ONLY IN AMERICA
DALE JARRETT, who'll compete in this weekend's races at Darlington Raceway, Thursday participated in a pair of local events. In a national contest, Hartsville, S.C., located about 10 miles west of Darlington, was named one of 10 "All America Cities" for 1996. Hartsville paid tribute to NASCAR racing, an "All America sport;" Darlington Raceway, an "All America track;" and Jarrett, an "All America athlete," at a breakfast at Hartsville Country Club. Mayor Flossie Hopkins presented awards to each.
MIKE HELTON (NASCAR Vice President for Competition) -- You can't look at me and tell, but I'm just a little tiny part of NASCAR. There are a lot of people who travel to the race tracks from week to week, or are back in Daytona Beach, who make NASCAR great. But if (NASCAR President) Bill France were here he'd tell you that NASCAR has got to have three things: Race tracks, race cars and race car drivers. That's why I'm delighted to be here to receive this recognition with Dale Jarrett and Jim Hunter. I have experience running race tracks (Atlanta Motor Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway) so I thank Hartsville and congratulate Hartsville for being so interested and involved in Darlington Raceway and NASCAR. It means a lot. In this business, some days are a lot of fun and some days are not as much fun, but at the end of the day or the end of the season it's a pretty neat deal. People like Hunter and Dale Jarrett and communities like Hartsville are what make it work. On behalf of all of NASCAR, thank you!
DALE JARRETT (No. 88 Quality Care/Ford Credit Ford) -- (Received a key to the city of Hartsville from Mayor Hopkins.) Hickory, N.C., the town I live in, is also an All America City and I understand the pride you feel in that honor. You have a lot to be proud of.
JIM HUNTER (Darlington Raceway President) -- When I grew up in South Carolina this was THE race track. There was no Daytona or Talladega. My goal for the rest of my years is to make people realize Darlington is where NASCAR got started. We sincerely appreciate Hartsville recognizing NASCAR and Darlington Raceway. Being an All America City is an honor that will last for years.
LATER, Jarrett participated in the dedication of the Darlington County Economic Development Office in downtown Darlington, with S.C. Governor David M. Beasley of Darlington and Robert Royall Jr., secretary of the S.C. Department of Commerce. "Darlington is like a second home to me," said Jarrett. "I spent a lot of my younger years in Camden, S.C., about 30 miles from here and the people in Darlington have always been special to me. I look forward to coming here each and every year and seeing the growth of the community. As I say, Darlington has always been special to me and I hope that, after Sunday, I have a million more reasons to feel that way!" DALE JARRETT ON HIS RUN FOR THE WINSTON SELECT MILLION
DALE JARRETT (No. 88 Quality Care/Ford Credit Ford) -- (ON EVENT QUALIFYING RECORD HE BROKE IN TESTING.) We have got such a good race tire and the track is in good shape for this time of year, with a lot of grip. I think the main reason, though, that the track record will be broken is the tire that Goodyear has here. Normally between the spring and this race there's five or six tenths difference between the poles. If you equate that it's going to take like a 28.90 or something to win the pole. We ran a 29 flat in testing so we're close. We'll run the same car we ran here in the spring (TranSouth Financial 400). We won at Charlotte (Coca-Cola 600) and Michigan (GM Goodwrench Dealer 400) with it. That is my favorite car and it seems to work well wherever we go in response to changes we make. It works well at a race track of this type where handling is of utmost importance. We also tested the car we won the Brickyard 400 with.
(REGARDING SUPERSTITIONS.) It's hard to believe it was 31 years ago that my dad (broadcaster Ned Jarrett) won this race, but here we are. It was a great day. We lived in Camden, S.C., which is about 30 miles from here. The Camden High School band was playing that day and there were a lot of (local) people here. When we went back to Camden it seemed like most of the people from the town were in the front yard or in the street in front of the house. That's when I realized what my dad was really involved in and just how big it was. It was pretty neat. I don't know how much I believe in numbers and things, but it seems like the number 11 has kind of been something special. It was my dad's number and he won two championships and 50 races with it. When I won my first (NASCAR Winston Cup) race, at Michigan in 1991, I started 11th. The next week I started 11th and won the Busch race at Bristol. When I won my first Daytona 500 in 1993 we were in garage No. 11. I started 11th a couple weeks ago at Michigan (and won). My wife (Kelley) brought up just this week that it's been 11 years since this million dollars (Winston Select Million) has been won. Maybe that'll work because we're gonna need all the help we can get to make it happen. Not only is it very difficult to win every week in Winston Cup racing but to bring it to Darlington, have to go around here for 500 miles and stay out of trouble and have a good race car at the end with a chance to win is a job in itself.
(WILL HE TRY TO QUALIFY 11TH?) I'm going to try to qualify first (Busch Pole) -- maybe we'll pick pit No. 11 or something. Eleventh is a little bit further back than I'd like to be because this is such a tough track to pass on. If there's hardly any cars in front of you at the start it looks like there's a hundred in front of you. There's a lot of asphalt around this race track but there's so very little of it that's usable that it makes it so tough. To get around it yourself you need every little bit of asphalt, so when you put 40 other cars around you it's quite a challenge.
(WITH A MILLION ON THE LINE, WILL HE BE PATIENT IF HE DOES NOT QUALIFY UP FRONT?) It'll be interesting to see. I'm going to try to be patient, but what I'm really going to try to do is get a 14-lap lead like my dad had in '65 -- I think I could bring that thing home, then. You have to be patient here, even with a good race car. It gets to feeling good and it only takes a split second to miss the line -- we're only talking about six or eight inches -- and you're into the wall. I'll probably be a little more patient than I normally am. We've said it millions of times. You're probably sick of us talking about racing the race track at Darlington, then you see us go out and crash and you're wondering why in the hell we weren't racing the race track -- we were racing the other cars -- at that time. But that's what I'm going to try to do.
(IS IT TIME TO ALTER WINSTON SELECT MILLION PROGRAM, EITHER WITH MORE MONEY OR INCLUDING THE BRICKYARD 400?) I don't know. These are four tough races, and that's the way it's (program) been over the years (since its inception in 1985). We can award the money now if you like (Jarrett has won at Daytona, Charlotte and Indy this year)! It think it's a great idea to go back to when it was won and let it accumulate -- that would make this worth $11 million! A million dollars is a substantial amount of money but the accomplishment is what means more than anything. But, if they want to throw the Brickyard in there, well, we've already got it done. I don't think we need to get into making it four out of five -- three out of four is hard enough!
(WITH NO MONEY ON THE LINE WOULD THE WEEKEND BE AS IMPORTANT?) Just as important! We're in the battle for the championship right now. As much as we appreciate Winston and the million dollar bonus, that's exactly what it is -- a bonus. We have to look at the championship right now and we're in a stretch and at a place that could be very pivotal in winning this championship. This is a place where someone can get in trouble in a hurry through no fault of their own. If that happens to the leader of the points and he finishes 35th and me or Jeff (Gordon) runs in the top five -- we're right there. We're thinking about the championship first but this bonus is nice and we'll do whatever we can to win the race. But, the ultimate goal is the season-long championship. (IF HE HAD TO MAKE A CHOICE BETWEEN THE TWO...) It would have to be the championship. That's something, as a driver, that I set out to do. The opportunity of winning a million dollars in a single race is great, but the championship is what it's all about and that would be the ultimate for our race team. That's what we're going to look at in the big picture.
(WHAT WOULD A DARLINGTON VICTORY MEAN?) As drivers we look at this as a driver's race track. Obviously the reason why Dale Earnhardt has done as well as he has here over the years is because he's the driver he is. It takes that type of driver to get around here time and time again. It would mean a lot to me to add a Darlington victory and a Southern 500 victory at that because it is our oldest race. We've got kind of a streak going this year with those kind of races. We've won the biggest, longest and best-paying. Now, if we can win the oldest it would be pretty special.
(IS ONE TURN AT DARLINGTON TOUGHER THAN ANOTHER?) They're so totally different is what makes it hard. Turns one and two have a narrow groove and when you get in there the car wants to slide up the race track. You come very, very close to the wall, especially as the race goes on. Getting off turn two is extremely tight and you feel like you're going to hit the wall exiting there every lap. Turns three and four are probably the most difficult turns we have anywhere. You're on such a high line to run fast through there... Getting off of turn four is better than it used to be. It used to move you about two car widths out -- now it only moves you one. You just have to give yourself room, which I experienced by not giving myself enough room back in the spring when I got into the wall. With the turns being so different you have to decide where you're going to give up, because you're going to give up on one end or another. You have to decide where you can make the most time and set your car for that.
(WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN IF YOU AND TEAMMATE ERNIE IRVAN ARE SIDE BY SIDE ON THE LAST TWO LAPS?) I hope I'm on the inside! Ernie is a good teammate in a lot of respects but he's a racer at heart. It's been talked about, but first of all, (team owner) Robert (Yates) wouldn't do that (tell Irvan to pull over) and second, Ernie wouldn't listen! I'd probably turn my radio off! That's just not gonna happen but we have joked about it a lot. Ernie's there to win the race for Texaco Havoline and I wouldn't want it any other way. If we're going to win this million dollars we don't want it to be through any kind of teamwork -- we want to win it! Last weekend was a Busch Grand National race. If the same thing had happened Saturday night (NASCAR Winston Cup race) that poor guy on the outside (winner Jeff Fuller) wouldn't have been quite as fortunate.
(STATUS OF CREW CHIEF TODD PARROTT.) Todd injured his knee Saturday night at Bristol. They opened a hospital up for him Sunday in Charlotte so he could have surgery. He's on crutches and he's at the shop today (Thursday) for the first time. He went by there for a few minutes Tuesday. He didn't injure his mind that I know of -- it couldn't have been much worse than it was! He's certainly been THE reason we are where we are this season. We're going to put a chair up on the pit box for him and let him sit back and enjoy himself.
JIM HUNTER (Darlington Raceway President) -- (At the All Sport Golf Classic that kicks off the Mountain Dew Southern 500 race weekend, Hunter and Dale Jarrett presented NASCAR registrar Carl Hill, who is retiring at the end of the season, with a pair of golf shoes.) One of the toughest jobs in NASCAR is signing everybody in to the race tracks. This is Carl's last Southern 500. He has meant an awful lot to NASCAR, and to tracks like Darlington, over the years.
We know he's going to be able to play more golf than he ever has, but we hope we still see a lot of him.
MORE DALE JARRETT ON THE WINSTON SELECT MILLION -- It has been an awful lot of fun anticipating this. Everyone involved, from Darlington, NASCAR and R.J. Reynolds, has made it special, which it should be. We'd like to think we'd have a chance to do it again -- win a million dollars -- but if we don't have that it's been a special time. It's been great for us, our sponsors and we hope, for the sport. Ford Quality Care and Ford Credit put a lot into this sport and it's good to see them get something back. You know, people have said you could've already won this if you won Talledega (Winston Select 500) instead of finishing second to Sterling Marlin by about two car lengths. But, we wouldn't have had near as much fun! It all works out for the best, but I'm glad it's finally here. People have been saying for weeks, 'Are you thinking about the million dollars?' How do you not think about a million dollars? Maybe some of y'all don't but I certainly do!
MICHAEL WALTRIP (No. 21 Citgo Ford) -- (ON ACCIDENT IN Friday MORNING PRACTICE.) I cut a tire or something went wrong. I got to the corner (turns three and four) running a normal line and all of a sudden it just went straight (with eyes getting very wide). (The team was preparing its back-up car for Busch Pole Qualifying.) I really don't know the last place we ran it...Loudon (New Hampshire) maybe? It's all right.
BUSCH POLE AWARD QUALIFYING
WARD BURTON (No. 22 MBNA America Pontiac) -- (ON CRASH COMING OFF TURN FOUR.) The car was a little bit loose on that run. We were trying to get everything out of it -- we got a little bit more than we wanted. I got out of the thing pretty quick because I didn't want to get burned. We had a pretty good lap going.
DURA LUBE 200 PRESENTED BY AUTOZONE PRE-RACE NOTES
RANDY LAJOIE (#74 Fina Chevrolet) -- I'm looking forward to Saturday's race. I like this track a lot. I got my first Busch Series pole here. I seem to run well here. My first time here was in the mid-eighties. I was in my own car, and we were running well. I was behind Jack Ingram, and we were faster than he was. I was all over him, and I finally got around him. But when I got around him, all of a sudden he was all over me. It was because I didn't know the line as well as he did. So I let him get back around me and I just followed him the rest of the day. I was faster than he was, but we were getting around the track better with him in front because he knew what to do and what line to take. We wound up in the top 10, like seventh and eighth. Back then, I didn't do a lot of things that were very smart, but that was one time I used my head and I learned an awful lot about how to get around this place.
DAVID GREEN (#95 Caterpillar Chevrolet) -- This points race has fluctuated all season, I led Randy (LaJoie) by 188 points going into Milwaukee, but got into a tangle -- with Randy as a matter of fact -- and dropped a bunch of points. He returned the favor by having trouble at Bristol and we gained some back, but I'm a little disapponted that we didn't gain any more than we did. The points race has been a good clean race, and we are good friends. We both use the same engine builder (Katech), and we have two good teams. I'd like for it to be decided on the track in the last race, not because someone had some sort of problem that knocked them out. Some folks believe I may have an advantage because of my previous championship runs, but that's not necessarily the case. I do remember my first title run in 1993. We led the points for a long time, and were second for a while, but Steve Grissom came on at the end and beat us. I'm sure that my inexperience cost me that year. We got smarter in '94 and won it all that year, driving for Bobby Labonte. On the other hand, Randy has been the Busch North champion, and that's a big plus for him.
I'm comfortable here at Darlington. We've had some good runs here, including top 10s, and that's not a bad finish for a Busch Series regular when so many Winston Cup drivers race here.
DENNIS SETZER (#48 Unifirst Uniforms Ford) -- This is a new team for me, and we are running fairly decent. Making the field is a little more difficult here and at other tracks when a bunch of the Winston Cup guys are entered, but if you can't compete with them in Busch Series races, then you are not likely to compete with them in Winston Cup either. This car is real driveable, and there's a good bunch of guys working on it. Randy Porter (who had driven the car in previous races this year) had some things he needed to do this weekend, and I was just sitting around, so it worked out well for me. Right now, it's for this race only (Porter was in the Busch garage Friday afternoon, in his UniFirst apparel.)
KELLER TOURNAMENT SUCCESSFUL -- This past Monday (Aug. 26), the second annual Jason Keller Cystic Fibrosis Charity Golf Outing in Greenville, S.C., raised more than $17,000 to fight the killer disease. The tournament, presented by Slim Jim, featured several NASCAR drivers including Derrike Cope, Larry Pearson, Randy LaJoie, Glenn Allen, Elliott Sadler, Jeff Fuller, Mike Dillon, Doug Heveron, Randy Porter, Shane Hall, Mike Cope, Mardy Lindley and Stevie Reeves.
PETER GIBBONS (No. 09 NTN Bearings Chevrolet) -- (ON CRASH IN FINAL PRACTICE.) We had just taped the front end off and went out on old tires. We're a new team that's just trying to get going and we just don't have the money to keep throwing the tires at it that we need. As we came off the corner (turn four) the back end just kicked around on us and that was it. There was smoke everywhere, I couldn't see a thing. There's not much you can do -- just lock it up. I smacked the fence on the left side. (The team tried to repair the car for qualifying but the effort fell short.) This is the first time we've been here. We were running pretty good and hoping to qualify in the top 20. We gambled and it didn't go our way.
DURA LUBE 200 BUSCH POLE QUALIFYING NOTES
MARK MARTIN (No. 60 Winn-Dixie Ford) -- (Going for fourth straight victory in the Dura Lube 200 by AutoZone.) That was a real good lap. I'm satisfied with that. The car was capable of that if the driver could do his job. We are pleased to be up front. That's always a big plus at Darlington, but winning the race is more important. We like to start at the front but winning these races is where it's at. There's some good race cars here. That's the way racing is getting to be. There's a lot of good sponsors, drivers and teams. It all comes down to who puts it together the best.
TERRY LABONTE (No. 5 Actron Chevrolet) -- That was about as good as we hoped for -- actually a bit better than we practiced. We're not on the pole, but at least we can see it.
CHAD LITTLE (No. 23 John Deere Pontiac) -- Considering what happened here last year, this was a great way to start the weekend. The car was good from the time we unloaded it and it really qualified good. We should be a contender in the race. We've had mixed results here. We've had a couple top fives but a couple of the worst wrecks of my career have come here, also.
RICKY CRAVEN (No. 2 DuPont Teflon/Krytox Chevrolet) -- Darlington is one of my favorites -- I just like this track! I knew we were a threat for the pole, but Mark (Martin) ran a great lap. We had a good lap. The car got a little loose coming off of turn four or we might've done even better.
DAVID GREEN (#95 Caterpillar Chevrolet) -- That wasn't what we wanted, but it was about what we practiced. We were just a little off, but everybody is pretty close, so we should be okay in the race on Saturday.
RANDY LAJOIE (#74 Fina Chevrolet) -- We can see the front from where we are. There are a lot more cars behind us than there are ahead of us, and that's a big plus here at Darlington. I may have left a little on the plate, but overall it was a good lap.
JEFF GREEN (#3 Goodwrench Service Chevrolet) -- That was a little better than we ran in practice. We're pleased. It looks like everyone else will be racing for second place tomorrow, the way Mark (Martin) ran.
RON BARFIELD (#94 New Holland Tractors Ford) -- That's not too bad for my first time here. We've got a good race car, but I'm sure I didn't get everything out of it. I just don't have the experience to know exactly what to do. I think we'll be okay in the race. There's a lot of real good drivers in this field. If everyone will race the race track, we'll be okay. This is really special for me, growing up right here in this area (Florence). I've dreamed of racing at Darlington, but I really didn't think it would happen that soon. I can thank Bill Elliott for that. I'm really looking forward to the race tomorrow.
LARRY PEARSON, (#92 Stanley Tools Chevrolet) -- We practiced a lot better than that. It was a disappointing lap.
JASON KELLER (#57 Slim Jim Chevrolet) -- In both practice sessions this morning, we were 10th-11th quickest. We were fifth after the first 25 cars went out, then a cloud cover came in, and 13 of the next 20 cars ran faster than we did. But that's the breaks. The car runs good on old tires, so we are hoping for long stretches of green flag racing on Saturday. Darlington is a good race track for us. We finished seventh and 10th here last year.
NMPA HALL OF FAME INDUCTION PREVIEW NOTES
On Saturday night former driver and current race car builder Edwin "Banjo" Matthews and the late Davey Allison will be inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame.
DAVID PEARSON (Hall of Fame member) -- Banjo really deserves it and I actually thought he should've been put in a long time ago. Banjo is one of a kind -- anyone would tell you that. He's a real smart car builder -- I guess about the smartest that there ever was. He could walk around a car and tell you more about it and what's been done to it than most people can that builds 'em. I think Banjo was the first one to go out and start building cars to sell. In fact, he was the one who got me started running on asphalt. Back when I started I was running weekends on dirt tracks around home. Down at Columbia (Ralph) Earnhardt and (Bobby) Isaac was winning a bunch of races. Of course they got me to go over there and run and I was winning a bunch of races down there. They got Banjo to come down there to out-run me and of course, he didn't. After the race I was talking to him and he wanted me to come to Asheville and run on asphalt. I told him I'd never run asphalt. He said 'Now's a good time to start.' I went to Asheville (N.C.) and Banjo and a buddy of his got together and wrecked and I won. I always accused him of thinking it was me, so he tried to wreck ME. Banjo was the kind of guy who would help anybody -- even if he knew they would out-run him I believe he'd help 'em. Lord, it would be hard to say the one biggest thing that he's brought to the sport -- he's done so much.
ROBERT YATES (NASCAR Winston Cup team owner) -- (ON DAVEY ALLISON.) We all miss Davey. We miss Davey not having the opportunity to live his life out to its fullest length. I was talking to my son this morning about how much fun it was racing with Davey Allison. How much we enjoyed this, like when we were here with a shot at winning the million dollars ('92 Winston Select Million) -- how easygoing and how much fun it was. It was just winning a race, and we had fun whether we won or lost. From all my memories and dealings with him he was a person who supported Robert Yates. He was the guy who shoved me into the car owner's position. He made me do it and he supported me, not financially, but in every other way. And, he didn't quiver when we didn't do so good. When you talk about a team effort that was what he was about. Same as with Banjo, he always had more than a business interest, he had a personal interest. Both those individuals were quite close to my life. Davey showed that you can have fun, you can win and lose and you don't have to get distraught over it. He never forgot who helped him up the ladder -- an Allison trait that I think he refined a bit.
(ON BANJO MATTHEWS.) From the time I first started coming around race tracks, in the early 60s, Banjo Matthews had a great involvement with the sport. When I went to work for Holman & Moody in '67 we did all their engines. Then I went to Junior's (Johnson) to start the Chevrolet program and Banjo would call me just about every day about 10 o'clock in the morning. Now, Junior would always go coon hunting so he'd only be getting up about 10. Banjo would call for Junior but most of the time he'd end up getting me. We'd talk about racing and I got to know him well and understand him. At Holman & Moody there was a thing that you couldn't do anything to please Banjo. He was really a fanatic -- a perfectionist -- in his work. Working with Junior and understanding how he raced and Banjo...they were quite different individuals. Banjo probably cared more about what the cars looked like than if they won.
BOBBY ALLISON (NASCAR Winston Cup team owner and Hall of Fame Member) -- (ON DAVEY ALLISON) The thing (induction of his son) certainly is a bittersweet situation. Davey would've gone into everybody's hall of fame anyway. To go in at this particular time, as a result of losing him (in a helicopter accident in 1993), creates an agony associated with the compliment. I guess my whole life, my whole career, has been a series of ups and downs -- high-high highs and low-low lows. There's been very little even ground in my career and in my life. Right now the idea of this...pleasure isn't the right word...the satisfaction of knowing that he did earn that honor helps me have an upswing on the day. Yeah, there's an awful lot of pride involved. I've said, and I'll repeat, that an awful lot of fathers would like to have 10 minutes a day that I had 24 hours a day with Davey. He wasn't perfect but he was really, really good. There will be things that will come along, other honors that his memory will receive, but this is from people in the business. They do know a little bit more than the daily press. The National Motorsports Press Association lives with us, and they see the highs and the lows and the agony and the ecstasy. To have those people salute him is a special deal.
(ON BANJO MATTHEWS) I was never a real close friend or even companion of Banjo Matthews. But I knew him, I think, pretty well, and I admired him and I admired his effort to make the sport bigger and better for all of us. For Banjo to be going into the hall on the same night as Davey is going to be pretty neat. The first time I ever saw Banjo I was probably about 14 years old. He was big and burly and he was really rough in the car. He succeeded at other people's expense some -- I mean he ran over 'em if they got in the way! He got involved in Grand National, before it became Winston Cup, and Banjo became THE Winston Cup car builder. He really insisted the piece be 100 percent quality, exactly to the blueprint and he became the standard for that part of the business.