Little, provisional starter from 42nd spot, is Goody's 300 winner DAYTONA 500

THE BALTIMORE SUN

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Chad Little drove his Ford from the 42nd and provisional starting spot to first place in the Goody's 300 yesterday for his first Grand National victory.

"This feels wonderful," he said, stepping from his car, after finishing in front of Michael Waltrip in the race that ended under the yellow caution flag. "It's very sweet. I can hardly keep from crying."

The performance, in the car owned by former Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien and Greg Pollex, provided a big afternoon of excitement for a crowd estimated to be close to 90,000 here at Daytona International Speedway.

It is the second time a provisional starter (Tommy Houston at South Boston in 1991 is the other) has come from the back of the field to win. And it is the first time since 1980 that a true Busch Grand National team has won this race. Every other year, the race has been won by a Winston Cup driver.

Little averaged 150.733 mph to cover the course in 1 hour, 59 minutes, 25 seconds. He collected $71,411.

"This is a great place to win your first race, especially against all the [Winston] Cup guys," said Rypien, who has shared ownership in the team since 1993. "This is like the Super Bowl for Chad. I hope he's as excited to win this as I was to win with the Redskins in 1992. He better be."

Using solid pit stops and a strong engine, Little worked his way toward the front several times during the 120-lap race. But it wasn't until the 108th lap, when he started moving up from ninth place, that his power really showed. The Spokane, Wash., native picked off four cars on one lap and by lap 112 had moved into second behind Steve Grissom.

He stayed there until going into the third turn with two laps to go. It was there that he made a move to the inside and was able to take the lead coming out of Turn 4. Behind him, Grissom's car came loose, wobbled and was hit by Mark Martin's. That started a chain reaction that collected nine cars before it was through, and Little took the checkered flag under caution.

It was the second time Little made a big impression here. He started 38th last season and finished third.

"I was willing to settle for 10th today," said Little. "But then things started to happen, and when the leaders pitted, my crew kept me on the race track."

1. (42) Chad Little, Ford, 120, $71,411, 150.733. 2. (1) Michael Waltrip, Pontiac, 120, $36,875. 3. (39) Terry Labonte, Chevrolet, 120, $30,875. 4. (31) Kenny Wallace, Ford, 120, $22,850. 5. (20) Rich Bickle Jr., Ford, 120, $16,450. 6. (38) Jim Bown, Chevrolet, 120, $23,636. 7. (3) Jeff Green, Chevrolet, 120, $14,475. 8. (23) Mark Martin, Ford, 120, $14,475. 9. (5) Jeff Purvis, Chevrolet, 120, $10,975. 10. (19) Johnny Benson, Chevrolet, 119, $21,011.

11. (17) Jeff Fuller, Chevrolet, 119, $10,375. 12. (16) Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet, 119, $10,475. 13. (27) Hermie Sadler, Chevrolet, 119, $16,061. 14. (33) David Green, Chevrolet, 118, $17,836. 15. (15) Bobby Dotter, Chevrolet, 118, $14,486. 16. (11) Rodney Combs, Pontiac, 118, $12,886. 17. (28) Rick Wilson, Ford, 118, $8,525. 18. (8) Jason Keller, Chevrolet, 118, $12,386. 19. (21) Steve Grissom, Chevrolet, 117, crash, $9,275. 20. (9) Mike Wallace, Ford, 117, crash, $10,300.

21. (25) Tracy Leslie, Chevrolet, 117, crash, $11,686. 22. (7) Derrike Cope, Ford, 117, crash, $8,875. 23. (14) Joe Bessey, Chevrolet, 117, crash, $7,875. 24. (13) Dennis Setzer, Ford, 117, crash, $13,536. 25. (10) Larry Pearson, Chevrolet, 117, $9,811. 26. (18) Bobby Hillin Jr., Ford, 117, $7,575. 27. (36) Doug Heveron, Ford, 117, crash, $9,636. 28. (44) Tim Fedewa, Ford, 117, crash, $10,486. 29. (22) Robbie Reiser, Chevrolet, 116, $7,400. 30. (40) Phil Parsons, Chevrolet, 116, $10,336.

31. (29) Curtis Markham, Pontiac, 105, engine failure, $9,450. 32. (37) L.W. Miller III, Ford, 85, engine failure, $7,150. 33. (26) Tim Bender, Ford, 85, $7,225. 34. (45) Jamie Aube, Chevrolet, 83, engine failure, $9,200. 35. (30) Tommy Houston, Ford, 79, engine failure, $8,986. 36. (12) Bobby Hamilton, Pontiac, 75, vibration, $6,925. 37. (4) Mike McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 75, $11,261. 38. (2) Dale Jarrett, Ford, 65, overheating, $7,875. 39. (6) Elton Sawyer, Ford, 62, engine failure, $11,036. 40. (32) Ken Schrader, Chevrolet, 25, engine failure, $7,675.

41. (24) Kirk Shelmerdine, Chevrolet, 19, crash, $9,025. 42. (35) Patty Moise, Ford, 8, crash, $6,775. 43. (34) Stevie Reeves, Chevrolet, 8, crash, $7,886. 44. (43) Steve Hoddick, Ford, 8, crash, $7,775. 45. (41) Glenn Sullivan, Chevrolet, 1, engine failure, $7,775.

Race statistics

Time of race: 1:59:25. Margin of victory: Finished under caution. Caution flags: 5 for 17 laps. Lead changes: 19 among 12 drivers. Lap leaders: Waltrip 1-14; Jarrett 15-18; Combs 19-22; M.Wallace 23-44; Purvis 45-46; Hillin 47-51; J.Green 52-56; Leslie 57; Purvis 58; M.Wallace 59-60; Martin 61-92; Grissom 93-95; M.Wallace 96-98; Grissom 99-100; Setzer 101; Martin 102-108; Grissom 109-117; Little 118-120. Series point leaders: Little 180; Waltrip 170; Labonte 165; K.Wallace 160; Bickle 155; Bown 150; J.Green 146; Martin 142; Purvis 138; Benson 134.

Making plans

Rypien, an NFL free agent since Cleveland did not pick up his $5 million option last week, said he is completely healthy.

"The shoulder everyone questions is the same shoulder that I came back and beat the Dallas Cowboys with, 38-17," he said. "I got my knee injured after that, but the shoulder has been sound and so is the knee."

Rypien said he was not surprised to be released and is hoping "to play and start somewhere" next season.

He said he is not opposed to joining an expansion team and has "a lot of interest in Charlotte." His race team is based in Charlotte, and he has part-interest in a golf course there.

Hulk of a fan

Hulk Hogan visited the garages in support of the Richard Petty Pontiac driven by Rodney Combs and sponsored by World Championship Wrestling.

"When I was just a little, tiny Hulkster, my dad used to drive on short tracks, so I've been a fan all my life, he said. "And Rodney's the man."

Combs finished 16th.

007, are you there?

CBS has a new, little heli-cam that is radio-operated and looks like something out of a high-tech spy movie. The camera will be hovering over the grass median in front of pit road.

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