Jarrett title a four-gone conclusion? By Brett Borden TALLADEGA, Ala. (Oct. 18, 1999) Dale Jarrett placed second to Dale Earnhardt Sunday at Talladega. This time, he said, that wasn't the plan. A driver acquires all kinds of senses when he's...
Jarrett title a four-gone conclusion? By Brett Borden
TALLADEGA, Ala. (Oct. 18, 1999) Dale Jarrett placed second to Dale Earnhardt Sunday at Talladega. This time, he said, that wasn't the plan. A driver acquires all kinds of senses when he's trying to secure a championship. Rabbit ears that can hear things in a motor -- even things that the man who built it can't hear. Eyes on the side of his head, allowing him to see things even his spotter can't see. A nose for staying out of trouble (self explanatory). And a tongue that develops an uncanny ability to speak around the 'c' word (championship) whenever possible. All of these senses have been fine-tuned over the past month or so by Dale Jarrett. The driver of the No. 88 Quality Care/Ford Credit Ford has been a different Dale Jarrett. This 'new' Dale Jarrett is a blend of the Dale Jarrett who visited Victory Lane four times in a 10-race stretch earlier this year, and the man who drives his family to church in the station wagon on Sunday morning.
But instead of his family in the backseat, it's his family legacy that has him driving defensively. Jarrett is trying to become the second son of a NASCAR Winston Cup champion to win a title for himself. Jarrett's father Ned won championships in 1961 and '65, while Lee Petty won three titles and son Richard won seven.
For the man whose senses have become so acute, the championship is so close he can taste it. His belly is tied up in knots, and there are four gut checks left. But the toughest - the Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway - is safely out of the way. Jarrett finished second Sunday to Dale Earnhardt, good enough to momentarily throw off the scent of the ever-pursuing hounds.
"That was definitely the goal today," said Jarrett, whose lead is now 246 points. If Jarrett so much as finishes 13th or better the remaining four races, the trophy is his.
"We came here to win, and I almost pulled that off. The car was a little off, not bad, just a little bit tight from the center of the corner out so I just kind of set a pace that wasn't gonna get us in trouble. Even though it wasn't up in the front, I saw a lot of hard racing early in the race. Then we made a couple of adjustments and got the car a lot better."
Jarrett hasn't been a lot better than his closest rivals the last 10 races, but he has been good enough to turn up the pressure on them. For instance, Jeff Gordon has outpointed Jarrett in seven of the last 10 races, but his 40th-place finish at Richmond took away the majority of any ground gained in the standings.
Sunday could have been one of those days for Jarrett, as the field at Talladega was all over the race track, and nearly all over each other. Jarrett noticed the tight racing early on, though it really got hectic at the very end.
"It wasn't just the last 30 (laps)," said Jarrett. "It started from Lap 1 from what I saw so it was 188 laps of it. That's as much patience as I've seen people show even though it may not look like patience when you are four and five wide."
Late in the race, Jarrett received an interesting query from the man he finished second to at Talladega earlier this year - Earnhardt.
"Before that last restart they radioed and said we need to get hooked up again and do like we did in the spring," said Jarrett. "Except we radioed back and said we needed to reverse the finish. He obviously didn't agree with that. We've finished second to him a number of times, but I think he finished second to us at Daytona. We're trading back and forth."
If Jarrett pulls out another top-5 finish or two, he may have that first championship, then he and Earnhardt will have rather large trophies with which to trade.
Source: NASCAR Online