“He’s had a tremendous impact on my career so far,” Jesse said. “He’s given me quite a bit of input, and it’s always positive. More than likely, he knows what he’s talking about. I’ve got to remember that he’s actually done it, and it’s not just some lessons he’s trying to tell me – he actually knows what he’s talking about. He’s been a great help. I don’t know where I’d be without him.”
Chad Little’s influence goes beyond the driver’s seat.
Little spent the 2008-12 seasons as the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour series director, and this year he was promoted to the same position with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. He’s been a driver trying to make his way into one of the national series, he’s been a driver who enjoyed 16 seasons racing at the sport’s top level, and now he’s one of the decision makers at the race track each weekend.
It’s a unique perspective that goes far behind just being an involved father in the garage area.
“I would think my perspective is quite a bit different. I’m not an in-your-face dad, don’t get in Jesse’s face when things go wrong and I really try to stay positive,” Chad Little said. “He’s definitely got the skill set to carry on in his career if the cards can fall in the right place. It’s a long road, and you’re going to crash, you’re going to be involved in controversy.
“I’ve just tried to teach him to not let it bother him – and to try not to be on the receiving end of it too many times.”
It can be the most difficult of all the lessons to learn, particularly as drivers get their shot at the biggest stages at younger and younger ages. It’s not just that 15-year-old drivers are racing in the K&N Pro Series, or that 16-year-olds are able to race in the Camping World Truck Series. It’s that fact that when they get there, they’re already equipped to win races.
“It’s pretty amazing all the way around, and it takes a pretty big commitment,” Chad Little said. “That commitment for Jesse started when he was seven. That’s why I say it’s not like when I was doing it, and it’s why I keep reminding him to try and enjoy it while he’s doing it.“
For the younger Little, he understands that he’s at a crucial point in his career. After a slow start to the season, he finished fifth at Bowman Gray Stadium to touch off a stretch that has seen him post four top 10 finishes in the last seven races, including a third-place finish at Langley Speedway to match his career-best.
And while Little has his more famous father to lean on when times get tough, he realizes that NASCAR racing is a results-based business, too.
“Sometimes you do get caught up in what’s going on, but sometimes you do take a step back and you realize that this is the last step before it is a career – it’s the last step before you’re a professional,” he said. “I’ve been noticing that more and more. It’s really important now that I take it seriously. It’s time to start having good performances, and I feel like we’re right there. We’re definitely knocking on the door for a win. It’s just a matter of time.”