CONCORD, N.C. (August 22, 2000) - For 35 weekends a year, NASCAR Winston Cup drivers get to experience something that most people only dream about - excessive speed around a closed-driving circuit. For as much as the rest of us try, we can't ...
CONCORD, N.C. (August 22, 2000) - For 35 weekends a year, NASCAR Winston Cup drivers get to experience something that most people only dream about - excessive speed around a closed-driving circuit. For as much as the rest of us try, we can't duplicate that feat around our neighborhoods or on the highways. For some drivers, though, the need for excitement transcends the race track, and for driver Chad Little, the need for speed has taken him to many new heights. Little pilots the No. 97 John Deere Ford on Sundays, but when he's not in the driver's seat he can usually be found discovering the ultimate adrenaline rushes.
While there isn't much time to develop hobbies outside of racing during the rigorous season-long schedule, Little takes advantage of the off-season to pursue another of his true loves, snow-skiing. Little trekked to Alberta, British Columbia, during Christmas vacation last December to put his skills to the test. For the first time in his life, Little adventured into helicopter skiing with a group of 10 friends.
"We traveled to a base camp in the morning where an old Army Huey helicopter picked us up," Little recalls. "The pilot and a guide took us into the Bugaboo Mountains, and from there the real excitement began. We relied heavily on the guide because when you're up on the mountain, one wrong turn could send you over the edge. There's more than one way down the mountain, but some required you going over the cliff. They considered the runs we skied double black diamond, but there were a few that even I wouldn't go down. Once we skied to the bottom, the helicopter would shuttle us back up again. It was really amazing being on top of the mountain and skiing on trails that had been basically untouched. After about six runs, you're just exhausted. It's worse than running 500 laps around Bristol Motor Speedway, but it was well worth it."
Another of Little's high-flying experiences came last year before the inaugural Winston Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Little was invited by the 125th Fighter Wing at Homestead Air Reserve Station for an incentive ride in an F-15 Eagle. Two days prior to the Pennzoil 400, Little went on a ride that exceeded 800 mph and pushed more than 8.5 g's.
"That definitely ranked as one of my most exciting non-racing related experiences," Little explained. "I knew it was going to be tough on the body when they required a pre-flight physical and an extensive briefing session. Our pilots went over every type of scenario that could possibly happen, and some of the effects that I might feel when we got up to speed. I was a little worried because we did the one-hour flight prior to Friday's first practice session, but even as we reached 8 g's I never had to use air distress bag. We did some amazing stunts, but my favorite was going supersonic and doing a flyby of the track."
So what does Little do that he considers relaxing? His idea of taking it easy usually takes him to his property north of Charlotte where he stables two horses.
"Riding the horses is one activity that keeps me grounded," Little says. "There's always an element of surprise with the horses because like people they can be temperamental. We've had them both for over a year and I like to think we've figured out their traits. It was a little shaky at first, but my crew chief Jeff Hammond has an extensive background with horses. He came over a few times to show me the ropes, and it's even become something we both can do together outside of the racing environment. I think that's helped our communication and allowed us to become good friends outside of the track."
Heading into this weekend's Goracing.com 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, Little hopes that improved communication between driver and crew chief will guide the John Deere Motorsports team to their second top-10 finish at the .533-mile banked oval. The team has collected 13 top-20 performances in 22 races this year with their highest finish, sixth, coming at the Cracker Barrel 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Little currently occupies the 19th position in the Winston Cup point standings, 93 points out of the top 15.