Jarrett gunning for third Daytona title By Shawn A. Akers DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 27, 1999) Dale Earnhardt. Jeff Gordon. Darrell Waltrip. David Pearson. Fireball Roberts. All drivers who have won the Daytona 500 once. Mark Martin. Terry ...
Jarrett gunning for third Daytona title By Shawn A. Akers
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 27, 1999) Dale Earnhardt. Jeff Gordon. Darrell Waltrip. David Pearson. Fireball Roberts. All drivers who have won the Daytona 500 once.
Mark Martin. Terry Labonte. Rusty Wallace. Ricky Rudd. All drivers who have never won the Daytona 500.
And then there's guys like Dale Jarrett.
Not only has Jarrett tasted the sweet nectar of victory once in the "Great American Race," he's done it twice, putting himself on a par with some very good company -- names such as Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough, Bill Elliott and Sterling Marlin.
It's a feat that even Jarrett, who took the checkered flag in both 1993 and 1996, still shakes his head in disbelief at, but one that he also takes tremendous pride in.
"It's very satisfying and gratifying to walk into my office and see those two trophies and to know how much it means," said the driver of the No. 88 Quality Care/Ford Credit Taurus. "We work awful hard at Robert Yates Racing for that race, and for the two weeks we're in Daytona.
"It is something that we feel is very important. Winning just one Daytona was an absolutely tremendous thrill of a lifetime because that puts your name beside some of the great ones and even ahead of some. But then to come back and win a second time, that's just indescribable.
"And now, not to be greedy, but I'm still young enough and I'd like to get a third one. That's a real good possibility."
Jarrett won his first Daytona 500 in the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet, owned by Joe Gibbs, by edging Earnhardt. He turned the trick on Earnhardt once again three later, denying Earnhardt his elusive Daytona 500 victory for yet another year.
It took Waltrip 17 years as a driver to get his first and only Daytona 500 victory, in 1989. On the 20th attempt, Earnhardt earned his only Daytona 500 triumph, last February. Pearson, second on the all-time list of career NASCAR Winston Cup Series winners with 105, won the race just once, in 1976.
Gordon, the 27-year-old two-time defending champion, won the prestigious event in only his fifth try, in 1997, and is more than likely to get another one or two before his racing career is over.
Jarrett certainly wants to make a better showing at Daytona next month than he did in 1998. He encountered a multitude of problems and wound up finishing 34th, five laps down to Earnhardt.
"It's not the end of the world if you don't win the race and get your year off to a good start because Jeff (Gordon) has proven that you win the championship if you don't," Jarrett said. "Mark (Martin), like me last year, had a bad Daytona 500, but we were able to come back to a certain point and get back in the points race.
"I think it's a great jumpstart, though, if you can win it. I look back on the seasons that I did win the Daytona 500, and I was fortunate enough to do that. It certainly makes getting ready to go to these other races a lot more enjoyable because of all the work you put into that race."
Jarrett said a big factor in last year's demise was the Ford teams' unfamiliarity with their new Taurus. That, he said, won't be a problem on Feb. 14 when the green flag drops on the 1999 season.
Source: NASCAR Online