Three years after Jesse Little earned rookie honors in NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series East, limited funding has resulted in the third-generation driver splitting his time between two NASCAR series.
In 2016, the UNC Charlotte freshman will focus on five NASCAR K&N races and six to eight NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events.
“It’s pretty expensive to do a full year in both,” Little said. “Of course, trucks are automatically out of the question with the budget we have, but K&N is also fairly expensive. We weighed the pros and cons and decided going to the quarter-mile tracks on the K&N schedule might not be teaching me much. But going to Atlanta, Texas and Charlotte (in the trucks) is a lot more valuable for my experience and trying to get exposure. That’s what it’s going to take for me to go to the next level, being able to perform and doing it in front of a lot of people.”
Little is the son of former NASCAR driver Chad Little, who’s now NASCAR’s managing director, technical inspection/officiating, national series.
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The 18-year-old made his truck series debut last May at Dover. He qualified ninth, but had to settle for a 30th-place finish due to a crash before the halfway mark. He competed in three more truck races (Chicago, Texas and Homestead, Fla.) with his best finish of 14th coming in the season finale at Homestead. This year, the first truck race on Little’s schedule is the Feb. 27 event at Atlanta. The Little family will field the truck entry out of their Sherrills Ford shop.
“Since I don’t have a big sponsor (for the truck series), it’s a matter of searching and finding a local business in Atlanta or relationships with people in Texas or Phoenix,” Little said. “Wherever the money takes us, essentially, (is where we’ll race). Our truck is also tailored more into the mile-and-a-half bracket.”
In addition to the four truck races last year, Little competed in six of the 14 K&N Pro Series East events. His best finishes came at the 0.875-mile Iowa Speedway where he placed third in the first race and won the second. He also earned the pole at Bristol. This year he plans to return to Bristol and Iowa and also travel to New Hampshire, Watkins Glen and Dover. Even though the Littles own their K&N car, it will be fielded this season by Mooresville-based Rette Jones Racing.
Little said the most difficult adjustment for him in transitioning from the K&N Series to the trucks was the difference in the tires. Bias-ply tires are used on the K&N circuit, while radial tires are used in NASCAR’s top three touring series.
“That was one of the things I think that led to the wreck I had in my first truck race at Dover,” Little said. “It’s a huge transition. The radial tire has a lot more grip than a bias-ply, but once you get loose and you lose that grip, it goes away a lot quicker than a bias-ply tire does. I understand it now.”
Kurzejewski Driving for Ken Schrader Racing
Matt Kurzejewski, the 2015 General Tire Superspeedway Challenge Series champion, is competing fulltime in the ARCA Racing Series this year for Concord-based Ken Schrader Racing. Entering the 2016 season, the 24-year-old Kurzejewski has 14 career ARCA starts with seven top-10 finishes. He will be sponsored by Ansell Protective Products and Menards.
Venturini Motorsports Adds Eckes, Hessert
Concord-based Venturini Motorsports has added 15-year-old Christian Eckes and nine-year ARCA veteran Tom Hessert to its driver lineup for 2016. Eckes will drive a limited ARCA short-track schedule. He is slated to make his ARCA debut with Venturini Motorsports at Nashville (Tenn.) Fairgrounds on April 9.
Hessert will pilot the team’s flagship No. 25 Toyota, starting with the Feb. 13 ARCA season opener at Daytona.
CARS Tour Offers Loyalty Program
An incentive program based on participation and not performance is offered this year by the Mooresville-based CARS Tour. A team is eligible for the program after competing in the sanctioning body’s first five races. The program means free gas and tires for teams meeting the requirements. Also, teams entering all 10 races on the schedule prior to the season opener on April 2 will pay a one-time fee and receive one free race entry. Details: www.carsracingtour.com.
Deb Williams is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.