CHARLOTTE, N.C., (July 6, 2004) ---- This weekend's Tropicana 400 marks the fourth NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event for Chicagoland Speedway. While it is the fourth time the 1.5-mile track has hosted the NEXTEL Cup cars, it also marks the halfway ...
CHARLOTTE, N.C., (July 6, 2004) ---- This weekend's Tropicana 400 marks the fourth NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event for Chicagoland Speedway. While it is the fourth time the 1.5-mile track has hosted the NEXTEL Cup cars, it also marks the halfway point of the 2004 season. This is the 18th event of the season with 18 more races to follow.
More importantly, this weekend's event is one of the final nine events before the 10-race Chase for the Championship begins in September. Dale Jarrett and the #88 UPS Racing Team are currently 227 points out of the 400-point window that guarantees them a spot in the "Chase," but is only 177 points out of the top 10 which also guarantees entry into the Chase for the Championship. Over the course of the last month, the team has hit on some things that should help them over the course of the next nine races in addition to improved pit stop times during race events.
"We still have a ways to go," Jarrett said. "But we have seen some things over the last month that leads us to believe we're at least heading in the right direction. We've really been able to make some gains with our chassis stuff we're doing and the pit crew has really been working well together and performing better on a more consistent basis. We're certainly going to be pulling out all the stops in trying to get into that Chase for the Championship."
Dale Jarrett Discusses Chicagoland Speedway
What do you expect to see this weekend at Chicago in terms of track conditions?
"Hopefully we'll see the further development of a second racing groove. We obviously saw a little of that the last time we were in Chicago and hopefully that will have developed even more. I think with the Busch cars there this weekend it should be pretty decent by the time the Cup race begins on Sunday. Between the Cup and Busch practices and the Busch race, there will be a lot of laps run on the track by the time we race Sunday, but it certainly will be interesting. We obviously struggled at Chicago last year, but the two previous Cup races there we were decent and contended in the top 10 throughout most of those events. The track is very fast and smooth and hopefully we'll see the UPS Ford up front contending this weekend."
After the Pocono and Michigan events, do you feel like the team is starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel in regards to getting back to championship form?
"Well the last month has certainly given us cause to smile. Mike Ford (crew chief) and the guys have been working overtime trying to get this thing figured out and I feel like we're getting a lot closer to where we can be competitive on a weekly basis. This weekend's race should be a good test for how far we have come with our chassis program. We have some more tests lined up for the next month that should help us learn even more and make some gains. Once we get to where we are competing in the top 10 and the top five on a regular basis, then we should be able to compete for wins on a weekly basis, and start worrying about contending for a championship, which is where we are hopefully heading."
Notes of Interest
* Jarrett has only one top-five finish at Chicago in three starts. He finished fourth in the track's inaugural event in 2001.
* Jarrett if fourth on the track's top 20 money winners list with $319,241.
The UPS Racing Team will compete with a reliable car this weekend in Chicago, racing Chassis 28. Chassis 28 is the same car Jarrett raced at Pocono and Michigan earlier this season in June. Jarrett led laps in both NEXTEL Cup Series events at Pocono and Michigan. He was on his way to a fourth-place finish in Pocono when the engine let go with just five laps remaining, then he raced from 37th to the lead at Michigan before eventually finished third. Chassis 28 is an in-house chassis at Robert Yates Racing.