Throughout the season, Rob Tiongson interviews various drivers and personalities in the world of NASCAR. Today, he catches up with Jesse Little, driver of the No. 78 B.J. McLeod Motorsports Toyota Camry.
By ROB TIONGSON
I couldn’t be more than thrilled. At this point last year, I was anxious and excited to see what the NASCAR national series had to offer. Very quickly, I kinda got my itch scratched and was wanting to do it all over again. I was trying to do everything I could to make that happen and have another shot at it. To do it with the group at B.J. McLeod Motorsports, I’m more than happy. It’s hard to describe what makes it a team click but it’s really easy when you’re involved in it and that’s certainly the case with B.J. since the beginning. He was a teammate of mine with Johnny Davis and so we naturally got along from there. As the year progressed, we, more and more, found each other talking to one another about a lot of other things other than racing. It was almost a natural fit last September and October when we started discussing.
I knew Matt Mills has been there for a while and B.J. wanted him as his guy. We finally found a very common ground where I felt comfortable knowing that both of us were going to be elevated to a level of performance that B.J.’s team hasn’t been to yet. I think that’s more than exciting. I’ve been an underdog a lot of my career in NASCAR. To know that in 2021, I’m going to be able to go out there and show a lot of people that weren’t really familiar with B.J.’s program before, I’m going to be able to put a spotlight on it. It adds to all of the excitement and I think I can speak for the whole shop when I say we’re really excited to get the ball rolling.
It was and I’m glad you said that. That’s kind of the nail on the head. He makes it really easy and comfortable for guys like myself in the sense of that we don’t have really super, deep pockets but we’re very fortunate to have sponsors and partners behind us that believe in me. He’s able to relate to us on that level and make us feel worthwhile even though we can’t sign the million dollar checks and so on. He’s very good at that and the big thing for me is that I’ve been involved in racing for a long time behind the scenes more so than really on the track. With that, I know what it takes to go to the racetrack fully prepared and expect a certain level of performance. Through our talks and discussions, I was more than surprised to see him and his wife Jessica making those steps during the offseason and making those leaps towards really being a legit NASCAR XFINITY Series team. So that added on to it more so where it was almost a really easy decision for myself. I’m more than happy. I’m just ready to get this going. I know there was a lot of changes during over the offseason and now we’re just ready to see how it all plays out.
That’s kinda the very root of our relationship. From the beginning, and it’s a funny story, but during my very first Truck race ever in 2015 at Dover, I was walking out and getting ready to practice. We were out on pit road and B.J. was racing in the Trucks. He came up to me and right off the cuff, he came me some straightforward points and told me what to look for and anticipate. And that was the very beginning of my perception and respect for him. It’s only built since then to the point last year where I went to him a lot for a lot more than just more than racing related questions. I’m excited to get the relationship to the point where we’re satisfied where we’re running. That can only be justified by having good finishes and performances. I’ll be more than happy to see that.
That’s a great question and I think the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve truly enjoyed that aspect of that. When I was younger, I was just too naive and too much in the adolescent stage to realize the pure joy that it brought people in the sense of nostalgia that it brought.
The older I’ve gotten, I absolutely love when people come up and either say “I was a fan of your old man” or “What’s he doing? How’s he been? Is he here with you? What’s he asking you?” I think it’s so fun. It’s something that I always want to be able to relate to and carry with me.
It’s a cool relationship with him and I. I’m very fortunate and lucky. Since the beginning, he’s been in my corner 100% and never really stepped over the line and made it to where I didn’t really want to do this. He’s more so like, “If you need help, I’m here. I’ll tell you what you’re doing wrong but I won’t tell you how to do anything else.” I’ve always respected that especially the older I’ve gotten. To be in the NASCAR XFINITY Series level full-time, which I think is a huge accomplishment nowadays, the series that he raced in, won in, and almost won the championship in, 25 years later or so, I think it’s pretty neat and I’m very fortunate. It continues to show me that I’m doing this because I want to.
I love that question. I think, kind of the earliest ones I’ve had were quarter midget racing. I remember the first couple of times that we went out to the quarter midget track in Salisbury and we did some laps. That was the introduction to my journey. I remember for the first two or three years, it was fun but it wasn’t until I was 11 or 12 where I really remember telling myself, “This is something I want to do for as long as I can.” I love everything about it. I love the thrill, the people, the friends I’ve made, how my family rallies behind it, and I enjoy those memories as far as being able to tell myself that “This is something I want to do because of the joy I see it brings to others and I want to hold on to that for as long as I can.”