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Jesse Little's Eyes Opened by Chili Bowl Experience

The second-generation racer was brought back to his roots in Tulsa


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For better and worse, and mostly the good, Jesse Little got the full Chili Bowl Midget Nationals experience in his debut.

His practice run was delayed by a mechanical failure, he was challenged throughout the week in his first foray into dirt racing and the whole thing ended with him upside down on his lid during his Saturday morning feature.

And through it all, he had the time of his life.

"The past two Cup champions come here for a reason," Little said, "And I think coming here and seeing that, experiencing that, learning why it's so attractive to 400 drivers, that's what was cool to me."

Little competed in the L Feature on Saturday morning and ended up with all four wheels pointed up. But it was all a learning experience for the second-generation NASCAR competitor … even if he doesn’t totally understand how that happened.

"I think I was just a little too over rotated there coming off (Turn 4)," Little said. "I felt like I was going to spin, so I throttled up not thinking it would catch, so when I came halfway around that what kind of tipped me over.

"It was super slow motion. It was the first time I had been on my lid in a while, so that was something. I hate that we didn’t make the transfer, but it was a blast. I had a lot of fun. I’ve learned a lot and I’m looking forward to doing some more of it."

Little says he enjoyed the challenge because all he's ever known as a teenager and adult was stock car racing -- Late Models, Trucks, Xfinity and Cup. His childhood was an education in Cup Series racing and this was the first new experience he had been subjected to in quite a while.

"This is the first new thing I've done in a long, long time, as far as driving," Little said. "It kind of reminded of anytime you get in a new car and how steep the learning process for anything is.

"It kind of reiterated that it's good to come in with little to no expectations and just have fun and enjoy it. It reminded me that the most important thing about racing is coming in and just having fun, because if you're not doing that, then you've already lost."

It's a joy and an education that he hopes to commit more time to this year around his NASCAR schedule."

Come Tulsa Time next year, he will at least have a baseline for expectations.

"I learned a great bit, especially just the intangibles of just having the familiar feel of being comfortable being sideways, because that’s fast. Being used to that is good and it’s just going to encourage me to race dirt more -- get more seat time -- and I can’t wait to come back."