This Week in Ford Racing July 1, 2003 DALE JARRETT - No. 88 UPS Taurus SO ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO SATURDAY'S RACE OR DREADING IT? "(Laughing) No, I'm looking forward to it. I've had a week off and I'm really looking forward to it. I know...
This Week in Ford Racing
July 1, 2003
DALE JARRETT - No. 88 UPS Taurus
SO ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO SATURDAY'S RACE OR DREADING IT?
"(Laughing) No, I'm looking forward to it. I've had a week off and I'm really looking forward to it. I know there are some cars there - especially when you look at Junior and Michael Waltrip - those are the guys that we're gonna have to beat. Kevin Harvick is gonna be strong and obviously Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. I could go on down the list with Tony and Bobby and a number of others, but I feel like we're bringing a very good car here and I love the challenge that restrictor-plate racing brings. It's difficult. It's nerve-wracking and all of that stuff, but it's still a very fun race. It's a great time to be a part of our sport and it's a great race track. As much as we talk about places that you enjoy racing the other tracks and how much a lot of people dislike restrictor-plate racing, it's been very good to me. Even though the last few races for us haven't been that good restrictor plate-wise, I think our guys have worked hard at giving me a car that I can compete with and have a chance to win with on Saturday night."
IS YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF DRAFTING A PLUS FOR YOU? CAN YOU TAKE A CAR THAT MAY NOT BE JUST RIGHT AND DO SOMETHING WITH IT?
"I think my experience does play in somewhat, but the drafting part of it has changed so much now. What used to be forbidden and a place nobody wanted to be in was the middle of a three-wide situation, but now people drive right up the middle and I find myself doing it too. So I've had to adjust my thinking a little bit, but I still think that my experience does benefit me at times, especially whenever we get into the last part of the race. That's obviously the most important - getting yourself positioned and knowing where you want to be is very important - and I think that I've been there a number of times. Knowing that and finding out throughout the race is something that's gonna help me, so experience does weigh in and does count."
DO YOU SEE ANY SIMILARITY BETWEEN THE SUCCESS DEI IS HAVING NOW AND THE SUCCESS YOU HAD AT DAYTONA A FEW YEARS AGO?
"I think there are some similarities there. When Dale Earnhardt built his team he knew how important these races were and that was one thing he told his people - that they were gonna be strong at those four races and they were gonna put a program in place that would allow them to do that. As others - maybe because it is only four races and there are 32 other races out there - others concentrate on using their time and effort and resources for those other races, they have built a very strong program that allows them to be up front consistently at these tracks. We did that. It's not that we've backed off any, I think they have just taken it to another level from what we did in the past. They do it very well. I remember those days very well and it was a lot of fun. I know those guys driving cars like that and they know when they come here they have to be the favorites. We were in that position at one point in time and I think we're working very hard to get ourselves back in that position, but a lot of things have changed. They spend a lot of time and money on these four races and we're realizing that's an effort we're gonna have to make if we're gonna compete with them."
DO YOU WONDER WHAT THEY'RE DOING OR DO YOU KNOW WHAT THEY'RE DOING AND YOU JUST CAN'T REPLICATE IT?
"I think there are some things. They have a total package really right now. Their car is very good and they use the resources that they have there. They've worked and got a very good car-engine combination. I think that's something that makes it difficult to duplicate because you try to figure out where they're beating you. Is it partly in the engine department? Not that maybe they produce anymore horsepower or anything, but they're getting that horsepower at the right part of the race track and utilizing that. There are a number of things that they probably do that a lot of people don't know about and that keeps us searching and trying to find what can help us compete with them a little bit better. Again, they've done their homework and their effort is very good, and they still have a lot of people searching trying to catch up with them."
HOW DO YOU THINK THE FIRST HALF OF THE SEASON HAS GONE FOR WINSTON CUP?
"I think it's been tremendous. I think, certainly, for the sport and looking at what's good for our sport - having Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., battling for the championship is gonna make for tremendous press for the second half of the season. Matt Kenseth has done just a remarkable job and as I look at Matt and his team, it reminds me so much of watching in years past teams that won championships and how they've been able to, at times, take days that weren't gonna look so good and make good days out of them. They've been very consistent. On those days when their car is good, they've taken advantage of that. And when it's not so good, they've made some very good calls in the pits and Matt's done a tremendous job of driving. It's been an entertaining first half of the season. We had some really good races - side-by-side close finishes at the beginning - and I look for more of that in the second half. Kurt Busch has certainly shown that he can win at any type of race track, so I think we're gonna see more of that and probably even more winners in these next 20."
HOW TOUGH IS KENSETH GOING TO BE TO BEAT?
"If they can continue this, it's gonna be very difficult. You always like to be the guy in front setting the pace. I think if he has to look at anything, certainly the experience of Jeff Gordon and his team is starting to show now. Even though they're not really dominating races, they're finding themselves up competing for victories and finishing in the top five quite a bit. I think Matt and his team seem to be ready for that challenge. Even though Matt hasn't really raced for a championship in Winston Cup, he has done that in the Busch Series and he knows what that's all about. I think they're gonna be difficult to deal with, but I would look for at least those three teams, and I'd add Bobby Labonte in that mix. He's got his work cut out trying to fend off three Chevrolet teams that are very good, but I would say that Matt and Robbie have the upper hand right now. I would look for them to continue this pace."
HOW CLEAR ARE YOU ON THE YELLOW LINE RULE HEADING TO DAYTONA? DID THE SITUATION AT TALLADEGA MUDDY THAT ISSUE A LITTLE BIT?
"I think there are always gonna be questions about it because there is that gray area. As black and white as we try to make it, there always seems to be a little bit of a question there. Whenever you have a situation where it's up to somebody watching to make that call, then you're always gonna have some questions and, at times, some controversy. I think as a driver you go and do your best and, if you go to make that move, you need to be sure in your mind that you're doing the right thing and hope that's what the sanctioning body sees as they watch. It's no different than a batter going up knowing that the umpire is gonna make those ball and strike calls. That's what we have to go by, but I definitely think it's a better situation than what we've had in the past. Mike Helton and his group of people do as good a job as they can possibly do. They're trying to be as fair as they possibly can to everyone and make the right call."
CONSPIRACY THEORIES SEEM TO BE THE RAGE THESE DAYS WITH NASCAR. HOW REASONABLE OR UNREASONABLE IS IT TO THINK THAT WHO THE DRIVER IS PLAYS A FACTOR WHEN PEOPLE MAKE A DECISION?
"That's always the easy thing to say, but there's none of that. NASCAR's job is to make sure that these cars are put out as equally as they possibly can and whenever it's time for them to make a call, it doesn't make a difference what number, what color of car it is or who the driver may be. Their job is to make sure that they've looked at a situation and do the best they can possibly do. That's all we can ask of them. They're not trying to ensure who is gonna win these races or what would be good for the sport. What's good for the sport is that we as drivers put on an entertaining show and do our jobs and we're allowed to do our jobs - and they do their job as good as they possibly can. I'm very confident and comfortable with what they do. I know it brings up a lot of questions at times from people outside, but you have to understand that all of this is very difficult. It's not as easy as what it looks at times, just like when people wonder why we did what we did in the car - it's not quite as easy as it seems."
DOUG YATES , General Manager - No. 88 UPS Taurus
HAVE THINGS SETTLED DOWN FOR YOU?
"I never thought it would be this challenging to start off with, but I think we've settled down here. We've got a good man in a good position with Shawn Parker to take the reins of the 88 team now. I think that he and Dale have a good relationship and, in time, it's gonna produce some good results."
WHAT ARE THE DUTIES OF A GENERAL MANAGER?
"I think every team is set up a little differently. My background is on the engine side of things. I've been working with that for quite a while now, so I still pay attention to the engine department quite a bit. But, basically, my job is getting the right people in the right spot - making sure we get the right crew chief and right car chief and that everybody has what they need to get their job done and put us in a position to win races. My job basically is trying to set the organization in place and supporting those guys with the right resources to get the job done."
WHAT'S BEEN THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT OF THE SEASON FOR YOU?
"Anytime you start out the season, you want to go into it thinking that you've got the right mix of people and equipment to go out and get the results that you need. We started off real strong. We started off and finished 10th at Daytona and went to Rockingham and won. I said, 'Boy, this is going pretty well.' Then it seems like everything has gone flat and we haven't been able to get a break. It's been a little frustrating because when we've run good, something happens and when we've run bad, we've just run bad. Sitting back and being patient has probably been the biggest challenge - just trying to give it time to work itself out. Especially with Shawn Parker in charge now, and the guys under him, we just need to give them time to get the right equipment that they need as far as cars and give them time to go test and, hopefully, see the results that we've been looking for and expect."
HAVE YOU BEEN OFF FROM A SETUP STANDPOINT?
"I think whenever you're struggling you question every area and the chassis is part of it. The aero is part of it and the engine is part of it. I think we've got a better handle on the aero now and now we're trying to get back to some basics as far as the chassis go. We're buying basically stock Hopkins cars and trying to get back to square one so we can start building on something. It just seems like we've had kind of a mixed bag of equipment and whenever you have that, it's kind of hard to be consistent from week to week. We're trying to get back to that standard base."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT DALE'S MINDSET THE LAST FOUR MONTHS?
"We've had such a good run since 1995 with Dale coming on and you don't want to think you're gonna have to rebuild or have a down season, but it happens to the best of teams. I tell you what, Dale has been a rock. He has faith in us and we have faith in him and we know that together we'll get this thing fixed. It's just that it kind of hit us by surprise. We're trying to give each other what we need and we know that we've got too many things in place not to come out of this. It's nothing we want to get used to. I wouldn't expect him to be very happy about it, nor are we very happy about it, but together we've got to work through it and we'll get it straightened out."
HAS HE SHOWN PATIENCE WHEN NEEDED?
"There's a fine line. You don't want a driver to be happy with running bad, but, then again, you don't want him to wear you out with every little thing, too. I think he's starting to step up and say, 'Hey, together we're gonna get this thing fixed and what do I need to do to get this straightened out?' I think he's taking a bigger role in our race team than he ever has before and that's the leadership we need from him. I think that's gonna be key to help us get over this hump."