EMPA - Jason Jarrett interview

Sofa Sideline: Jason Jarrett among guests at Eastern Motorsport Press Association 2003 Annual Convention. Trevose, PA -- 1/19/03 This past weekend Jason Jarrett had the privilege to be among the many guests at the 32nd annual meeting of the ...

Sofa Sideline: Jason Jarrett among guests at Eastern Motorsport Press Association 2003 Annual Convention.

Trevose, PA -- 1/19/03 This past weekend Jason Jarrett had the privilege to be among the many guests at the 32nd annual meeting of the Eastern Motorsport Press Association. Along with fellow competitor, Andy Belmont and ARCA PR Director, Don Radebaugh, Jason spent a few minutes talking with members, outlining 2003 plans for the ARCA RE/MAX Series and fielding questions.

For Jason, the objective was simple; "I didn't come here for any special reason, no big announcements, or anything like that. I came here in 2001, had a good season that year, so maybe a little superstition"--Jarrett laughingly remarked. "Seriously, I met a lot of good people, just wanted to come and get reacquainted, and try to meet some new people; that's what it's all about. And, hopefully, we can bring some attention to the ARCA RE/MAX series," said Jarrett.

Some excerpts from the Q & A session with Jason:

Q -- How tough is it for all your teams to beat Frank (Kimmel)?

That's been pretty obvious the past couple of years. I think in 2001, that was my first year, he just dominated that year. He was just so far ahead of everyone. But I think last year, he actually got a lot of breaks. I think there were some competitive drivers in the field at certain tracks; a couple of short tracks Andy's (Belmont) has been right there with him. And also Chad gave him some pretty good runs. You not only have to have a good race car, and he's a good driver, but it seemed like he got a lot of breaks last year."

"Everybody's going to have to work hard; especially with Daytona coming up. Everybody starts out with zeros in the point column and win column at Daytona. Hopefully I'll leave there the winner; and I'm sure every other team wants that also."

"It was a competitive season (2002). Last season definitely stepped up the mark with Andy, Chad and Chase and Shelby. And Andy Hillenburg is coming back this season. So, it's probably going to be the toughest year since I've been around."

Q -- What are your plans for this season -- are you going to be back in ARCA? Or are you moving to Cup or Busch?

"I don't have anybody knocking down my doors or anything. I have a contract with ML Motorsports through 2004, and hopefully, we'll just do the right things. My main goal this year is to run all 22 events. I just need to win races! It's good to say that you're going to win the Championship, and you're going to be up there with Frank and all that, but we just need to do the right things to be able to win races. And hopefully that will propel me to the next level; maybe the entire team to the next level."

Q -- How do you feel about the diversity of the series?

"I love it! We go to short tracks, and we have a couple of one mile tracks like Nashville, and two dirt tracks, and I have a great time doing it. 2001 was the first time I had ever been on a dirt track other than some go-karting or something like that. I learned something from the four races I've run with the series. It just draws a different fan base when you go to those two races, as well."

Q -- Do you think it's made you a better driver?

"Yeah, I think it has. The first year I talked to my grandfather; he said you drive it like a slick asphalt track. I learned pretty quick; I think a dirt track changes a lot more over the course of a race or the course of a practice than an asphalt track, so you really have to adjust your driving style when you can't come in for a pit stop and make an adjustment. So what that does, is that maybe I have to change my line a little bit on an asphalt track for the same type of adjustment; when you're not able to come in and raise the track bar or make an air pressure adjustment. So it definitely helped."

Q -- Is there much difference in the set ups on the cars between the dirt track and the asphalt track? Is it a completely different car or do you just make changes?

"We just take one of our short-track cars and the set up that we use is totally different than anything from anything that I've ever run on an asphalt track. I think at one point, we even unhooked the sway bar completely."

Q -- The reason I ask, is that we'd like to see Winston Cup go to a dirt track. The problem is that there is no place that could handle the crowd -- except maybe Bristol if they put down dirt.

"Those guys -- there's a couple of them that would probably like it; the rest of them would probably complain about getting dirty or something (jokingly). I think it would be a great twist for Winston Cup. We obviously have a couple of guys that run with us; Stewart, Schrader come over and run DuQuoin I believe."

"I kind of like the ARCA Series having the diversity over the Winston Cup Series. I don't know that I would want that to change."

Other meeting highlights:

Many facets of the racing world were represented at the conference; the NHRA, SCCA, IRL, ARCA, Craftsman Truck Series, plus updates from Pocono Raceway and Dover Motorsports.

We had an opportunity to hear from a rather remarkable member of the Pro Stock Bike division of the NHRA; Reggie Showers, who although being a double amputee, doesn't seem to miss a beat, and gives us all a lesson in spirit and humility.

Rick Crawford of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series has now become infamous for his "Elvis" impersonation at the Truck Series banquet; which from the tape we saw, looked like it was a lot of fun.

Presentations by Don Hawk (former president of Dale Earnhardt, Inc.) and Lyn St. James, former Indy Car Racer and Rookie-of-the-Year were among the highlights of the day's activities.

Don Hawk's presentation focused on the premise that just being "good" is not good enough -- that we need to move from "good to great" in whatever we do in this business. And that surrounding ourselves with the best people we can is a means toward reaching that greatness.

Lyn St. James' addressed some of the issues surrounding women in motorsports and the ongoing need for more development and growth in this area. We were introduced to 21-year old Erin Crocker, an ESS sprint car driver and engineering student at RPI in Troy, NY, who has aspirations for an eventual run at the Indy Racing League.

Our thanks go out to Ernie Saxton and his wife, Marilyn, for all the efforts toward making this an informative and "fun" event, and for allowing us the opportunity to participate and make some new friends -- we'll be back!

-Nancy Osterhoudt

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About this article
Series ARCA
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Reggie Showers , Andy Belmont , Rick Crawford , Andy Hillenburg , Lyn St. James , Jason Jarrett , Erin Crocker