Daytona 500: Jarrett "Wake-Up Call" interview

Three-time Daytona 500 winner Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, was the NEXTEL Wake-Up Call guest Saturday morning in the infield media center at Daytona International Speedway. DALE JARRETT - No. 88 UPS Taurus CAN YOU TAKE US ...

Three-time Daytona 500 winner Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, was the NEXTEL Wake-Up Call guest Saturday morning in the infield media center at Daytona International Speedway.

DALE JARRETT - No. 88 UPS Taurus

CAN YOU TAKE US THROUGH YOUR SPEEDWEEKS SO FAR? "It's been an exciting 10 days or so since we've been here and things have gone well for the most part. The Bud Shootout got us off to a really good start and, more than anything probably, the way I look at it was it rewarded our guys' efforts throughout the winter. They worked for a little over two months getting ready for these races here and to be able to show them right off that their hard work and efforts have paid off means a lot. We had a good qualifying effort, but then Thursday came around and it wasn't quite the effort that we were looking for there. As a lot of people were, we found our car to be a little bit tight throughout the week, so we kept trying to change that and we accomplished that by Thursday to the point that I was really loose - almost out of control loose throughout the entire race, and that's not a lot of fun when you're trying to run in the pack. As things got sorted out I could run a little bit better, but we made some changes. Thankfully, my teammate had a good race car and Elliott won his race. As we sat down Wednesday afternoon before the Thursday races, we kind of went in two different directions. Since he was headed in one direction already and we were a little more towards the other side, we continued in those directions and had different setups. Obviously, we saw which one worked, so yesterday we put something closer to that in our car and made a few other adjustments and felt a lot better about our car yesterday. So here we are with two sessions left before the 500, but I feel much better about our chances right now than what I did after Thursday."

HOW HAVE THE TIRES BEEN FOR YOU SO FAR? "We've worked extremely hard in trying to make sure that we're taking care of the tires. The way we're doing that is with our shock and spring combination and swaybar - just trying to do everything we can. We've probably paid more attention to that than anything else. We're not afraid of hurting the tire, it's a matter that we want to try to make the tires just last as long as possible. I'm sure there are people out there that are trying to get their car to turn and they're doing things that are gonna abuse the tire and we're not looking in that direction. I'm fortunate that Mike doesn't go about it that way as far as making the cars work, and Todd's always been the same way. We've been fortunate in that respect, so it's gonna be a deal where you're gonna have to manage that. For the first time, probably, we're gonna have to make these tires go somewhere between 35 and 38 laps, which shouldn't be a problem. There's nothing wrong with the tire and I think the trucks proved that you could run a lot longer than that on them. I'm sure we'll see the Busch cars, since they have the bigger fuel cells today, will take them even further than what we saw last night, so there shouldn't be a problem."

WHAT IS YOUR VIEW ON THE YATES/ROUSH ALLIANCE? "I think so far, and I don't see any reason why it should change, that everything has been very positive. Certainly there are things that Jack Roush and his people brought to Robert and Doug. In our efforts with our engine program over the years we've always made adequate horsepower at Robert Yates Racing, but there were areas we probably needed to improve in and there were a couple of areas Jack and his people were probably better at than what we were, so you put that combination together and hopefully it's gonna lead to some very good things. I know that Elliott and myself have been pleased with what we have and in talking to Greg Biffle and Jeff Burton and Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth, they feel very strongly about what they have here too and that it's gonna give them a better opportunity."

WHAT IS YOUR MINDSET STARTING 31ST IN THE 500? "I think you used a good word there, 'pacing' ourselves because it is 500 miles and it's an extremely long day. Starting 31st doesn't concern me, but the thing that does is I don't want to get myself in a position that could create problems early in the race because it is 500 miles. What we'll do, we've seen that there are some cars out there that don't seem to have a handle on things quite as good and after you run 15 or 20 laps, then things start to sort themselves out.

"So I'll probably be looking just to kind of hold where I'm at and move when I can, but wait until we get to that 20-25 lap to start making some gains at that time and then let my pit crew do a good job and gain some spots there. Then we can go back out and race as things get strung out a little bit, so, hopefully, we can have some green flag racing and let things sort themselves out."

TODD SEEMS SO RELAXED. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HIS TRANSFORMATION FROM WHEN HE WORKED WITH YOU? "The time that Todd took off was good for him and was something that he needed for his personal life. Once you get that straightened out, then you can get back to doing what you enjoy doing. Thankfully, Todd has done that and he enjoys working at Robert Yates Racing. We're certainly glad that he continued on with us. He and Elliott have a good relationship just as he and I do, so we're very fortunate to have two people that are very good at their jobs in Todd and Mike. The relationship that they have has been very encouraging to us all, so it's nice to see him working and having fun and back in the winner's circle. It should be a really good year. Again, he and Elliott communicate really well and I think when you have that type of communication it's easy to walk around and smile and have fun."

ARE YOU TIRED BY THE TIME THE 500 GETS HERE BECAUSE IT'S BEEN 10 DAYS? "There's nothing wrong with the length of time being here. It gives you time to do a lot of things. Obviously to take care of sponsors - there are a lot of requirements there. The amount of time that we're actually in the race car isn't a whole lot if you look at it from the amount of time that we're here, but I think for our biggest event the amount of time is needed that we take to get everything in. There's been a lot happening here throughout the week. Personally, it doesn't bother me to be down here this amount of time and I think this time we had Monday off, which was kind of a nice break, and then we've had practice time to work on our cars and get things prepared. Having two practice sessions yesterday was beneficial to us and then to have the two today, so I think the time has been put in front of us at good times for us to work on our equipment and make things ready for the 500."

DO YOU HAVE TO PACE YOURSELF? "I pace myself a little bit. My PR person, Penny Copen, has done a really good job of spreading things out. We got a lot done a couple of different days and that gave me some other times that were just kind of my time. I think we've learned to do that over the years. We used to try to do something every single day and we kind of put that aside and tried to take care of as much of it in one or two days that we could."

WHAT ABOUT THE LOW CAR COUNT WE'RE SEEING? "I guess I should be concerned. That's somebody else's concern - as long as we're here. I don't know what the TV contract says as far as how many cars we have to have there, but I don't know that it's absolutely necessary that we have 43 cars to show up next weekend. Certainly the cost of the sport is probably keeping people away because with everything you have to have this day and time it takes a tremendous amount of cash flow to make all of that happen. I don't know about just cutting it back to 36 because what if we're having 40 cars show up? Why would we want to send four cars home if we do that? I don't see why if we show up with 40 next week, that's a gracious plenty to put on a really good race. If we have 43 to show up, then we can go with that. I don't know that we need to set a number lower than that for any reason, let's just go with what we have. But certainly the rising cost is a concern for everyone, even for the teams that have major sponsorship. We want to make sure that we're continuing to look at that to where it doesn't get totally out of hand."

IF IT RAINS AND CLEANS THE TRACK DOES THAT CHANGE THE TIRE SITUATION? "Certainly with a green race track starting tomorrow it would probably mean that we're gonna see a little more wear at the beginning of the race. If we would have had 22 gallon fuel cells it would probably be a little more of a concern, but knowing that nobody is gonna run more than 40 laps I don't think, and with the taller spoiler we're not seeing quite the mileage that we saw before, so I can't see as to where somewhere between 35 and 38 would be cause for concern even on a green track."

IS THE PATH DRIVERS LIKE YOU AND MICHAEL WALTRIP TOOK TO GET HERE CLOSING? "I don't think so. The young guys get a lot of attention, but maybe not all of them are gonna reach their peak at a young age. They may get that opportunity, but to get themselves in the right spot and to take advantage of things may come along later in life for them, too. We'll just have to see how that works out, but I wouldn't say that guys in their mid to late thirties can't have a lot of success that maybe haven't before that time too. The opportunity is still there if you can get the job done, so I wouldn't say that you're not gonna be able to have that chance."

DID YOU EVER QUESTION YOURSELF LAST YEAR AND DID THE SHOOTOUT WIN TELL YOU ANTHYING ABOUT YOUR ABILITY THAT YOU DIDN'T ALREADY KNOW? "I'd be lying if I sat here and said that at some point in time I didn't question myself. I don't think that I questioned myself because of my age, I questioned myself with the tires and the spring and shock combination and all of that - was I not giving the correct feedback. Was there something there that I was missing as the driver of the team? As far as the Bud Shootout, it did a lot for my confidence, yeah. This hasn't been a place in the last couple of years that we've done particularly well and I didn't think at any time during that that I really was the problem. I felt like the Ford at that time was the problem, that there weren't any Fords that were doing particularly well at these places, but it did a lot to give me a boost. I can't tell you how much that does for you to get yourself in that position. I knew how to get myself in that position still and to be able to close the deal meant a lot."

HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT TO OPEN WITH A VICTORY WITH A NEW CREW CHIEF? "I think that it meant a lot that Mike and I knew each other and had worked together for a number of years. Things have gone extremely well. It's been fun to see Mike come in and take charge, and it's really been exciting to see the knowledge that he has obtained over the years. I knew that when he was working for us he knew a lot about a lot of different things with the race car, and just in discussions with him during that time you could see that he had the potential to be someone that could really handle working people and handling all aspects of what a crew chief does. So, it's made it really easy for him to come back because I have a lot of confidence in him. I saw last year what he was able to accomplish with Bill, and I didn't have any doubt as to what he come to our place with the people that we have and with myself, and make things work. It's been a nice transition, and it seems like to me already that we've worked together for quite a while, and I think that that is only going to get better."

ON WHEN HE FIRST HEARD ABOUT THE YATES AND ROUSH WORKING TOGETHER ON ENGINES. "I guess the first things would've been, 'Where is this going to benefit us?' whenever it came to me. I've really found it hard to believe that this was something that may take place just because what little I knew about the two different engine programs, over the years what I've heard that how much they went in one direction and we were going in another direction. So, I really didn't see where it could be that beneficial to us. My initial thoughts were, 'Why would we want to help four or five other cars get to the same level that we have in the engine department. Then, as it was explained to me, I understood a lot more about what was going on and why it was taking place and realizing that this wasn't something that Robert and Doug were just giving up something. Jack Roush and his people were giving up something too to make this work, and how much sense it made through Ford Motor Company to make this happen, if we were going to compete at a level that the Dodge people have brought in and General Motors seems to go that way, and then looking down the road, if Toyota should come into this, so I think makes perfect sense then."

IT SOUNDS LIKE THE MOST IMPORANT ELEMENT ABOUT THE TEAM IS THE REATIONSHIPS. "I've said this for years that our business is no different than anything else - it's about people. You can try to make combinations work as much as you want, but when you get the right people together - and you may sit down and put a list down that these are the people that you think would be the best people in each position, and as we know throughout years of trying that, that doesn't always work. When you have confidence in each other, it goes beyond that. You have to have some abilities there too. But the working relationships that we have, together, are really what makes all of this possible and really makes it click. I don't think that you see anywhere that you find the combination that the driver and the crew chief and those surrounding cast members don't work well together, if you don't have tat then you're not going to have much of a chance at winning on a consistent basis."

ASIDE FROM THE MONEY, WHAT IS IT LIKE TO WIN THE DAYTONA 500? "It's almost hard to put into words, but I'll do my best. The money, when I first won the Daytona 500 and the other two years with it also, I couldn't even start to tell you what it paid to win it because it didn't really matter, and after it was over it still didn't matter. It was about having that Daytona 500 trophy and the opportunities that came along with that later. But, just the initial impact of winning it and now knowing what's going to come with it, just visiting that Victory Lane is extremely special. Staying here over the night to put your car into Daytona USA and then everything for the rest of that week that goes with it. You can take whatever makes you the happiest and multiply by 10 at least, and that's how much this really is, and how much it means to know that you've taken your team and you've done your job to beat the very best at their best. It is more of a thrill than I can sit here and really tell you, because, again, does things for your career that you never thought never were possible."

OBVIOUSLY, YOU DON'T WANT TO USE IT, BUT IS IT A COMFORT HAVE THE ROOF HATCH? "I'm very comfortable knowing that I have that, yes. I hope that that's something that I never have the opportunity to use, but it is nice knowing that it's there. In seeing different things that have happened throughout the last couple of years, yeah, I hear people talk about it, yeah, it was done for the guys over six feet. I don't know why anybody would think that anybody else wouldn't want that. It doesn't make any difference if you're five feet tall or six feet tall, if you can pinned up against the wall with the driver's side, you're not going to get out of that race car very easily in a timely fashion. Why you wouldn't want to go just straight up, I don't know. I think that it will be something in the very near future will become mandatory from NASCAR. I don't have anything to base that on, that's my personal opinion, but I think that it is something that should be, because, again, it doesn't make any difference. With everything that we've put in the cars for safety measures now, makes getting out of the right side almost impossible, regardless how tall you are. Going straight up out of there in a situation where you may be pinned up against the wall or against another car and needing to get out quickly, it makes me feel very good to know those are in my car."

ON THE BEST CAR OR BEST DRIVER NOT ALWAYS WINNING THE BIGGEST RACE, THE DAYTONA 500. "If you look at other sports, did everybody think that the Florida Marlins were going to beat the New York Yankees? Probably not. I don't know how many people gave the Carolina Panthers a real chance at beating New England. I think that that's why, for lack of a better term, that's why we play the game. That's why we run the race. I think that you have to take those opportunities that you have and that you make for yourself at times and take advantage of those opportunities. They're not going to come along very often. That's why all of these teams have prepared. You can sit here and make your short list of people that you think are going to win these races. Obviously the 8 and the 15 would be at the top of that list, but I don't think there's very few teams in that garage area that wouldn't tell you right now that 'We can beat those guys. We have to put ourselves in the right position, and they can be beaten.' I think that's what makes the race so special, it's the times that you do win it then and what makes it really exciting is that you have taken advantage of that opportunity. So, then, that carrot that you have out there is bigger than life and makes it really worth all the effort that's put forth."

-ford racing-

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Greg Biffle , Jack Roush , Robert Yates , Mark Martin
Teams Yates Racing