Taking advantage of opportunities on the track and off the track are part of the sport of stock car racing.
Get To Know Newton’s sponsorship and Jesse Little’s competition on the race track became a good match, according to Craig Armstrong, Newton development specialist. Talks began with Team Little Racing in May and Little’s No. 97 Chevrolet even had the Get To Know Newton logo on its hood when he ran here in May at Iowa Speedway.
Competitors and NASCAR officials are getting to know the skill of Little, a third-generation NASCAR driver, on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series. Little will again have Get To Know Newton blazon across his No. 97 in Friday night’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series East/West Autolite Iridium XP 150 race.
Little recorded his first career win in the K&N Pro Series July 11 at New Hampshire International Speedway. He is one of 12 young drivers named NASCAR Next for 2014-15. Little is fourth in the K&N East Series points race coming into Iowa.
“I’m really excited to have Get To Know Newton on the car,” Little said. “My dad and Craig stayed in contact over the years and brainstormed on how we could build around the team. In May, the deal started to come together and now, this is a really solid program with Newton. It has already given me great opportunities.”
Little is the son of Chad Little, who was an accomplished race car driver and is now the managing director of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Armstrong said he and Little’s dad have been friends for more than 30 years, going back to Chad Little’s racing days on the west coast and Armstrong running Portland Speedway.
“Chad and I began looking at this situation. The City of Newton’s campaign and the rise of Jesse as a third-generation driver with a real shot at being successful in NASCAR was a natural thing,” Armstrong said. “Jesse’s grandfather, Chuck Little was truly one of the best stock car drivers of his era. Jesse is one of the top contenders in Friday’s race.”
The green flag drops on the Autolite Iridium XP 150 at 8 p.m. Friday at the Speedway. The race will air on a tape-delayed format at 10 a.m. on Aug. 8 on Fox Sports 1.
Little, who is 17, claimed his first career win in New Hampshire three weeks ago in his 33rd start in the K&N Pro Series. Little was the 2013 K&N Pro East Sunoco Rookie of the year.
“It was huge not only for myself but for the team as a whole,” Little said. “We have a family-owned team with just two full-time guys and me in the shop. I’m proud and honored that my guys work as hard as they do. We’ve been fortunate to have successful runs. Oh, and it was my mom’s birthday.”
Little’s No. 97 car is owned by his uncle, Jason Little. Little’s parents are Chad and Donna Little.
“Dad was big in my ear early and guided me in the right direction. He has taken a step back. He feels I’ve got a good head on my shoulders and understand the actions I need to take and when to take them,” Little said, who has been racing at the K&N Series for 2 1/2 years but began racing at the age of seven.
Since running here in Iowa last August, Little said the biggest thing he has learned is how to finish races.
“I learned about taking a seventh or eighth-place car and turning it into a fifth-place car and how to salvage a good run with the equipment we have. Take what the car gives me each time out,” Little said.
“Winning at New Hampshire was big in several respects. One was to have the win with the (NASCAR Sprint) Cup drivers and owners there was big. It couldn’t have come at a better time or place to give us opportunities. Also, it owned my eyes to something I believed I knew but never experienced before — it’s about being in the right place at the right time on the track during a race.”
Little, who is from Sherrills Ford, N.C., said being in the shop every day during the summer with his crew has allowed him to understand what goes into the car itself. He said that has helped him tremendously with the driving part.
Friday’s race is Little’s fifth start at Iowa Speedway. He finished 16th for the K&N East here in May’s race.
“I may have a little more experience on this track than a lot of the drivers in the field. After this Iowa race a year ago, we didn’t finish outside of the top 10 in the rest of the races,” Little said. “We’ve been running will this season and I’m looking for a solid run here Friday. We’re excited to be able to showcase Get To Know Newton on the car in front of a national television audience.”
Little said being a member of the current NASCAR Next team brings a little pressure on young drivers, but affords them a lot of opportunities to meet new people, potential sponsors and owners. He said he is honored to be counted among this group.
Little said balancing being a teenager and a professional race driver is challenging.
“I wouldn’t want to do anything else. I grew up in racing and it’s what I enjoy. I’m fortunate to have parents who allow me to be a kid at times. I do have a social life,” Little said. “I like learning new things and every time I strap into the car and put on the helmet I’m learning. Not many 17-year-olds I go to school with get to do what I do. I love the sport.
“To be successful in this sport, you have to be mentally and physically fit. I’ve learned you have to have a good car and be smart with the car you have. Making the right decisions each time on the track and knowing what the car needs on a particular track are important. We’re in heavy traffic going 150 miles per hour, so you have to be focused and calm.”
Little plans to come out with a strong car, be smart and have a solid run Friday at Iowa Speedway. He said he’d love to be in the Pizza Ranch Victory Lane with Get To Know Newton for the Autolite Iridium XP 150.