Brooklyn, Mich. (August 15, 2000) - Chad Little and the John Deere crew are lobbying for a change to state motto of the Michigan. Based upon past performances the crew is excited about this weekend's second event of the season at the two-mile...
Brooklyn, Mich. (August 15, 2000) - Chad Little and the John Deere crew are lobbying for a change to state motto of the Michigan. Based upon past performances the crew is excited about this weekend's second event of the season at the two-mile Michigan Speedway, summing up their fortune as "It's better the second time around." Although the team is coming off of a 32nd-place finish in the rain-shortened June race, it hopes that past tendencies will guide the No. 97 to its third straight Pepsi 400 top-10 finish.
Since joining Roush Racing in 1998, Little has posted an average finish of 8.3 in the August Michigan races, compared to a 25.3 average finish in the June races. It's not been a problem of not finishing races-Little has finished every race held at Michigan over the past two seasons-but the team has struggled during its first trip to the Irish Hills.
"We're returning to Michigan with a different car than we had there in June," said Little, who has posted three straight top-20 performances heading into this weekend. "It's the same car we took to Indianapolis two weeks ago, and it was an all-around better car so we decided to clean it up for Michigan. It had a little body damage, but it's already on the surface plate getting set up for this weekend. Michigan is the kind of track that requires a good aero package but also a good handling car. That's where we struggled our last time there. Michigan is a wide-open track and allows for three-wide racing into the turns. If you're ever caught in the inside, though, you need the car to hug the white line and even then it's tough to keep your momentum. If you have a car that drifts towards the wall, getting caught on the inside can cost you a lot of track position."
Little is no stranger to Michigan Speedway, having visited it in both the Winston Cup and Busch Series; however, unlike the single stop the Busch Series makes, the Winston Cup competitors have two shots at taking the checkered flag. Little's career-best finish came in 1994 when he drove to a second-place finish in the Detroit Gasket 200 Busch Series race, and his highest finish in a Winston Cup car in the 1999 Pepsi 400, when he drove the No. 97 John Deere Ford across the stripe in sixth place. Should luck be on his side again this year, Little could stake claim to his second top-10 finish of 2000, his first since the spring Atlanta race.
"Michigan is close to California in terms of configuration," Little said. "So the way I look at it is that we've had two races to find a better setup for this weekend. I guess that's why we have had more success at Michigan in August. We finished 15th at California in April, but we couldn't get the car dialed in at the first Michigan event. I think some of that had to due with changing weather conditions. Weather has been a factor in a lot of races this season, and when the weather changes multiple times over the course of a three-day event, so does the track. You always need to stay one step ahead of the weather, and I think we're figuring that out right now.
"Any time we go to Michigan you expect the race to run green and that puts additional pressure on the crews to perform faster in the pits. Track position is vital at a superspeedway and one second in the pits can cost you a lot of ground when the cars are averaging 180 miles per hour."
Little and the John Deere crew currently occupy the 20th position in the Winston Cup point standings, 111 points out of the top 15.