DALE JARRETT, No. 44 UPS Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Starting position: 3rd How excited are you to qualify third here at Atlanta? "I think we just took over the upset of the year from Appalachian State when they beat Michigan by ...
DALE JARRETT, No. 44 UPS Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Starting position: 3rd
How excited are you to qualify third here at Atlanta?
"I think we just took over the upset of the year from Appalachian State when they beat Michigan by qualifying third. We can't leave everything to college football these days -- we have to do something. It's been that kind of year because you just don't know what to expect. My guys built a new body on this chassis from earlier in the year and tried to take everything we've learned this year -- we implemented it into a car that we can run at these last three races this season. I'm really happy for the guys and for UPS as they are based right here in Atlanta. We're running the Toys for Tots car in conjunction with the Marines -- it's real special for me to run that paint scheme and to do well with it here tonight."
Does this effort make you question your decision to retire?
"No -- I'm good and I'm still good with that. It's a lot of fun to come here and run this well and know that we're getting the team to this point. Obviously as happy as I am to have this run and that Michael (Waltrip) made the race -- we still didn't get all three cars in the race. The car that hasn't had any problem qualifying this year with David (Reutimann) misses the race. But I'm very happy with the situation and scenario that I have for next year."
Will you consider driving another NASCAR series next season?
"I won't drive anything else and once I'm finished with the All-Star race -- that's it. Whether I will run a Busch race or a truck race somewhere in between -- that really hasn't been discussed. But once I get to the All-Star race in Charlotte in May -- that will be it and there will be no other series."
Are you going to drive the UPS truck before you retire?
"I was kind of surprised and I don't know what they might have planned for next year. That really hasn't been a part of the process, but maybe your (David Poole, Charlotte Observer) paragraph you wrote about it will spur them on. I haven't even sat in one of those things -- I really expected that to happen before the end of this. I'm game for it and maybe that paragraph and our little talk here tonight will help move that along. Maybe UPS will decide to do something different and I'm at their mercy -- whatever they want me to do is what I'll do."
What would be a good day on Sunday?
"Since I haven't finished better than 22nd this season -- finishing better than that would make for a good Sunday. But that's not a very lofty goal to sit here and talk about. But right now we have a good race car so let's go take advantage of that. Let's run up front and enjoy it for awhile. I miss seeing those guys a lot other than when they lap me and that's not a very good sight. It would be great to run with them and I think I have a car capable of doing that. When you practice making only one-lap runs, it's hard to get it to do what you want during the race, but when you have a car that's doing the things that mine was doing this afternoon and tonight -- that gives me a lot of hope for a good race on Sunday. Being able to start there and run with the guys would be great and this is a long race so we'll have plenty of time to adjust on the car. The one thing that will hamper us a little bit is the lack of running on these types of tracks this season -- we ran well at Kansas and we were sitting in a pretty good spot when we went back from that rain delay, we had a valve spring to break and we didn't really get to see where we would have run there. That gave me some hope for this race and I was real disappointed that I didn't get that car into the race at Charlotte -- I thought we could go there and put on a pretty good show like Michael did. This gives us another chance and it couldn't come at a better place. The idea of what is a good run has changed tremendously not only from my perspective, but because of the level of competition. If I can compete Sunday and get a top-15 finish -- that would be great."
Were you surprised that your team built a new car that is not a Car of Tomorrow this late in the season?
"When they came to me and told me what they were doing, it really surprised me. But we've learned so much and we haven't really torn up much to have to build very many new cars. They felt like these last three races -- here, Texas and Homestead with this car, that this is something we could use. They felt like this was worth the effort to do that and they did a tremendous job. We're sitting 40-something in owner points, but it doesn't matter because we're still fighting and battling hard. That's what we have to do and that's what we have to show UPS and the rest of the sponsors -- that we're willing to do this no matter how bad things have been. We have to continue to improve and show that improvement -- that's our goal. I was probably a little ambitious in my speaking at the beginning of the year about what we would achieve and what we would be able to do by next year, but you have to do those things somewhat. You can't be negative -- you have to be somewhat of a cheerleader at times. Now we're starting to prove that we are worthy of having this team. Toyota has done a lot of work with the engines and that has been great to see. They have really listened to the drivers and made this a lot better for us on the race track. I'm excited about what I see and I think things are only going to continue to get better. Eric Warren coming over has also been a tremendous help to our entire race team."
Can you talk about your career over the past 15 years of racing here at Atlanta Motor Speedway?
"It's been a really great 15 years for me too. I was very honored to be a part of that race with Jeff (Gordon) coming in and Richard (Petty) going out. It's been a tremendous 15 years for myself and for my family -- we saw this sport take on a whole other level from that time to now. Jeff Gordon has been a big part of all that happening and Richard Petty was the reason that the sport was where it was and is still a huge factor in where this sport is today. It's been great to be a part of it and to have had the success I have in my career. Hopefully we're not done making news -- we still have a few races left and Sunday would be a great time to make some more news."
-credit: toyota motorsports