Dale Jarrett Interview

Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus, made it to victory lane the last time he raced at Talladega Superspeedway outdueling Bobby and Terry Labonte in the Winston 500. Jarrett goes into this weekend's...

Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus, made it to victory lane the last time he raced at Talladega Superspeedway outdueling Bobby and Terry Labonte in the Winston 500. Jarrett goes into this weekend's DieHard 500 with six top-10 finishes, including five top fives, in eight races and ranks second to Jeff Burton by 85 points in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings. Jarrett, along with crew chief Todd Parrott, were this week's guests on the Winston Teleconference.

DALE JARRETT -88- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- "I am looking forward to going to Talladega. Obviously, when you go to a place that you won the last race at it's great incentive and a great confidence-builder. We'll actually be taking the exact same car that we won with at Talladega last fall, so we're excited about going. From the qualifying side of it, we were there testing a few weeks ago and we worked strictly on race setup. I'm sure a lot of people have seen the times and wondered what was going on with us, including my dad who called wanting to know why we didn't run any faster. As I explained it, we were working just on race setup and he understood that, but it's a car that's a couple of years old and it's been very good to us. But now people are building what we call very high frame-rail cars that allow them to really get the cars extremely low with real soft springs in the cars for qualifying. It doesn't do you any good for the race because everybody has to go by the same rules as far as the springs in the rear go for the race, so that part doesn't matter. We've got a good race car that may not qualify that well, but I think we'll be in good shape."

EVEN THOUGH YOU HAVEN'T WON YET, YOU HAVE BEEN PRETTY CONSISTENT. "Yeah we have and I guess it's a little disappointing that we haven't won. We've put ourselves in position a couple of times, but certainly we would like to think that in the first eight races that we would have gotten a victory, but we've been consistent. I look back and at times whenever I say we've gotta start winning and start leading more laps, I look back to 1996 when Terry Labonte won the championship. We hope we get more than one victory, but the main thing is consistency. We know that's what wins these championships and if we keep running in the top five, it'll give us the opportunity to win some races and when those opportunities are there we just have to take advantage. We think that our best racing is yet to come. We certainly haven't performed to what we feel like our standards are and that's leading laps. Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon and Mark and Rusty have made it difficult to get up there and do that. We've been in the top five, but getting all the way to the front is something that's been a little more difficult for us."

IS TALLADEGA LIKE SHORT-TRACK RACING? "It's high-speed short-track racing is what it is. We have three weeks in a row of testing everybody's nerves to the full extent. You're close together. We had 43 cars on two half-mile race tracks with a lot of paint-swapping and tire marks on the cars, and we're not gonna get away from some of that this weekend. It's an exciting race for the fans, but I think we'll all be ready after Talladega for something a little bit different to where everybody is not all right in the same pack all the time."

WHAT HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT ANY CHANGES TO THE TAURUS FOR NEXT YEAR? "What's gonna take place is, obviously, there are some changes to the Taurus for the street version and we will have a slight modification with our car. The basics of it will be the same, but there will be a new nose and a new rear bumper on the car and that's basically from our standpoint all that will be changed."

SO YOU DON'T FORESEE THE SAME PROBLEMS CHEVY HAS HAD WITH THE NEW MONTE CARLO? "I don't see those kinds of complications, I don't think. There are some changes that we would like to make, so things may be altered a little bit, but I think all of that will go around what they do with the Monte Carlo as to what they're gonna allow us to change with the Taurus to keep everything competitive."

WHAT DIFFERENCES ARE THERE BETWEEN WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR QUALIFYING VERSUS THE RACE? "I guess the best way to put it is for qualifying it's kind of a no holds barred situation. You can do whatever you can. You have to meet a height requirement in going through inspection, but once the car takes off it can get as low as what you can possibly get it on the race track. There are guys running 100-pound springs in the rear of these cars and down to 500 and 600-pound springs in the front of them and then you tie it down with the shocks. So, the car is basically right on the ground once you leave pit road, so you have to have a lot of clearance to do that, but when you get to the race setup then, they basically put a weight on the back of the car to where the car can't settle but so much. You have to stay above a minimum height there, so that means you have to put more spring in the rear of the car for the race and everybody keeps it pretty much at that limit. You have everybody kind of running the same thing and, obviously, the car doesn't travel nearly as much and you have to go up on the front springs to make it driveable in traffic and traveling at close to 200 miles per hour, so there's a huge difference there. Again, it's pretty wide-open for qualifying, whatever you can do once you get the car on the track to make it go fast, but the race is much more controlled."

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON TALLADEGA AND WOULD YOU CONSIDER IT YOUR HOME TRACK BECAUSE OF YOUR CAR OWNER? "I think the two go hand-in-hand certainly. The Yates team has a tremendous following, especially with the 28 car, but they've also adopted the 88 car because of Robert Yates and the association that he had with the Allison family and, in particular, Davey. It's great to go somewhere and know that you've got that kind of fan support and we look forward to going to Talladega and putting on a good show because we know not only what Davey Allison meant to the people in Alabama, but to us at Robert Yates Racing. He set the foundation for all of this to take place now. It was his great determination and hard work and attitude that really built what is there now. It will be something that we'll always remember and we certainly appreciate the fans remembering it. We like to think that when we go to Talladega it's that extra support that we get from them that allows us to run well."

HAS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH KENNY IRWIN CHANGED SINCE THEY MOVED INTO THEIR OWN SHOP? "I don't know that it's changed. I think that we've had a good relationship throughout now that we're in our second year. I think a lot of Kenny's abilities and I think a lot of the way he's handled a difficult situation that he's in, coming in as rookie in this business in a very high profile operation and race car. I think that we get along extremely well. I think we communicate as much as we did before. What I'm seeing is the positive feedback from Kenny now. We knew he was gonna be coming along, but he is actually coming along even quicker than what we anticipated. We realize that he's gonna pay big dividends to our race team very shortly because he is really catching on to these cars and what you need to do. He's gonna be a big benefit to us."

HOW DO YOU EXPECT THE TAURUS TO STAND UP TO THE MONTE CARLO THIS WEEKEND? "I think that's probably the thing that made us most proud about our victory at Talladega last year was that they said you couldn't win with a Taurus at those race tracks and we were able to do that. I think the Pontiacs and the Monte Carlos have probably improved their program a little bit. I think we saw that at Daytona. We have to get ourselves in the right position. As a driver of a Ford Taurus this weekend, you almost have to make the perfect moves at the end of the race to get yourself into victory lane. It'll take some help from someone to get you to the front and be able to stay there at the end, but I think we can go there and compete with them. Again, it comes down at the end to the driver making the right decisions."

HOW DO YOU KEEP YOURSELF MOTIVATED TO WIN ALL THE TIME. IS IT HARD TO TAKE KNOWING YOU HAVEN'T WON YET THIS YEAR? "It can be difficult, but it doesn't take long to go back a number of years ago when I wasn't winning at all and wasn't sure that the team I was with and the car that I was driving was capable. Now I realize that, even though we haven't won, I have a very capable team and race car each and every week that is gonna allow us that opportunity. There will come a time when all things go our way during a day and we'll get back into victory lane. It takes nothing for me to get excited about a race, again, because I'm with a great race team. I'm around good people and they give me great race cars. When we get through with one race, just like being finished with Martinsville on Sunday and, even though it wasn't a tremendously good race for us, we got there after a not-so-good qualifying effort with a day where we could have lost a lot of points and we didn't lose very many. So, you take the bright side of it and realize that we're going to Talladega, a place where we've had some success, and look forward to that and knowing that California is coming up and then on to Richmond a few weeks after that, so there's a lot to be excited about."

CALIFORNIA ISN'T A RESTRICTOR-PLATE TRACK IS IT? "No, it's not. It's a very nice race track, very smooth, and one we expect to do well at." THE ONLY DIFFERENCE IS THE TIME. "Yeah, it is. It's definitely a change and something you have to get used to, but I think that's something we can handle."

BRISTOL IS LOOKING AT A SINGLE PIT ROAD TOO. DO YOU HAVE ANY SUGGESTIONS FOR THEM BECAUSE THE RADIUS IN THE CORNERS WOULD PROBABLY PRESENT SOME KIND OF PROBLEM DON'T YOU THINK? "Yeah, it seems that it would almost be even more difficult to do there at Bristol, but I think as we saw the other day, if there was anything we could improve on at Martinsville, it would just be somehow making pit road wider. If something does get jammed up you would have room to miss whatever happened. It's not as much from the driver's standpoint, but knowing that the crews are there. Sometimes it puts them in a little more danger when things are that cramped, but I think it worked well the other day. You have to applaud the people at Martinsville for what they did in making that effort and I think it gave everybody more of an opportunity and a chance at having a good run or a victory in that race. I think it would be something we would all appreciate the people at Bristol and other places doing."

FROM WHERE YOU STARTED, DID YOU DO ANYTHING DIFFERENTLY WITH ONE PIT ROAD THAN YOU WOULD HAVE DONE WITH TWO? "Well, it made you look at your strategy a little bit. We took two tires one time trying to gain a little bit of track position just as John Andretti did at the end. I think that it still helped. I'm not sure that pitting on the backstretch even taking two tires, that we could have come out quite as good as what we did by pitting on the same pit road and being able to enter pit road at the same time as everyone else. I think it helped things a little bit. There should be some penalty. If you don't qualify well, you're not supposed to have everything just like the guys that got their car up front, so there should be some advantage to qualifying up front. What we have to do, along with the others that qualified back there with us, is work on that program to try and get ourselves a better pit spot."

DO YOU FEEL DRIVERS WHO HAVE GOTTEN IN MULTI-CAR ACCIDENTS AT TALLADEGA WILL BE TENTATIVE ABOUT GOING BACK? "You would think that would be the case, but I'm not sure they're tentative as much as what everybody looks at the situation and says, 'How can we keep this from happening?' Because you never know when it may be your turn to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, so I don't think that the guys would go in there being tentative. I think what they'll do is go into the race realizing that, if we would all use a little bit more patience, that this race is won in the last 50 miles. You can race all you want for 450 miles. Sometime there in the middle or even the beginning or 300 or 400 mile mark, letting a guy in a spot that maybe is a little tight that may put yourself and him in a bad position, just backing out a little bit and giving him that extra room that he needs isn't gonna change the outcome of that race because you have plenty of time to make that up. That's the way we view it instead of the drivers being tentative. None of us want to see or be involved in any of that, but I think you'll see those guys, when it comes time, they're gonna drive and be aggressive like they have been."

SO YOU DON'T THINK THAT A DRIVER WHO HAS HAD A BAD ACCIDENT AT A TRACK DOESN'T GET NERVOUS ABOUT GOING BACK? "I don't think so. I've been involved in accidents. Of course, I haven't been involved to the extent that some of the guys have, but no. Call us crazy or whatever it may be, but that's not the mentality that we can go back with. I don't think anybody does that, but I don't think a driver that really has that competitive spirit inside of him is gonna let that enter his thinking."

HOW DID YOU GET TO THE FRONT LAST YEAR WHEN YOU WON? "There are very few cars that we've seen be able to make a pass on their own. You really have to be in the totally right circumstances and even when we see one car make a move, that may make a pass, you can feel sure that he got a little bit of help to get that momentum to go. It's hard to make any pass by yourself. Last year I was fortunate that I had Jimmy Spencer on my bumper. It was nice to have another Ford driver there with me and Jimmy worked very well with me in helping me make the moves at the end of the race that worked my way to the front. Once I got my way to the front, I was just really, for lack of a better term, I was lucky. Everybody was trying to get into second because they felt sure that they could pass a Ford Taurus if they could just get into second, so they raced extremely hard behind me to get into that position. It was their racing each other that allowed me to stay out in front. When a couple of guys did have runs on me, I was able to block them for a couple of laps, and then they went back to racing each other. That created a race behind me and that's what allowed me to win was those guys all wanting to get into position to win."

WHEN YOU WENT AND LOOKED BACK AT DAYTONA, WAS WHAT YOU THOUGHT HAPPENED ACTUALLY WHAT HAPPENED? "Yeah, pretty much. Looking back, if I'd do anything different I think I would probably just give a little more room. Being in the middle, you've gotta be the guy that gives. You're gonna go backwards a little bit and you just have to give up a little bit more than what I was trying to give up. I was trying to stay wide-open and stay as close to that guy on the inside as I could to make the track as short as I could, instead of giving up too much distance. I should have enough experience that I should have gone on and realized that Kenny had tried to make a pass on the inside, was trying to follow the car in front of him, and that he wasn't gonna have a very good angle into the corner and he wasn't gonna be able to keep his car right on the white line, so I should be smarter than that and allow a little bit more room because we weren't down to that time that it was gonna be that critical that it was gonna make a difference in winning and losing at that time."

WHAT GOES THROUGH YOUR MIND WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT ON THE PACE CAR? "I think that at Talladega you realize that what's getting ready to happen is a major traffic jam at a high rate of speed. Probably your heart rate goes up more at a place like Talladega than anywhere else as we get ready to start that race. You know that no matter how good a car that you have, you're not gonna be able to get away and get in any type of comfort zone. For awhile you're gonna be in a mad dash with everybody trying to improve their position a little bit and you're gonna be at least two or three wide. What I try to tell my myself at the beginning of that race is that I have to be patient and not to try and put myself in a position that's gonna put me in a bad spot or someone else at that point and time of the race."

IS PATIENCE ONE OF THE TOUGHEST ENEMIES OF A DRIVER AT TALLADEGA? "Definitely. We all talk about it and it's preached to us in the driver's meeting before the race. It's something that we all go in with the intention of using every bit of the patience that we have within us, but circumstances sometime wear that patience a little bit thin. It's hard to ask 43 drivers to use that patience for 500 miles. If you have a really good car, it's much easier to use patience. If your car is one that you feel like you have to make and take every position that you can whenever it's offered or if there's that small chance, then that makes you do some things at times that may not be the best thing for everyone involved. I've been there. Every driver out there has been in that position and you just hope that those times work out or that you can have that patience, so it's the most important element whenever we get there Sunday."

TODD PARROTT, Crew Chief -88- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR CHANCES THIS WEEKEND? "I feel that are chances are real strong. Obviously, we're taking the same car that we won the million with there in October. We tested down there a couple of weeks ago and we did a lot of work on race setup, trying to get the car to where it would drive as free as he could possibly drive it through the corners just to get all the speed we could out of it. I'm looking forward to going there."

WHAT IS THE MOST EXCITING ASPECT OF RACING FOR YOU? "I guess it would be the high level of competition. I've been a competitively driven person ever since I was in high school playing golf. I was in heavy competition with that and the competition I see out on the race track, I want to have the very best race car out there and work as hard as we possibly can to get to victory lane. That's what drives me."

HOW IMPORTANT ARE THE CREW CHIEF DUTIES? "The crew chief is just another small part to the puzzle. Without all the guys out in the shop working on the cars and doing the job that they do week-in and week-out; they're gone from their families, it's seven days a week with 33 or 34 race schedule and five weekends off from the time the green flag drops in Daytona to the time the checkered flag drops in Atlanta; they put out an awful lot, they give an awful lot, and I try to do my best to keep peace and harmony. It's a pretty big role these days."

CAN YOU COMPARE HOW YOU STAND WITH THE TAURUS NOW FROM THIS TIME LAST YEAR? "Obviously, I think our car is just a little bit better. We have a little bit of spoiler back on the car now that we didn't have last year. We've got a little lower front valance which has helped our front downforce situation a little bit with the drag, but I think there is still a lot to be gained and a lot to be learned about the Taurus. It's a very different race car compared to the Pontiac Grand Prix and the Chevrolet Monte Carlo."

HOW DID YOU PULL OFF SUCH A GOOD FINISH AT MARTINSVILLE WITH A RELATIVELY BAD PIT SPOT? "I think having a good race car was having one of the keys and we felt like on Saturday afternoon we had a definite top five race car. Starting in the back at Martinsville, it's tough because the only guys that really stay out of trouble all day long are the cars that are in the top five. The first five laps you get the nose knocked in and the back end knocked off the car and you're fighting, scratching and struggling for every position you can get. You can gain more positions on pit road it seems like than you can on the race track these days as close as the competition is. Our first couple pit stops we had to make some changes on the car and the pit stops weren't as good. We came out and got lucky with the good Lord looking over us we got that caution when we put on two right-side tires and were getting ready to go a lap down. That saved us. Then toward the end of the race we picked up three or four positions each time we came in the last couple of stops. We felt at lap 400 we finally got to the position we needed to be. We made an adjustment on the car, it was getting to be do-or-die time because we were running out of time, so we made an adjustment that made the car too loose at the end but all-in-all it was a great day for us. Going from 31st to finish in the top 10 and on the lead lap was good. We stayed second in the points. We lost a few points to Burton, but I think we're going to a place this week and the next few weeks after that where I think we'll really shine."

ARE YOU A FAN OF THE SINGLE PIT ROAD? "Like I heard somebody say after the race. With what they did at Martinsville Speedway, a little old half-mile race track, I think NASCAR needs to look at it and out of fairness to all the competitors that they make one single pit road at all the race tracks." EVEN AT BRISTOL? "Yeah, why not?"

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE TYPE OF PERSON DALE IS ON AND OFF THE TRACK? "I guess I'll start out with his ability to drive a race car. He's been driving race cars a long time and he's driven a lot of different race cars. He's got an awful lot of experience and that's something a good team needs. They need a guy that's got experience and can give feedback. That's one thing Dale does. He gives good feedback and sometimes I'll sit down and pick his brain to find out exactly what he's looking for. Me and him have built a relationship that when he tells me the car's just a little bit loose or a little bit tight, I know how much to do to the car to fix it. He's an awesome race car driver and that's shown the last few years. You put him in a good race car and he can win races and run up front. On a personal level, you won't find a better person in the world. He's a great friend to me and my family and to every guy at Robert Yates Racing. He's a true person. He hasn't let all the hype and glory and winning all the races and winning more money change his attitude or the way he is personally toward other people."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers John Andretti , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Terry Labonte , Jimmy Spencer , Robert Yates , Davey Allison
Teams Yates Racing