DOVER, Del. (June 4, 2000) - The Winston Cup circuit traveled to Dover, Del., this weekend for the 13th race of the season, and for John Deere Motorsports team it was a case of better late than never. The team faced numerous challenges during...
DOVER, Del. (June 4, 2000) - The Winston Cup circuit traveled to Dover, Del., this weekend for the 13th race of the season, and for John Deere Motorsports team it was a case of better late than never. The team faced numerous challenges during the 400-mile race, but perseverance and some late-race luck allowed the team to secure their eighth top-20 performance of the season. Chad Little and the John Deere crew returned to Dover Downs International Speedway with the same car that last year captured their first top-10 finish at the track dubbed "The Monster Mile." The high-banked, concrete surface is known to stay consistent over the course of the 400-lap race, but on Sunday many teams were caught off guard by the way small chassis adjustments seemed to be magnified on the 1-mile oval. Little took the 38th starting position for Sunday's race but made his way into the top 25 by lap 84. Caution flags plagued the first half of the race, with five coming in the first 84 laps of the event. Little and the John Deere crew took advantage of most of the early caution periods to fine tune the car's handling, but even the smallest of changes seemed to have a big impact on the No. 97 Ford's attitude. Little was passed by the leaders on lap 131, and subsequently went one lap down, a deficit he would not be able to overcome. Midway through the MBNA 400, Little found himself in 28th position and in the midst of a green-flag run that saw the car skate across the track like it was on ice. Little was forced to make a green flag pit stop on lap 245 for fuel and tires, and it wasn't until the seventh caution period on lap 268 that further chassis changes could be made. Little entered the pits for a wedge adjustment to tighten up the car, and upon returning to the track he was shown in 27th place, three laps down to the leaders. The John Deere Ford would continue to improve as the laps began to wind down, and after the eighth caution period ended on lap 293, Little would have his strongest run of the afternoon. Little began the run in 26th place, but a late charge allowed him to move his way to 23rd as the ninth caution flag waved. Little was able to outlast most of the field as his final pit stop came after the caution flag. This was an important element to the final results, since most teams were forced to enter the pits for fuel before the lap 382 caution flag. Little was able to keep his Roush Racing machine on the track longer allowing him to make up one lap to the leaders, and providing him with the chance to race a new group of cars as the final run to the checkered flag commended. With 14 laps left in the race Little found himself in 22nd place and in a situation that would allow him to race with the cars as high as 20th. Little took advantage of the situation, and as the raced returned to green he made an immediate pass and continued to hunt down the remaining cars on the same lap. Before it was all said and done, Little moved into the top 20 and would keep that position as the race concluded. Little finished the day in 20th position, four laps down from race winner Tony Stewart. Little remains in the top 20 in points, 110 points within striking distance of 15th-place Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Little and the team must now prepare for Michigan Speedway's 2-mile oval, and a run at Jack Roush's home track.
"We had trouble finding the balance in the race car this weekend. We never made any drastic changes to the car, but even an adjustment like air pressure seemed to change the car's handling more than we thought. The concrete surface doesn't heat up like the asphalt tracks, and therefore it usually stays pretty consistent over 400 miles. That wasn't the case today. "This was the same car we raced here last year when we came in seventh, and we still feel it's a very good car. The middle segment of the race is what really hurt us today. At one point, we were so loose that I couldn't use the throttle, and I did everything to keep from spinning. You can't be doing that at a track like Dover. You need to a strong engine and the ability to get back in the throttle quickly. We had a good engine, but we had a problem that kept us from getting into the throttle right away. "Still, we finished the race strong and picked up another top-20 finish. You always want to finish a race with at least 100 points, and we leave Dover this afternoon with 103 points for our efforts."