If we are to judge an up-and-coming driver against his more famous father, then Jesse Little is leading. By a full straightaway.
“I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve been able to race at tracks like Iowa and Richmond and Bristol already,” Little said. “My dad wasn’t able to get on a place like that until he was 30 – and I’m 16 and already able to do that.”
Little’s father, of course, carved out a nice career for himself as a driver. Chad Little made more than 200 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts, one of those rare instances where the car was as popular as the driver. Little is perhaps best-known for driving a John Deere-sponsored car owned by Jack Roush, but the native of Spokane, Wash., made his way to the Cup Series on his driving merit.
In addition to winning six career NASCAR Nationwide Series races, Chad Little won the 1987 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship – the middle of a run that saw him post three consecutive top-three finishes in the final series standings.
Now his son, Jesse, is similarly using the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East as the launching point for his own driving career. Following the race at Greenville Pickens Speedway on Monday, Little sits just three points out of the lead in the series Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings.
“He’s got a great feel for the race cars,” Chad Little said. “He’s got a really methodical approach to the feel, and I think that’s the key for young drivers. A lot of drivers can feel tightness and looseness, but he’s got a feel for where in which corner it’s happening in and how to change it. I think that’s pretty unique. I was never able to do that.
“I think Jesse can do it – that’s one of the things that catches my eye about him.”
Jesse Little made seven K&N Pro Series East starts in 2012 to retain his rookie status for this season, but he closed out that campaign with a bang. He recorded his first career podium finish with a third-place run at Greenville, then followed that up by leading a third of the race and finishing fifth at Rockingham in the season finale.
As with most young drivers cracking into the series for the first time, the learning curve on the larger, faster tracks – Iowa, Bristol, New Hampshire and Rockingham – is the steepest.
“I think the biggest thing is just getting more feel in the cars and trying to expand the knowledge I have at the bigger places versus the smaller places” Jesse said. “I know Dylan (Kwasniewski) and Brett (Moffitt) and Ben (Kennedy) and all those guys have a one-up on me on that, but a couple of more races and we’ll be right there. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.”
In that sense, Jesse Little relies on his father’s advice to help him get up to speed more quickly.