Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, comes into Sunday's Mountain Dew Southern 500 in third place in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings. He trails leader Jeff Gordon by 379 points and teammate Ricky Rudd for second place by...
Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, comes into Sunday's Mountain Dew Southern 500 in third place in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings. He trails leader Jeff Gordon by 379 points and teammate Ricky Rudd for second place by 71 points. He spoke about his current position, in addition to some other topics earlier today.
DALE JARRETT --88-- UPS Taurus
WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT THIS PLACE? "There's no margin for error here, especially with the harder tire and the racing surface as worn as it is. You just can't slip any at all anymore, so there's just no room for error and that makes it a difficult place to negotiate."
HOW DOES THIS RACE STACK UP PRESTIGE WISE? "They all are significant in some way, but this race and the history of how everything started here, and because of how difficult a place this is especially here in September as hot as it is, it would mean a lot to win this. I can only assume that. I know it meant a lot to my dad when he won it and it looks like it means a lot to these other guys that have had the opportunity to win the Southern 500."
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR EARLY MEMORIES OF DARLINGTON? "It's so different now, but I when I used to come here as a kid the infield had a playground here under the big scoreboard. We could come and hang out with Kyle (Petty) and Davey (Allison) and those guys. And then my dad pretty much winning and wrapping up the championship here in 1965 when he won the Southern 500. Those are all good times."
HAVE YOU SEEN THE COMPOSITE BUMPER THAT WAS TESTED THE OTHER DAY? "Nothing other than what they sent me. They sent me some information on it. It looks like something in the right direction, but not knowing anymore about it than what I know, it would be hard to comment on it. I think we need to get a real name for it."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT MANAGING TIRES? HOW DO YOU DO IT? "You know you have such a limited amount of time on the tires where you can run fast that you want to do that, but you also know that if you take those eight or 10 laps to do that, then your last 40 or 50 aren't gonna be very good. You can make your car really good for those 10 laps and really turn some good times, but what you've got to do is come up with a setup and a style of driving that's gonna allow you to still run those last 30 laps at a reasonable pace when everybody else is slowing down. You've managed those tires with shocks and a little bit with spring and a swaybar combination, but the driver's got to do a lot of it with his foot and with the steering wheel. If you can do that and get your car to that point, then you can be awful good in this race."
DOES THIS BECOME A THINKING MAN'S RACE? "I think probably at the end of this you're as mentally spent as most anywhere that you go because of the difficulty of the race track and everything surrounding it. You really have to think about timing your passes, even lapped cars and where you pass them so you don't lose so much time. If you can take the lap traffic and cars you're trying to race with and pass at the right places, and think your way through that and be smart about it, you can pick up a lot of time doing that. Todd's thinking all day long about what you have to do and what we need to do, when we need to pit not to give up too much time. You don't want to pit too early and get caught a lap down, but then again you don't want to stay out there on tires as your car is slowing down and you're losing time. There are a lot of things that go into trying to be successful during this race."
HOW IS THAT DIFFERENT FROM OTHER TRACKS? "I think a lot of times other tracks kind of dictate. Fuel is gonna dictate whenever you get into the pits. Seldom do we get to where we're close to running out of fuel here, if ever anymore. At other race tracks, you're not really having to think about how much your tires are giving up. It happens occasionally, but it's more dictated by fuel mileage at other places."
WHAT BAD MEMORIES DO YOU HAVE OF RACING ON THIS TRACK? "I don't know that I have bad memories of this place at all. Even when I haven't done so well, it's not a bad memory. It's been a learning experience more than a bad memory. A lot of good things have happened here. I can go back to when my dad raced here and won the Southern 500 in 1965. I can think back to other things that have happened. It was a little over 13 years ago that my daughter, Natalie, was born. I had to leave here to go home and be a part of that. Winning Busch races here and then being able to go on and win Winston Cup races here, it's a pretty special place."
WHAT ABOUT RICHMOND NEXT WEEK? "I've been surprised that nobody has built another Richmond. From a driver's standpoint, it's a fun race track to drive. We have good races there all the time. There's adequate seating for a lot of people to get there. I don't know if there's a perfect race track, but it sure is a lot of fun for the drivers to go there and be able to race competitively and race hard all night."
WHAT IS THE TRACK LIKE? "It's a handling race track and you've got to get through the corners. You can make your car run fast, but you can also wear your tires out if you're not careful. Richmond is a place that we go a fuel stop. A lot of times we'll run and make green-flag pit stops, so you really have to have a good setup and get your car to roll through the corner. That's something we've seen Jeff Burton and Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon do really well over the last couple of years."
CAN THAT PLACE BE HARD ON BRAKES? "It can be, especially if you don't have your car handling exactly right. Getting into one you can use a lot of brake and you see the rotors glowing a lot on a lot of guys' cars, but if you can get your car rolling you won't see that happening with the cars up front."
YOU'LL TRY TO BE A SPOILER FOR THE NO BULL DRIVERS. "Our goal is to get in the next one, so we want to be in the top five of that one. Nothing against those guys, but we hope none of them a million dollars because we want to win the race."
CAN THIS TRACK BE A WILD CARD IN THE POINTS RACE? "Yeah, certainly. We saw Jeff run well here earlier this year and, even though we ran well, we were able to pull off the win and he had some type of problem. We came from way back and actually took the points leads I think here in the first race. He's obviously not gonna lose the points lead this weekend, but if he were to have trouble -- which you can get into trouble just by yourself here -- and Ricky and I could have good days, we could close it up. Those are the type of things that are gonna have to happen."
ARE YOU ON THE EDGE HERE MORE THAN OTHER TRACKS? "Yeah, because you're running right to the wall here on both ends. There's just no margin for error, so to go fast here in a race-type setup, you're right up against the wall and right on the edge here probably more than anyone else."
HAVE YOU EVER FINISHED A RACE HERE WITHOUT A MARK ON YOUR CAR? "It's been quite a while since I've gone around this place for 400 or 500 miles and not hit the wall at some point in time. I used to watch Harry Gant win races here and he'd bang off what are turns three and four now a lot. He would wear the right-rear bumper completely out on his car, but he'd be the guy in victory lane. That's what you have to do. If you're gonna run fast, you're gonna take that chance sometime during that 500 miles of just slipping a little too much and rubbing the wall."
IS THERE ANYPLACE THAT'S MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANOTHER AS FAR AS GETTING AROUND THIS TRACK? "Getting off the corners here is what's most important, as it is with most places. That's where a lot of your speed is here and that's where you make your passes -- getting runs off the corner. You don't really pass anybody getting into the corners here. In turns one and two, you just get below somebody. If their car is not getting through the center of that corner, you can kind of take that spot away and the inside is the best place, but you're better off catching somebody out of both corners."
WHAT'S YOUR POSITION ON GOOD LUCK AND BAD LUCK? "I think you make it whatever it is. That's where hard work and preparation come together. Sure, sometimes we'll talk about bad luck but bad luck is just a matter of having yourself in the wrong spot at the wrong time or doing the wrong thing. That goes right along with doing the right things and it's just a matter of doing your job. Sometimes that translates into doing it well and sometimes not so well."
WHEN DO YOU KNOW YOUR DAY IS OVER AFTER AN ACCIDENT, SPECIFICALLY LIKE WHAT HAPPENED AT POCONO? "We wouldn't until it got to the point that we couldn't repair the car. At that point in time at Pocono, after I hit the wall the second time we couldn't have fixed that car. As a matter of fact, that car is no longer even in our fleet of cars. It was torn up so bad, that we won't ever race it again. You just know when it comes to that and what they can do. You have to look at all of that. You get in a situation like we were at Pocono where there weren't enough laps to fix the car anyway before getting back out and being able to make it worth the guys' time."
WHAT ABOUT HOW FAST THE POINTS RACE HAS CHANGED? "It just shows how quickly things happen. When one team is really doing their job and you have any kind of mistakes at all, you see how quickly things change. It seems like everything is going great. Ricky and I were really feeling good about our chances and then in a matter of four weeks we both have a couple of bad races and Jeff has had an outstanding run as they have all year and, all of a sudden, he's got a huge lead. It's just part of it. That's why I say that there's no one race anymore important than another because all it takes is that one week to kind of get you started on a slide and it's hard to recuperate from that."
IS THERE MORE PRESSURE TO TRY AND MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN NOW? "I think there are times that whenever you start to try to make things happen, that's when you get yourself in trouble. No matter if you're behind or ahead, you've got to go with the mentality of doing your job. Trying to make things happen by either doing different things with the engine or the setup or strategy that would be different from your normal strategy, I think those things just put yourself in a bigger hole."