Preseason Thunder: Ford - Jarrett interview

Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, was part of a media Q&A session following the first day of testing for the upcoming Daytona 500 in which the primary topic was a possible new point system in which the top 10 drivers after the...

Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, was part of a media Q&A session following the first day of testing for the upcoming Daytona 500 in which the primary topic was a possible new point system in which the top 10 drivers after the first 26 races would compete for the NASCAR Nextel Championship over the final 10 events.

DALE JARRETT - No. 88 UPS Taurus

DO YOU THINK DRIVERS WILL TAKE MORE RISKS WITH A NEW POINT SYSTEM IN THE FIRST 26 RACES TO TRY AND GET INTO THE TOP 10? "Everybody is gonna have a different opinion and a different way of looking at this, but I actually thought the other way. I think people may points race more in the first 26 because you're trying to solidify yourself in a top 10 position. You can call me a traditionalist or whatever, but I'm not for the change.

"Whether you put yourself in a position or taken yourself out of a position as Michael (Waltrip) was talking about a while ago in those first 26, we've always been about a season-long deal - performing for 36 races. Whoever does that the best wins the championship. Do we need to be like the NFL, like Major League Baseball and the NBA to where we bring more teams in and the best team doesn't always win the Super Bowl or the World Series or the NBA Championship? The team that's been the best throughout the season doesn't always do that because you bring in teams that may gel later on.

"I'm not totally against what they're proposing. I'm obviously gonna race and race hard, whichever way that is, but my choice would be to leave things pretty much the way they are, other than what I've always said and that's to make sure we give the winner more points than anybody else in every race. That may not happen now if the second-place finisher leads the most laps, but I think it may lead to more points racing in those first 26 just to try to get yourself in that 10. There will be all kinds of things.

"In taking a little bit of what Michael was saying, I've looked at it another way. I know he was sitting there outside the top 10 with five or six races to go battling to try to get himself back into a top 10 position. If we go to this, he doesn't have that opportunity to even battle to do that. The best he's gonna do is 11th.

"I'll use a scenario I used with Mike Helton or whenever I was called about this. I'm fortunate to have a very good sponsor in UPS that spends a lot of money in this sport - not only on our race car, but in marketing UPS, the race team and NASCAR racing. They spend a lot of money at this.

"Let's use this as an example, but just say we've had a pretty decent 25 races and I'm seventh in the points going into Richmond, but from fifth to 12th is really close - within 100 points of each other. On the first lap I get taken out at Richmond and my car is torn up beyond repair and I go all the way back to 11th or 12th. You're gonna tell UPS, who spends millions of dollars, that the best their car can finish this season is 11th? I'm not sure how long they'll be around. I'm not putting words in their mouth, I just know of conversations I've had with them.

"I think we're taking a big chance with sponsors. You can sit here and try to convince me all that you want about the networks are gonna make sure that everybody else is shown too. Unless you're leading that race, and I'm not even sure then if you're not one of those 10 that you're gonna be talked about that much. You can't convince me of that. I'm sorry. Right now, they don't give a damn about the New York Giants or the Atlanta Falcons or anybody else that's not playing. We've forgotten about all of those.

"I think our sport has been something that's been unique over the years and that's what has helped get it to this point. I think that instead of maybe 180 degrees from where we are, maybe we should take this a little bit in slower steps. Like I said, maybe give the winner some points. Maybe we look at doing something for a pole. I don't know about that. That's up for debate, but if they come to me -- and maybe this is a lot closer than what I actually want it to be as far as this happening - then I'm gonna accept that and go racing and try to win the first NASCAR Nextel Cup in a way that will be totally different than what we've done in the past."

DID YOU THINK THE SYSTEM NEEDED A MAJOR OVERHAUL? "I didn't think so, but, then again, and this is nothing against the networks, but obviously they've put up a lot of money and they're up against some odds there at times. I'll be honest, this is the same thing I've told Mike Helton, too. If we're trying to get ourselves in a competing position from September through November with the NFL, we better be careful at what we're trying to do because we have our fans that are very passionate about our sport and they're not gonna turn over in those three months and watch an NFL game when there is a NASCAR race on. But, you've got to look at the other side. If you're trying to get that NFL fan over there to switch over to us by changing things around and thinking they're gonna turn over and watch a playoff system of ours, then you're dead wrong there because they're very, very passionate about their sport also.

"When the two don't conflict, I think we have a good crossover there, but, again, I'm a race driver and not a TV person or media person so I'm probably speaking out of turn. I do know sports and being a fan of it, I just feel like we better be careful with what we're doing there. I didn't think the sport was in trouble to where we needed it.

"Are we gonna have years like what we had in 2003, where Matt and his team did their job very well and better than everybody else for the majority of the year, and got themselves in a position to where the points battle wasn't the great and another guy wins more races. That's been going on for forty-some years that we've probably talked like that. I just didn't see that we needed a big change right at this time. But, then again, I will put this in. You can't argue that over the fifty-some years that this sport of NASCAR racing has been taking place, we've all questioned certain things that they've done over the years and for the majority of the time we've had to step back and say, 'You know, they did the right thing again.' So I'm not saying that NASCAR is wrong because they've made many, many good decisions over the years."

DOES IT FEEL LIKE THERE'S A LOT OF CHANGING GOING ON? "There is a lot of changing going on, but as we've said many times - to grow the sport we've always said that there were changes that needed to be made. What is too much? I'm not exactly sure.

"We have to be a little bit careful because of the fans we have involved in this sport. I've mentioned they're very passionate about it. They don't like a lot of change either, just by what we've seen over the years in response to them. So I think we have to be careful and make sure that we're not just doing something that's gonna alienate them and that they'll be happy with what takes place.

"It's another situation too that sometimes you have to get in that situation before you really realize that maybe this was better. We just have to be careful."

HOW HARD IS IT TO WIN THE DAYTONA 500? WHAT DOES IT TAKE THAT OTHER PEOPLE HAVEN'T FIGURED OUT? "The effort that's put forth to win this race, in the percentage of time that you put forth and the effort that's made probably hasn't changed over the years for race teams. But, obviously, there's nowhere else that we go and test three days and, as Michael was talking, they're looking at going to Talladega so that's adding another day or two. That's a lot of testing days, especially in the percentage of the small amount of days that we get now.

"This is a huge race. This is what it's all about. I think Michael said it a while ago, it's almost hard to explain. If you haven't been down there and understand and been a part of what this race is and being in that Victory Lane, it's almost hard to imagine just how much it does for your career and for your confidence. There's nothing like it. You can race everywhere else there is to race and winning this race - the Daytona 500 - is the best thing that there is aside from the season championship. For a one race victory, there's nothing like it.

"You better have a team that's ready to put forth a lot of hard work and a lot of hours. The amount of hours spent in the wind tunnel and cutting and re-building cars is just incredible. It just takes that type of effort. When it gets down to race day, you better know your job and how to do it better than others. Again, that's what makes this special because you realize when you win this race, you've beaten the very best at their best because we've had the most time to prepare for this."

        DID YOUR RACE SHOP SHUT DOWN AT ALL DURING THE OFF SEASON?  "We
kind of did it in shifts.  I don't know that it was ever totally shut
down.  There were people there just about every day, except for
Christmas.  I know I could reach somebody there pretty much every day,
so, no, we don't have time to shut down.  We'll do that later, I guess."

-ford racing-

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Jarrett , Mike Helton