In his most competitive NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race of his young career, Jesse Little wheeled his No. 97 JJL Motorsports Ford Fusion to a career-best eighth place finish in Saturday afternoon’s Active Pest Control 200 at Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway.
The JJL Motorsports team led by Matt Noyce saved their best cards for last putting the family-owned team in contention for their first career series win in just his 14th career start.
Utilizing practice on Friday afternoon at Atlanta’s 1.54-mile quad oval, Noyce and Little spent the series’ first practice session finding their comfort zone in the team’s new vehicle acquired during the off-season from Brad Keselowski Racing.
When final practice was complete Little produced the fourth quickest lap overall
showcasing their potential for Saturday’s race.
During time trials on Saturday morning, the speed remained propelling Little’s No. 97 Wings Over North Georgia Air ShowFord through Round 1 of knockout qualifying and into the final round giving Little at shot at the pole. While he was only able to produce the 12th quickest lap overall, Little found himself in a good spot for the race.
The green flag flew just before 5:00 p.m., local with Little quickly maneuvering his truck through the field.
Turning some of the quickest laps on track, Little nestled himself in fifth when the first stage completed at Lap 40.
Tire conservation and management were key for Little and his team during the race’s second stage. With strategy their top focus, Little remained competitive and in contention but claimed eighth when the stage completed at Lap 80.
Despite wrestling a tight race truck in traffic, Little remained cool, calm and collected on the radio.
From the onset of Stage 3, Little stayed in conservative mode before switching to attack mode inside the race’s final 30 laps. While climbing through the field to fourth inside the final 15 laps of the race, a caution waved near the end of the race throwing the field into NASCAR overtime.
Another great stop on pit road from his Stewart-Haas Racing pit crew, Little found himself still hovered inside the top-five with laps winding down.
A bundle of race trucks stalled Little’s momentum on the restart keeping him from contending for his first series’ victory. However, despite the mangled web of trucks Little found surrounded in, he emerged from the pack and claimed eighth when the checkered flag flew.
The finish was a career-best result for the Sherrills Ford, N.C. native surpassing a ninth-place result at Iowa Speedway last summer.
“I want to thank everyone for the overwhelming support today, including our partnership with Wings Over North Georgia Air Show. I wanted to come here to learn and gain respect. Truck was solid all night and fast – thank you Matt Noyce and team. I was patient all race, positioning myself to be up front at the end.
“On the last restart, the No. 13 (Myatt Snider) got loose and I checked up, losing my momentum. All good and I’m happy for Brett (Moffitt, winner). Our team is coming together.
I’m looking forward to our next two races at Dover and Charlotte. This was a great start to our 2018 season!”
- Jesse Little finished eighth in the Active Pest Control 200 at Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway in his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut at the 1.5-mile speedway.
- In 14 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts, Little earned his career-best finish of eighth at AMS, surpassing a ninth-place performance on the short track of Iowa Speedway in 2017.
- Brett Moffitt won the Active Pest Control 200 followed by Noah Gragson (second), Johnny Sauter (third), Ben Rhodes (fourth) and Matt Crafton (fifth).
Next Race: Stratosphere 200 at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway on Fri., Mar. 2nd, 2018.
JJL Motorsports PR/Photo Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images