Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, will be trying to become the third driver in NASCAR history to win the Daytona 500 at least four times. The others are Richard Petty (seven) and Cale Yarborough (four). He talked about his...
Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, will be trying to become the third driver in NASCAR history to win the Daytona 500 at least four times. The others are Richard Petty (seven) and Cale Yarborough (four). He talked about his chances at media day.
DALE JARRETT - No. 88 UPS Taurus
WHAT CHANGES DO YOU HAVE THIS YEAR? "A lot more continuity. Last year we brought on Mike Ford as our crew chief. Things were pretty much in disarray at the end of 2003 and Mike had quite a job of rebuilding our race team and he's done a terrific job of that, but we're much better prepared this year coming into Daytona - not only for Daytona but for the upcoming races. I've been very pleased with what I see within our team. We've added some engineering to staff and I feel like we can be considered a top-10 team right now. That's what I want is to get ourselves in a position to have a chance at winning another championship."
WHAT ABOUT THE NEW QUALIFYING PROCEDURES? "I think it's a pretty cool idea. It's really about the races anyway. I think we put too much emphasis on qualifying up to this point. We've had more time on the race track for qualifying - actual time-wise, we probably don't run as many laps - but allotted time we've had more time to get ready to qualify than we have for the race and the race is what pays the points and pays the money. So I think it's a great idea. I think there are probably some ideas in there that it can save us some money because of the exotic springs that we were getting to try to get qualified and things like that. Personally, I like that idea. I like the idea that the top 35 are guaranteed spots. I think that's something these car owners and these sponsors need to have and I think that will probably entice some other sponsors to get involved, knowing that they can be involved in all the races."
SHOULD YOU PRACTICE AND QUALIFY AT NIGHT IF YOU RACE AT NIGHT? "I think as much of that we can do as possible would be beneficial. The more we can simulate race times in our practice sessions the better the racing is gonna be. It gives us a better opportunity instead of guessing at what the track is gonna do. If we can practice during those times the day before, then we're gonna be much better organized and better prepared when the race starts, instead of having to make our car so adjustable going from an afternoon practice session to a night race. I think that would be much better for us, so the more the tracks and NASCAR can accommodate us with those situations, the better the racing is gonna be."
WOULD IT BE SAFER FROM A SETUP STANDPOINT? "I think we can get better prepared and we won't have to make so many adjustments with the car to where we're taking a big chance. I think we're OK with the safety issue, but I think it's gonna make for better racing at the very beginning of the race. You're not gonna see good cars taking a chance of getting a lap down or putting themselves in some bad positions because of that."
SOME GUYS LEFT CALIFORNIA AND VEGAS SCRATCHING THEIR HEADS. CAN YOU COMMENT ON WHAT YOU KNOW ABOUT THAT? "I'm not sure if they were scratching their heads because of that or because the wind blew 50 miles an hour for two days. It was one of the most bizarre things I've even been through and I've been in this a long time. I think that the new rules are gonna be a little bit different for everyone. The falloff of the tire is gonna be different. It's something that just two or three years ago we were accustomed not to having any falloff, but the tires were so hard that it made it interesting at times but it changed the racing so much that way. You'd have people pitting or not pitting or getting two tires. Now it's pretty much a four-tire deal again. We don't have as much downforce. The cars aren't gonna drive as good and be quite as stable in traffic, but that's how you adjust your race cars. I think what I saw there were the better teams that were prepared better found that out quickly. I think once we get into the racing we'll figure that out. There's always a lot more talk about it before we actually go do the racing and we see that maybe it's not quite as bad as what we thought it was gonna be. This is kind of what we've been leaning towards and I think we'll have to make some adjustments. Guys will have to make some adjustments in the way they drive the cars and you're gonna have to make some adjustments in the way that the cars are set up."
DO THE EXTRA LAPS IN THE 150 CHANGE ANYTHING? "It doesn't change it a whole lot, other than it could change your pit strategies just a little bit - especially now that we have tires that are wearing more here. They have more grip to start with, but that means they're gonna wear out a little bit faster, so that could come into play late in that last 25 miles. It'll be interesting to see how that plays out."
DOES KNOWING YOU'RE IN THE 500 GIVE YOU A DIFFERENT STRATEGY FOR THE 150? "I think that's always been a plus in knowing that you're gonna be in the Daytona 500. You could look at that differently, whether it was a case you ran fast enough or because of the rules now that the top 35 are guaranteed spots. I think it allows you to go into that race looking at things a little bit differently. Maybe you try something there that you wouldn't have in the past because you do have that guaranteed spot, and I think it's only right that these car owners and these sponsors have these guaranteed spots. I think it will probably make for a more interesting show."
HOW WILL THAT 35-CAR GUARANTEE CHANGE THINGS? "I think it's a great idea, personally, because I think there have been times that sponsors that are either in the sport or wanted to get involved in this sport are a little concerned at spending the type of money that it takes and not really having those type of guarantees. I think these car owners spend a lot of money and a lot of effort and the sponsors put in a lot of time and effort. They come to these tracks with hospitality and large groups and there hasn't been any guarantees that on Sunday their car is gonna be there. I think it's time that we have that. Our sport has reached that level that we need to have that guarantee that we're gonna have these teams involved. If there are seven or eight other spots there and people want to come in and try to make the show, then they have the opportunity to do that, but I think it's a great idea."
WHAT ABOUT HOW GUYS ARE GOING TO APPROACH QUALIFYING NOW? "I think we've taken a look now with the way things are set up that maybe qualifying isn't quite as important as what we thought. It's never paid any points and it doesn't pay a whole lot of money. We've gotten more time to practice for qualifying than what we actually got to practice for the race. Now it's the opposite. We're gonna get time to spend practicing for the race, which is what everything is all about. It's where the points are paid, where the money is paid and where the trophy is given. I think we're making a step in the right direction in making things more geared toward the races and allowing these teams that are involved and have been involved, and these sponsors that are involved, that they're gonna get that opportunity to race every week."
WILL IT MAKE FOR BETTER RACING? "I think it's gonna make for better racing, yes."
HOW MUCH EMPHASIS FOR YOUR LATE-SEASON TURNAROUND DO YOU PUT ON ELLIOTT AND HIS TEAM? "I'm not sure I can put a total value on it to where you would understand how much it means to have teammates like Elliott Sadler and Todd Parrott - that are willing to open their books and discuss anything and everything with you down to driving styles. I've been at this a long time, but I'm not above asking Elliott if there's something he does different at a track than what I do, and I'm not beyond telling him if there's something I do a little different. We talk about a lot of things and that's meant a whole lot to helping our program get back to respectability to where we are a contender again. Elliott and his team have been a big factor in that and, hopefully, it will benefit us both by getting into the chase this year."
SOME OF YOUR PEERS ARE LEAVING AT THE END OF THE YEAR, BUT NOT YOU. "I'm not ready to quit this yet. I think that I have a few more years left of enjoying this. I still love to compete and I don't think that there's anything these 20 and 25 year olds can do that physically I can't do in a car. I keep myself in good shape and I love to compete. As long as you do that, I think that my experience will take over somewhere and maybe do things a little bit better than they do, so I'm just looking to get out and compete. I'm not looking to be out there and drive around. If I'm gonna do this and I'm gonna compete, I want to compete at a high level. I want to know that I have a chance to win on a regular basis and that we have a chance at running up front on a regular basis."
CAN YOU COMPARE THE NFL'S SUPER BOWL AND THE DAYTONA 500? "That's a great week and a great event that they have with so many things surrounding it. Then you come here less than a week later and start up for our initial event of each season. There are a lot of comparisons, other than the fact I think ours makes a lot of sense in having our biggest event be the first one of the year because everybody is the best prepared. We've had the most time to work and get ready for the Daytona 500 and it is our biggest race. What it does for your career is just incredible. Having the opportunity to have won it three times over a span of seven or eight years, I could see just how much our sport has grown and I would like to have that opportunity again to get in a very select group that has won this four times. I'm looking forward to that opportunity, but I found it kind of amusing to be at the Super Bowl. I don't know the exact figures of how many people were there, but I would guess it was somewhere close to 100,000 people that actually attended the Super Bowl - maybe a few more. But we're gonna have well over 200,000 people here at the Daytona 500 and we have 35 other races that have a lot of crowds, too. That's a great event and I had a great time there, but this is quite a spectacle of its own."
HAVE YOU GOTTEN INTROSPECTIVE AT ALL WITH SOME OF YOUR CONTEMPORARIES LEAVING? "Not really. I think that everybody has their own timetable. I tell people that I started after those guys did, so I should be able to drive a little longer than what they did. But I think it's what drives you inside and what you're looking to accomplish. I would be kind of lost when I get out this. If it gets to the point where I feel like I'm not holding up my end of the bargain, then I think I'll be willing to hang it up then. But I don't see that happening right now. I love to compete and I think that I can still win out here. I know I can still win here and I'm looking to wrap up another championship here before I give this up."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON RUSTY AND MARK LEAVING? "Those are two guys who have done a lot for this sport and help it get to this point. They're true racers. It's gonna be hard to replace guys like that and I'm sure that was said back many years ago when my dad retired and Junior Johnson and David Pearson later and Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip. You always wonder how people like that are gonna be replaced and there will be young people to come along and take those places, but those guys were true racers and gave a lot to this sport. They got a lot back from it but it was because they gave so much. It's gonna be fun to compete with them in their last year and we certainly wish them the very best. I know neither one of them have had the experience of winning this Daytona 500, but if myself or Elliott can't get in Victory Lane, I'd certainly wish that one of those guys will have that chance."