Spokane native Chad Little returned to the West Coast to be part of a ceremony honoring his career in the Northwest and beyond. The 1987 NASCAR Winston West champion, Busch Series and Winston Cup driver who now oversees the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, was one of five racing icons inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame.
Joining Little on Thursday night in Napa, Calif., were four-time truck series champion Ron Hornaday, fellow Northwest star and 1991 Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope, Buddy Jobe who was owner and operator of Phoenix International Raceway and 2007 NASCAR West Series championship car owner Randy Lynch.
Little joins his legendary car owner, George Jefferson, who was inducted into the hall in 2004. Jefferson led Little’s team as they won the NASCAR West Series title after years of competition across the Northwest.
Jefferson’s leadership and set-up led Little to much success, but the Washington State University graduate points out that two people closer to him shaped an outstanding racing career.
“My father (Chuck) and my mother (Donna) without question were the biggest influences on my career. They taught me to respect my competitors, drive smart and take care of the equipment. My dad (also) taught me about taking care of the cars and earning respect which are lessons I’m sharing with young drivers today,” Little said.
One such young driver is Little’s son, Jesse, who will be racing this weekend in Virginia in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, where he is in the running for the 2013 series Rookie of the Year title and a top-10 finish in the championship chase.
Chad Little has competed against some of the best NASCAR has to offer. From Richard Petty to Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon, his NASCAR career came along at the time the sport was taking off in popularity across the country. While the icons of the sport have earned Little’s respect, one driver stands out above others, the 50-year old said.
“Hershel McGriff (named in 1998 as one of NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers and a fellow inductee to the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame) is one of my favorite drivers (to race against). He’s a great competitor (the 85-year old McGriff still makes occasional NASCAR starts including last year at Sonoma) and very well-respected throughout the racing world.”
To be part of an induction class that includes Hornaday and Cope was very special, Little added.
“We’re all friends and they’re drivers I’ve competed against (from the West Series up to and including the Winston Cup Series). We have a certain bond that comes from being raised and growing up racing here on the West Coast.”
Behar after another win
Saturday’s Stateline Speedway HyDrive Late Model race pits the field against Nicole Behar, who is seeking her third consecutive victory. One driver knows all too well the challenge ahead of him after battling the Otis Orchard teen for many seasons from go-karts to Baby Grands and now Late Models.
University High School senior-to-be, Joey Bird, is in his rookie season in the division and has posted two top-five finishes to kick the year off. Adapting to the heavier Late Model from the Baby Grands has been the biggest adjust he’s had to make thus far, he noted.
“The transition has been fairly easy so far. The car is different due to the fact it’s bigger then a Baby Grand by about double the weight and size. You need to dive into the corner and put the nose where it needs to be. The Late Model definitely fits my driving style and I can only see myself going forward from here.”