Spokane’s Chad Little held off Jeff Green in a tense duel over the closing laps to win the Red Dog 300 NASCAR Busch Grand National race Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The victory, which came one year after Little fractured his right leg and right shoulder in a crash during this race, helped him nearly cut in half the advantage of 1995 points leader Johnny Benson.
It was the fourth victory of the year for Little, who has led 10 of the season’s 11 events.
“This team’s on a roll now,” Little said. “We’ve had our share of luck, but you also create a lot of your own luck.”
Benson, a two-time winner this year and the only driver on the circuit to finish in the top 10 in each of the first 10 races, spun out on the 27th lap and set off a multi-car wreck. Benson, who had to take his car behind the wall for extensive repairs, wound up 30th. His lead over Little was trimmed from 231 points to 124.
The event on Charlotte’s 1-mile trioval featured 17 lead changes among eight drivers, but the most exciting racing occurred over the final 15 laps, when Little never surrendered the lead.
Green, driving a Chevrolet owned by seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt, was fifth after a round of green-flag pit stops with 30 laps left. But on lap 185, Green overpowered Mark Martin for second place and turned his attention on the leader.
Green repeatedly pulled within inches of Little’s rear bumper, and on lap 191, he tried to get alongside the leader’s Ford as they went down the frontstretch. Even though Little beat him into the first turn, the confrontation was far from over.
“I just was trying not to make any mistakes and hold a good, consistent groove,” Little said. “I was just trying as hard as I could to stay in the lead.”
Green kept looking for an opening over the final laps, but each time, Little was able to use lapped traffic as an effective blockade.
Green failed in one final attempt as the two came out of the fourth turn on the final lap, and Little wound up about a half-car length in front at the checkered flag.
“It’s too bad we got caught in all that traffic at the end,” Green said. “But this team’s going to win our share of races.”
Little, who started seventh and led four times for 35 laps, including the last 18, won $49,169.
Tracy Leslie, Martin and Ken Schrader rounded out the top five.
Little starts 17th in today’s Coca Cola 600.
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