Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, was this week's guest on the NASCAR Winston Cup teleconference. He spoke about the national events of today as well as issues concerning the scheduled race this weekend at New Hampshire ...
Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, was this week's guest on the NASCAR Winston Cup teleconference. He spoke about the national events of today as well as issues concerning the scheduled race this weekend at New Hampshire International Speedway.
--88-- UPS Taurus
HOW DO YOU AND THE TEAM APPROACH THE LAST 10 RACES? "Let me say first off that I know this may seem a little trivial with everything going on in our nation right now, but we appreciate everyone that is in with us here this morning. Certainly, all of our thoughts and prayers are with everyone that has someone within this crisis and our entire nation and just hope that our president and everyone can take care of all of this. As far as our racing, what we have to do with the hole we've dug ourselves is just continue to race for victories. It might not have looked like that Saturday night at Richmond. We ended up finishing fourth, but we struggled there all night. We tried something a little different in our setup and we finally got it a lot closer to right at the end. So, what we're gonna have to do -- it was closer to our Loudon setup -- so with winning the race there earlier this year, we'll go back with the same race car which was the same car we ran Saturday night at Richmond, and, hopefully, we can get another victory. Our only chance is that somewhere along the way that Jeff has a couple more problems and get us closer to where we can get it down to actual racing. But we just have to go out and do our job and try to finish off this season and forget about the month of August that happened to us. We just kind of dug ourselves a hole there. It was unfortunate because we ran well throughout August, we just didn't get the finishes to show that."
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF THIS SEASON? "I think, and I'm not sure I can speak for everyone, but I think if you look at it, staying consistent week-in and week-out and that's because of the amount of competition that we have now. It's just become so competitive week-in and week-out. You seem to have your core group that seems to run well pretty much everywhere that you go, but if you miss it just a little bit -- it used to be, and even back in '99 when we won the championship, if we were off a little bit we could still get a top 10 and a lot of times make than into a top five. You have a difficult time doing that now because you have at least 10 to 15 cars that seem to be very close week-in and week-out, and they run that way throughout the entire day. The other night was an example. We were fortunate because we were looking at finishing outside the top 15 and we just happened to get everything right at the right time towards the end, but that's what's made it more difficult to me. With the competition closer, you get yourself into accidents and it makes you press maybe a little bit more as far as trying to get a little more horsepower on some of the bigger tracks, and then that can create an engine problem. Ricky (Rudd) has had a couple of those type of situations. It just makes you do things. It makes you press more on the track and take a few more chances, which puts yourself in a position for things to happen. So, just trying to be consistent has become more difficult to make all of that happen. Even though Jeff has done a tremendous job, he's still had his problems along the way."
HAS THE CORE GROUP EXPANDED THE LAST FIVE YEARS? "Certainly the last five years and I think even the last three years it's expanded. We have teams now that stay together longer. They have the financial backing to make it all happen and you have drivers getting more experience. Not only that, but you've got drivers coming in that maybe don't have the experience in Winston Cup, but they have a lot of driving experience and racing experience with these type of cars at a lot of these tracks because of the trucks and the Busch Series. So they're better prepared to come in and run well in Winston Cup racing. They may not do it every week, but when you throw those guys into the mix occasionally, then you make it even more difficult. It's always been competitive and to win you've obviously had to always beat everybody, but now to be there week-in and week-out has become much more difficult than in the past."
WHAT ABOUT YOUR WIN AT LOUDON IN JULY AND THE TRACK ITSELF? "It was very gratifying for us to win. Anytime you can win somewhere that you haven't been able to get into victory lane means a lot and we worked hard. We'd raced well at Loudon before, but just hadn't gotten into victory lane so that was very gratifying to us, and we certainly look forward to coming back. As far as the race track, it is a one-groove track, but we know that going in. That means you have to do things well from the very beginning. We talk a lot of times about qualifying not being that important. This weekend, and everytime we go to New Hampshire, qualifying is very important because of that track position and how tough it is to pass. I think we qualified ninth or 10th or something like that the first race and we were able to pass our way up there. If you have a good car, you can make passes, but it becomes more difficult as the day goes on. But you know what you have to work with. Would we like to see something different? Sure, we'd like to see some banking there. Is that feasible? I don't know. But I do know that we know going to Loudon this weekend that we have a flat, fast race track and that's what we have to deal with. Handling is very important, you have to be very patient and you have to pick and choose the times you're gonna pass. We all know that going in, so there's no reason to complain about what's there. I know that a sealer was put down the time before when we raced the last time. The rubber began to stick to that and that made it a little more difficult to negotiate, but I don't know what's been done this time. Whatever it is, we just have to adapt to those situations and make the very most of it. I look forward to another very exciting race. The races always come down to the end. We seem to get a caution late at Loudon and that bunches things up and makes it very exciting for the fans."
DO YOU EXPECT RICKY RUDD TO BE THERE AT THE END AGAIN LIKE LAST TIME? "Yeah. It would be hard not to make Jeff Gordon the favorite anywhere that we go, but I honestly believe that Ricky Rudd is the favorite right now. They have things going their way. It's a race track he's run well at on a consistent basis. You can't say enough about just having momentum and coming off one short track and going to what we consider another short track -- even though it's a mile long -- I don't know for sure, but I think that Ricky and them will probably be taking the same car. Yeah, I'd say that he's the guy we have to beat. I know that Jeff's stats show that he's done extremely well there over the years and you would look for that to happen, but just like what happened Saturday night, anything can happen. At a place like Loudon, a lot of cars finish on the lead lap and, if Jeff and them were to have any type of problems -- whether it just be a flat tire or something like that -- that can put him back pretty far and Ricky and, hopefully, myself and Tony and Sterling would have a chance to gain some more points on him."
GIVEN WHAT'S TAKEN PLACE THIS MORNING, ARE THERE ANY CONCERNS FROM A SAFETY STANDPOINT ABOUT A RACE THIS WEEKEND WHERE 100,000 PEOPLE WILL BE IN ONE LOCATION? "I don't know that I've allowed myself to think about that. It's certainly something that we need to concern ourselves with. There will be a lot of activities on the weekend, not only ours there (at Loudon), but the NFL games and the college games on Saturday. With what's taken place here, you have to be concerned for safety and we also have to make sure that this is the right thing for us to be doing at this particular time. I think we do have to look at that. Is it safe for us to travel, along with the other teams in the other sports? And is that the thing to be doing or do we just need to make sure that we have everything under control and we're doing everything with our nation's best interest in mind? So, that's something in the next couple of days that is going to have to be evaluated as everyone starts making their plans and just making sure that we have our priorities in order."
DO MOST OF YOUR TEAMS TRAVEL COMMERCIALLY? "There probably aren't as many teams traveling commercial now as what it once did, but there are people and teams that do use that type of transportation. A lot are private planes and I myself was supposed to be leaving tonight to go to Connecticut for an appearance the next two days, but I'm not sure that's gonna happen. My pilot just called a little while ago and said that right now, as we all know, all air traffic has been stopped, so we'll just look at that. It certainly would be a concern and, again, we'll just have to evaluate. I know NASCAR will do that, along with the teams and evaluating exactly how we need to handle this."
WHAT'S THE PROPER APPROACH TO SOME OF THE SHENANIGANS THAT HAVE TAKEN PLACE ON AND OFF TRACK -- PRIMARILY IN THE BUSCH SERIES? "I think we're gonna have to do something besides fines. I've always looked at fines, whether it be in our sport or other sports where the athletes, teams or whatever it may be make quite a bit of money. Even though $10,000 or $5,000 is still a lot of money, in the whole scheme of things I don't know if that sends the message that we're gonna have to send here. You take the chance that anytime you put someone in that position of creating an accident, basically, of someone getting injured and we, obviously, don't need to put ourselves in that position. I think we need to look at something a little more harsh. Whether that's taking points away, that certainly takes a little more than the money, but from what I've seen over the last few weeks anyway, it might be time for somebody to sit out a week and realize that we're not gonna put up with this. Racing and rubbing a little bit and accidents are gonna happen at times, but some of the things that I've seen are totally uncalled for and a message needs to be sent."
HOW DO YOU DRAW A LINE IN THESE CASES BETWEEN WHAT'S RACING AND WHAT'S NOT? "That's the difficult part, but that's why NASCAR is in the position that it's in. I think they have very qualified people that are paying attention and looking at what's going on, and I think that in most cases it's pretty obvious to what was incidental and what wasn't. I think we have the people in place. As in many other cases where it's NASCAR's judgement call, they're in charge of this and I look for them to be the ones to make that call. I think they'll be more than happy to do that and get this ship righted."
IN YOUR OPINION, SHOULD NASCAR RACE THIS WEEKEND? "That's certainly gonna be something we have to look at. We're gonna have to get through more than just what we see today. Obviously, most teams will start traveling on Thursday, so it's something we're gonna have to look at. First off, there are two things. Safety-wise, is it safe for our teams and people to be traveling? Second, does it become a distraction to anything that's going on with our nation as to what needs to take place there? Finally, and maybe most importantly, is it the right thing to do? Right now, we need to be concerned with these people and the families of the people that have been involved here and we need to make sure that, once again, our nation is a safe place to live. We've got to make sure that it would be the right thing to do. I know that NASCAR will be looking at this and, certainly, within in the next day or so will make that decision."
DO DRIVERS HAVE THE SAME CONCERN ABOUT PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY AS THEY DO ABOUT LOUDON? "No, I think they're pretty different race tracks. When we say concerns, I think what we look at more now that we've become a little bit more knowledgeable are the angles that we enter the corners and how the walls are positioned. I think what we see at Phoenix is totally different than what we see at Loudon. I think that's the one thing, that if we looked at Loudon -- more than changing the banking or anything, we would look at the angle at which we would hit the wall if something were to happen going into the corner. With Phoenix, I think it's a totally different type of situation with the angles that we have there. First off, we're a lot closer to the walls there so you're not carrying as much speed to that point, so that makes it a little bit different."
PHOENIX IS AFTER TALLADEGA. WHAT'S THAT DIFFERENCE LIKE? "Certainly, the levels of stress will be way down. Not only is Phoenix a great track -- and that's not saying Talladega is not, it's a great racing facility but it's certainly high stress for three days. When we come out of there we'll be looking to go to a place that is really fun to race at because Phoenix is a great race track. It's fun to pass on, it's not one groove, you don't have to just sit and follow somebody around because you've got two or three grooves there. It's just a fun place to race at and, on top of that, it's a great place to go. There's great weather and it's a great place to go and relax."
WHAT ABOUT YOUR DAD BEING INDUCTED INTO THE NORTH CAROLINA AUTO RACING HALL OF FAME? "I'm excited about it. It once again shows the career my dad had in this sport in a number of ways. He's one of the few that has really had two careers there -- Benny Parsons is another and, of course Darrell (Waltrip) is going onto that now. But my dad made a great career through racing and the 50 victories and two Winston Cup championships, and then he went on into the field of TV and radio and had another great career there. I'm very honored and excited for him and look forward to that happening."
CAN YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT RICKY RUDD IS FEELING BY GETTING A CHANCE WITH A TEAM LIKE ROBERT YATES THIS LATE IN HIS CAREER? "Yeah, certainly. I think that I understand a little bit about what Ricky is going through and how much he's enjoying it. Even though Ricky had won races previous to coming to Robert Yates Racing, he had done very well and had a great career, I think that now you see a different Ricky Rudd. He's very relaxed and you can tell that he's having a good time. He's always been a great race driver and I think now he's able to showcase those talents. That's what's great about our sport. We don't have a seniors tour to go to or anything. Ricky, I think he turns 45 this week, and I'll be 45 in a couple of months, and I think Rusty turns 45 here soon. We've got quite a few guys that are over 40 that are still doing very well and that's what's great about our sport. If you keep yourself in good condition and have that drive, you can continue to do well. You have a long band of your career there and if you get yourself in that right situation, and I feel like Ricky and I have done that, that we can actually prolong our careers because there's a lot less stress involved when you have the opportunities that Ricky and I have to work with the people at Robert Yates Racing."
WHAT HAS THE SPONSOR CHANGE DONE FOR YOUR TEAM? "Anytime you change a sponsor you look at things a little bit differently and you're not sure exactly what's gonna take place. Obviously, there's the opportunity there for a lot of good things to happen and, certainly, with UPS that's been the case. Even though they hadn't been involved in the sport before, they've been great to work with -- it's been fun. I guess getting to know them and also helping them to learn the sport, but in our case with UPS everyone has just been great. We've been fortunate to have a good year, to get them in victory lane, to show them what it's like to win races and to show them what it's like to be part of a points championship. They've also seen the disappointing side of going through a month like we had in August when things didn't go exactly right. Even through that time, we've had such great support from everyone at UPS. When you have a company with over 350,000 employees worldwide, that's a lot of people to try to keep happy. We realize all of them aren't our fans, but a lot of them have become fans of ours and the sport. So, it's been good for the sport and it's been good for us at Robert Yates Racing. Financially, apparently it's a good deal for Robert. I don't know numbers or anything like that, but I just know it allows us to do the things that we need to do to win races and run up front. We're just very fortunate to be involved with a company like UPS. On the other side of it, it's a good and bad thing for our fans. It's great that we have a new look, a different color car, that means new diecasts for them and new t-shirts -- all of that stuff. On the other side of it, it costs them money to keep up and support our team, but they've been very supportive in that and we've been very fortunate in that respect."