Robert Yates Racing teammates Dale Jarrett and Ricky Rudd are in the thick of the NASCAR Winston Cup points battle. Jarrett and Jeff Gordon will go into Sunday's race tied for the championship lead while Rudd is only 18 points behind. ...
Robert Yates Racing teammates Dale Jarrett and Ricky Rudd are in the thick of the NASCAR Winston Cup points battle. Jarrett and Jeff Gordon will go into Sunday's race tied for the championship lead while Rudd is only 18 points behind. Both participated in a Q&A session after Saturday's happy hour.
DALE JARRETT --88-- UPS Taurus
WHAT ABOUT THE YATES TEAMS FLEXING THEIR MUSCLE?
"I'd like to say, yeah. I think both teams have been good all year, but I think if we look, Jeff's team has been really good too. Ricky has raced him a couple of times and beat him and we've been beaten by him, but on a week to week basis, I think we've both got to be a little bit better to contend with him. Obviously, he's on the pole here so he's gonna get the lead and get his five bonus points there. We've got to make our way to the front and do that, but I like what I see with our race teams working together as one. I think we've helped each other tremendously. That's what we'd like to do. We'd love for it to come down to the two of us at the end. Our engine program right now is just fantastic as it always is, but I'd say it's probably at the top of its game and the best it's ever been right now. We're able to start utilizing some of that more by working with each other chassis-wise."
WHAT ABOUT WORKING TOGETHER WITH RICKY?
"I think that we're working closer and accomplishing more. We've always talked, but I think now we've really got our heads together and we're able to see the results more on the race track. It would great for those of us who really know Robert Yates. This would be the greatest thing if we could get these cars first and second to pay him back for everything he's done for us and this sport."
WHAT IF BOTH OF YOU WERE TIED GOING INTO ATLANTA, WOULD THE COMMUNICATION CHANGE?
"I think that it's gonna be the same. I see no reason for it to be different. I'd say, 'Let's continue what got us to this point' and then go out the race track and let us duke it out there. Let the pit crews help decide what's gonna happen. Let's not change anything that got us to that point. I mean, it's just too open. I think we've got too open a relationship to hold anything back. They hear us on the radio and they can come and look at the books anytime they want to, so I don't think we can really keep anything from each other and don't know that I'd want to. Again, I'm gonna feel like if we get ourselves to that position, that Ricky and his team have been a big part of that and I wouldn't want to hold back at that point in time."
HOW DID THE INJURY AT CHARLOTTE AFFECT YOUR SEASON?
"I tried to go back to each race and say, 'Could I have done something better or different here?' The only thing I can see is that we were probably gonna go and do some testing at the road course and I actually couldn't make that happen. We went for part of the day and it just didn't do us any good. That would be the only thing that I would see. At Dover, I wasn't 100 percent at the end of that race. That wore me down pretty good. Now, could I have beaten those cars that finished in front of me, I had run with 'em and around 'em all day, but I don't know if that made any difference right at the end of that. That's the only thing I say, other than having a lot more holes in my back from needles. Other than that, it really hasn't changed anything. Again, just the testing situation because I couldn't go in the middle of the week and do any testing would be the only thing, but I don't think it was affected that much."
AT WHAT POINT DO YOU START BREAKING DOWN THE SEASON?
"I think you do the same things. You really can't concern yourself with what everybody else is doing. Other than talking and communicating with Ricky and his team, we can't be concerned with how they're running on the race track or how Jeff is running and what they're doing. We have to be concerned with what we do. If we do our job, we know that we're a top five car and we should be there week in and week out, and then when you put yourself in that position, you're gonna put yourself in a position to win some races and we have to take advantage of that. As far as doing anything differently, we can't be anymore focused than what we have been from the very beginning of this year and trying to win races and win the championship. It's just kind of business as usual. We know that it's a long way to go.
"I heard three or four weeks to go talking about the halfway point of the season, but I knew then we weren't there. We've just gotten to the halfway point and we've got a lot of racing left and a lot of things can happen. We've just got to focus and make sure that we really do our job properly and that we don't have anything that we bring on that hurts us in the points -- make any mistakes whether it's in the garage area or on the race track."
BUT HOW HARD IS IT TO GAIN A LOT OF POINTS ONE WEEK AND MAYBE LOSE A BUNCH THE NEXT?
"You know they know the position you're in, but you can't let it affect you because you realize if you happen to gain 100 points one week, you realize a flat tire can take that 100 points away the next week. It happens so quickly. Until we get down to those last four or five races of the season, all of that really doesn't matter because you still have plenty of time to make that ground up. We saw how quickly it can change. At one time I think we had 140-point lead and lost that and went all the way to the other side about 140 behind, and now we're dead even. It can change, but we just have to focus on what we're doing. If something does happen and we have a bad week, we have to put that behind us. We can't do anything about that. All we can do is go to the next one and make sure that we don't have the same problem and make sure that we do our job and everything will work out."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON SEEING KYLE PETTY RACE THIS WEEKEND?
"It's difficult. I can't imagine. I know it was difficult to me to see him here and what he would have to go through. I can't even imagine the emotions that are going through his mind in trying to do his job. I know there will never be a closure there because that was his son and they were so close, but I think it's good that he can come here and race. Hopefully, he'll have a great day. I think yesterday, more than I was pulling for myself to have a good lap, I was pulling for Kyle to have a good lap and just to be able to get through that. It had to be a very, very difficult day for him to be here, but it's great to see him here. I hope that everybody has kept he and Pattie in their prayers because it's a difficult time -- not only coming here but every week at the race track. There has to be something that reminds them of Adam and always will, so I'm just glad to see him here and see him in the race. Hopefully, he'll have a good day tomorrow."
WHAT THOUGHTS DO YOU HAVE ON KENNY IRWIN?
"You say it's kind of been forgotten, it certainly hasn't in my mind and in my heart. I've thought a lot about Kenny over the past year and how he helped me as a race driver, how much I thought of him as a person. Even though his name doesn't get brought up a lot whenever we talk about the tragedies we have, he brought a lot to this sport. We certainly don't want to leave him out. Unfortunately, in print and in us talking sometimes it just doesn't pop up, but I'll assure you I've thought about him a lot. Honestly, he was a young guy that came into the race team and didn't have a lot of experience, but was eager to do anything and go as fast as he possibly could. I think there were a number of race track where he certainly helped me. When we tested together there were times that he got in my race car and ran a good bit quicker than me and made me realize that my car was a little better than what I was doing at that time. It's unfortunate that we lose someone not only of that talent, but that was just really a good person that was gonna be good for the sport."
ON BEING IN SEPARATE SHOPS.
"The other thing that we saw when we built the new shop and both teams ran together, that there got to be a lot of standing around and looking at what the other one was doing. So, instead of work getting done, they were kind of just looking and not really doing their job. The other thing is that when you're doing well, it's important to be able to enjoy that for your guys and your team. When you have two race teams in the same place and one had a good week and the other doesn't, they don't really want to make these guys feel bad by high-stepping and enjoying what they accomplished. If they won the race and the other team didn't have such a good week, it's hard for them to show that emotion in the shop because you care about them. That's what makes it difficult to have the two there together and we saw that a number of times. When Ricky's team won the other week, even though we had a good week too and were extremely happy for them, they were able to really enjoy it in their shop -- just them there enjoying it. Robert is very smart person and very observant and it didn't take him very long to see what was going on and know that we needed to make a change."
THOUGHTS ON SON JASON RACING.
"I'm excited for Jason. He's involved in something I know a little something about, so I guess that's good and bad. We talk pretty much on a regular basis. He's kind of gone out on his own. When he first started, he was driving for the family operation and I think he felt a lot of pressure there. The scenario is a little different than whenever I started. The expectations, even though my dad was a two-time champion, he was retired for quite a while when I started so there wasn't nearly the pressure, I don't think, on me as it is with Jason with me still being here and winning championships and battling for championships and winning races. So I think it's been very difficult for him, but now that he's in the ARCA Series, he's got a good team that he's working with and driving for. I see a much more relaxed Jason and we're able to talk and discuss things and I'm excited for him. Seeing where this sport is and where it's going, I'm glad he was able to choose this and, hopefully, it'll be a good career for him."
HOW DID YOU GET THROUGH THE FALL RACE HERE LAST YEAR?
"I think the only way I got through it was MRO and Dale Beaver in particular -- the chaplain at MRO. He's just a wonderful person and, even though it's difficult at times we sit and say why. We don't have those answers. We don't know why that happened to Kenny and why he was taken at such a young age from us, but Dale was able to talk with us. We had a group session on Friday evening in the scoring stand and he enlightened us a little bit on why things do happen and why we don't understand it a lot. But through that whole weekend, Dale and his staff were more than willing to sit down with you -- whether it was in a group or individually -- and talk about it. I guess what I'm saying is my faith is what got me through it. That's the only way I could have gotten through that. Kenny is someone that's on my a lot because it seems different places that we go there are little things that I remember us either doing -- whether they were fun things or something I learned. I can remember Kenny coming to me at some places where he had never been and he just couldn't get things figured out and asking advice, and then coming back to tell me how much he appreciated that and it really helped him a lot. Again, he was a really good kid and it was just unfortunate, but it was the people of MRO that got us through that weekend."
WHAT WAS IT LIKE WITHOUT RESTRICTOR PLATES YESTERDAY?
"I think it's an easier track to drive. It's still very, very difficult, but it's certainly easier to drive. Knowing you have that little bit of horsepower, you have to really, really hustle the car around here and be right on the edge every time, every single lap, through every corner. I had a difficult time yesterday. The race track is very smooth. The sealer is good. It's still a difficult track to get a hold of because it's very flat, but there are no lines out there. I was having a hard time seeing where I was. I thought it was maybe just me, but I talked to Rusty Wallace and he was having the same problem, and I heard a couple of other guys make the same comment. There are just no lines and it's hard to tell with the sealer being so dark where the rubber was and where that edge was of really getting in the corner and through the center, so I had a difficult time yesterday. But I think we're better off without the restrictor plate. NASCAR felt some pressure last year of making a change and I'm sure it was good that we did because we couldn't come back here without doing something. If something happened, whether it was a direct result of that or not, we wouldn't have been looking very good in the minds of the people that don't particularly understand what we do. So it was good that we made the change. We got through that. Did Jeff Burton lead 300 laps because of the restrictor plate? No. He had a good race car and they were a little smarter than everybody that weekend. Tomorrow is gonna be a difficult race. It's gonna be difficult to pass as it always is here. The only thing that I do see is the groove widening out a little bit. That could help some and, hopefully, that'll be the case and we can so some side by side racing."
HAS IT GOTTEN EASIER WITH RUBBER ON THE TRACK?
"I think what's made it a little bit easier is that we know in our mind that the groove has widened out. When we started yesterday, everybody had been running in the same place. Everybody wanted to be right on the bottom and you got there as quick as you could into the corner. You knew you couldn't get outside of that because it was very slick. Now we've widened that out. We've widened the entrance out a little bit getting in and through the center of the corner and off the corner, so things have gotten better. Maybe with the truck race, things will get even better yet."