Little Brings Taurus up to Speed TALLADEGA, Ala. (April 8, 1999) -- Chad Little and the No. 97 John Deere crew took full advantage of the first rescheduled day of a two-day test at Talladega Superspeedway. Little was among 19 Ford teams ...
Little Brings Taurus up to Speed
TALLADEGA, Ala. (April 8, 1999) -- Chad Little and the No. 97 John Deere crew took full advantage of the first rescheduled day of a two-day test at Talladega Superspeedway. Little was among 19 Ford teams participating in the manufacturer's test, the second of four scheduled this year. The week started out on a wet note as the first day was postponed due to rain, but the weather cleared for Wednesday and allowed the John Deere crew to log 14 hours of track time. Little and his crew knew they would need to make the most of their time, as they planned to miss Thursday's make-up day to prepare for this weekend's Bristol race. Little piloted his John Deere Taurus to the fifth fastest time of Wednesday's session, clocking in at 49.39 seconds. That bests Little's 49.49 qualifying time from last year's Winston 500, a race he started in 15th position. Not only was Little among the five fastest Fords, but the John Deere Taurus also logged the fastest Roush Racing lap time.
Impressive is the fact the John Deere crew only began running the Taurus full-time this year. Last year, Little competed in the Ford Thunderbird on both of NASCAR's superspeedways, Talladega and Daytona. Jeff Hammond, crew chief of the John Deere Ford, was impressed by the speed of the newly built car. "This is a car that was finished after Daytona," said Hammond. "We took it to the wind tunnel, and we were pleased with numbers it produced. It's always positive when you can take a good car and improve upon it. That's how we feel about this car compared to its Daytona predecessor." Little finished last year's Winston 500 in eighth place, one of seven top-10 finishes for the John Deere team. Already in 1999, the John Deere team has finished in the top 10 twice in only six races.
"We are in a unique situation within the Roush organization," said Little, who was also satisfied with the prospects of this test. "This is our first year running the Taurus on the superspeedways, and I don't think anyone expected us to be competitive this year. We had considerable success last year with the Thunderbird, finishing in the top 10 two out of four races we raced it. I think that's been a motivating factor for this team. First, it's taken some of the pressure off of the team, and second, it's pushed them to prove the critics wrong. We are building new Tauruses for superspeedways and they're fast. It's especially exciting for me because I like running on the bigger tracks, and each time we go to one I feel like we have a chance to win." Little and his crew must now change gears as they prepare for this weekend's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. The team faces the mental task of switching from Talladega's 2.66-mile oval to Bristol's .533-mile, high-banked oval. Little enters the race in 12th position in the Winston Cup point standings, only five points out of the top 10.