7:30 p.m. EDT, and the 300-mile race was underway. Two caution flags in the first 50 laps allowed Little the chance to enter the pits to correct an early tight-handling condition. When the race returned to green-flag conditions on lap 53, Little was shown in the 28th position on the leader board.
Little experienced a tight-handling condition that persisted most of the evening and made it difficult to rotate the car through the center of the turns. The No. 97 machine wanted to float into the outer wall, and Little wrestled the car for the first half of the race.
When the fourth caution flag waved on lap 171, crew chief Jeff Hammond saw the opportunity to repeat a strategy, that last weekend enabled the team to pick up five bonus points. Little had moved the John Deere Ford into 27th position, and with only 28 cars on the lead lap, Hammond radioed to Little to stay out on the track while the leaders pitted. This action allowed Little to pick up the lead on lap 174 and earned the five bonus points in the process. Little subsequently pitted the following lap, and the crew continued to loosen up the car with various chassis adjustments.
At the midpoint of the race Little was circling the .75-mile oval in 26th place, but the car's handling had improved significantly from the start of the race. Little moved the John Deere Taurus into the top 20 on lap 263 as the sixth caution flag waved. Little came into the pits for four tires, fuel, and a small track bar adjustment. Little returned to the track in 19th place, and as the race went back to green on lap 267, the car was handling the best it had all night.
Misfortune befell the John Deere team just seven laps later on lap 274. As Little entered Turn 1, a right-side tire went down and the No. 97 machine careened into the outside wall. After tagging the wall twice, the car came to rest against the wall, perhaps the final lap of its existence. Little emerged from the car without serious injury, but was sore from the impact of accident. The John Deere Motorsports team picked up their first DNF (Did Not Finish) in eleven races this year, and ended the evening in 39th place.
Little leaves Richmond in the 18th position in the Winston Cup point standings, and heads back to Charlotte for a two-week home stand with the running of The Winston and Coca-Cola 600 beginning on May 20. The competitors have next weekend off to celebrate Mother's Day, and then start a stretch of eight consecutive weekends of racing. Little's Quotes
"This is déjà vu from last fall. I was entering Turn 1 and the tire went down and caused the car to go into the outside wall. We're not sure what caused the tire to go down, we'll have to take a look at the car when it returns to the shop. There isn't a whole lot of lighting in the garage here, so we're just going to pack it up and take a look at it on Monday. "This was a pretty good car this weekend, it's just a shame it had to end this way. I'm a little sore, but we have next weekend off, so that'll help. We've been lucky so far this season, but this seemed to be one accident we couldn't avoid. We'll just need to regroup for The Winston, and with some hard work, hopefully we get the John Deere Taurus in the big show this year."