CONCORD, N.C. (March 28, 2000) - The 2000 Winston Cup campaign for driver Chad Little and the John Deere Motorsports team is one of redemption. After completing a successful first season for car owner Jack Roush, that culminated with a...
CONCORD, N.C. (March 28, 2000) - The 2000 Winston Cup campaign for driver Chad Little and the John Deere Motorsports team is one of redemption. After completing a successful first season for car owner Jack Roush, that culminated with a 15th-place finish in the standings, the team struggled midway through 1999 to finish out the year 23rd in the Winston Cup point standings. The start of the new millennium provided a fresh start for the team that has included a new shop and a new teammate. The John Deere team moved its operations from its single-team shop in Mooresville, N.C., to a state-of-the-art, two-team facility in Concord, N.C., with Rookie-of-the-Year contender Matt Kenseth.
"The two-team operation allows us to bring some more minds under one roof, and gives us a few more resources in terms of personnel," Little said. "Jack (Roush) has built his teams from a two-team model, whether in Busch, Truck or Winston Cup. The move to Concord has allowed us to move our crew and at the same time it has allowed a new team to be formed using this two-team model. The fabrication room, where our cars are built, is one big area that has no distinctions between the John Deere and DEWALT teams. The only place where you see the separation is the finishing room, where we set the cars up after they have been painted and decaled. Even then, if we have a question, or vice versa, we're able to talk to Matt (Kenseth) or Robbie (Reiser) about what their thoughts are."
The changes made in the off-season have allowed Little and the John Deere team to get off to a fast start. So far in 2000, the team has finished each of the six races in the top 25, picking up one top-10 finish at Atlanta. Little and the John Deere crew, over the course of those six races, have picked up an average of 12 spots from the start of the race to the drop of the checkered flag. Another variable that has allowed the team to pick up track positions on Sunday was a change in over-the-wall personnel.
"We sat down at the end of last year and tried to figure out where our weaknesses were," Little said. "A lot of the problems were just bad racing luck. But we have some control over that luck, and two areas where we can control that is in qualifying and pit stops. When you're forced to start towards the back of the field you're doing battle with a bunch of cars that will do whatever they can to try to stay ahead of the lead pack to keep from going down a lap. We call that racing with the cannibals and I would say a majority of the accidents occur in the back, where drivers can lose focus of the long term goal and try to force their way up front right away.
"The other area we've spent time working on in the off-season was pit stops. We have four new over-the-wall guys, and once we were settled into our new shop those guys dedicated themselves to improving our stops. We have a great area in the back of the shop that has a mock pit wall where we can simulate four-tire stops. It's paid off. So far this season we've had great consistency in our stops, where we have gotten four tires and a full load of full in 15 to 16 seconds. That makes a big difference, gaining spots in the pits, because it keeps you from battling the cannibals in the back of he field."
Little currently occupies 15th place in the Winston Cup point standings, heading into a showdown at Texas.
"We're heading to Texas next weekend and that has to be one of our favorite tracks," Little said. "We finished second there in 1998 and had a good run last year with a temperamental car. The communication has improved from one year ago as Jeff (Hammond) and I have been able to make the changes to the car that allow us to move in the right direction. Jeff knows my driving style and is now able to suggest the changes we need based off of my feedback. The stability he has brought to the team has us contending for our first Winston Cup victory."