Dale Jarrett Talladega interview

Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, will be looking for his third straight NASCAR Winston Cup victory in tomorrow's Talladega 500. Jarrett, who qualified sixth, has finished in the top three seven times in the last 12 Talladega events...

Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, will be looking for his third straight NASCAR Winston Cup victory in tomorrow's Talladega 500. Jarrett, who qualified sixth, has finished in the top three seven times in the last 12 Talladega events (1 win, 5 seconds and 1 third).

This marks the second time in Jarrett's Winston Cup career that he has won two consecutive races. The only other occasion came in the spring of 1997 when he was the winner at Atlanta and Darlington. His bid for a third straight triumph was spoiled when he finished second to Jeff Burton, who won his first NWC event at Texas.

DALE JARRETT --88-- UPS Taurus --

DO YOU FIND IT IRONIC THE SERIES GOES FROM MARTINSVILLE TO TALLADEGA?

"It is ironic that we run Martinsville and Talladega back-to-back. I think the thing here is we talk about patience and, obviously, that's the biggest part of tomorrow's race is who can be and who will be, but it's also a tall order to ask 43 guys that race for a living to be patient for 500 miles. I think the thing about Talladega as you look down the list of winners you see a number of guys that have won here either for their first time and some that have won here for their only time in their Winston Cup career. So that literally gives everybody in the field the opportunity to win here and, for some, it may seem to them that this is their chance for the year to get a victory. That patience can run a little bit thin for those people because they're seeing that opportunity here and they want to make things happen. You can't blame them for that because that would be a great opportunity and if they happen to be successful in winning, that could be a huge lift for their team. I know we're gonna talk about patience and give-and-take in the driver's meeting tomorrow, we'll just have to see. A lot of times we talk about that and that doesn't exactly transpire out here on the race track, but that is what needs to take place for us to have a good, competitive race and then find ourselves all racing for it at the end."

IS THERE SOMETHING DIFFERENT YOU LOOK FOR HERE IN HAPPY HOUR THAN OTHER PLACES?

"Yeah, it is a little different here because most places you're looking at the time chart and seeing how you can stack up there lap after lap and how consistent you can be. Here, that all depends on the group of cars you get with and what that pack is doing. You're looking more here for, basically, a handling of the car that is gonna allow you to race anywhere on the track. When I go out this morning what I'm gonna try to do is put myself in a number of different positions, running on the bottom of the track, in the middle, and then all the way at the top of the track because you're gonna be in each of those spots tomorrow if you're gonna try to have a chance to win. That's what I'm looking at is how my car performs at each of those. The time doesn't really mean anything. I can probably go out there and make that time chart read whatever we want it to do. If I want to get far enough back with a little help and run up and catch a pack of cars, I can probably have the fast time of the day. Or, I can stay up towards the front of a pack most of the time and have one of the slowest times of the day. That's not what we're looking for. I'm looking to just get my car to feeling where I know I can stay wide-open and when it comes time to really start making the moves tomorrow afternoon, my car is gonna go wherever I want to go."

WOULD IT DO ANY GOOD TO TELL SOME OF THOSE GUYS WHO MIGHT BE THINKING ABOUT THAT FIRST WIN TO SAY, 'HEY GUYS, NOT THIS TIME?'

"I don't think so. I think most of these guys view these rules now that this is a big chance. What we saw at Daytona where normally handling is a bigger factor than what it was this past time. Everybody's car drove pretty well, so I think everybody who made the starting field here knows that they have that chance. You're not gonna tell anybody that's in this race that they don't have a chance to do that tomorrow. Obviously, they wouldn't be in Winston Cup racing if they didn't have the capabilities of doing that, so you're gonna see that same four and five-wide racing tomorrow.

"By what I saw here last October, even though we were doing that, it seemed that everybody knew with the rules, and in particular here, you could let somebody in or you could give somebody that break and everybody paid attention. You didn't have to be right on that guy's bumper every single second, so you could give somebody a break throughout the day and I think that happened all the way until we got the checkered flag. I think here these rules are a little more conducive to being able to go a 500-mile race and nothing big happen because of the width of the race track. We're running just over 180 miles an hour here and we know that this race track is very capable of speeds well over 200, so it can be done. Hopefully, there has been enough talk and people have thought enough about this that it will be done tomorrow."

HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT WHAT IT WILL BE LIKE NOT TO HAVE DALE EARNHARDT HERE FOR THE FIRST TIME?

"Yeah, I've thought about it quite a bit this week because Dale was always the guy that, if you were gonna win this race, you had to beat him. Sometimes he didn't have the best car, but he ended up being the best driver most every time and could get his way to the front. It was because of the talents that he had and people realizing that, a lot of times that worked to his advantage because he had done so much here that people wanted to work their way to the front and they were willing to jump in behind him and help him go there. We don't have that person here now, I don't think, that anybody is looking to do that with so it's gonna be quite a bit different not having that 3 car come down over on your quarter-panel and about stop your car there, and just the things Dale was so good at at these type of tracks. It's a little bit different and strange when we go to certain race tracks this year for the first time."

WHERE IS NASCAR STRIKING A BALANCE BETWEEN HAVING A COMPETITIVE RACE AND AN ENTERTAINING RACE FOR THE FANS?

"I think that NASCAR has done a good job in getting what they're after. Their job is to make this a competitive race where each make of car has the opportunity to win and each driver and team has that opportunity. We've done that. The balance as far as making it a competitive race and one that is very entertaining to the fans is now up to the drivers to do that. The part is done with the rules, we just have to understand that it doesn't require four-wide racing to make that happen, but we've kind of set a standard that that's what's gonna happen here. I'm not sure the fans here and the media would accept anything less than that, so it's not like we can back off now because we've seen that we're capable of doing that. I think that we could have two-wide racing and just making passes which would be very entertaining throughout the day because there could be a lot of passes like that, but, again, we're getting back to guys that race for a living. When you see an opportunity, you don't want to lift your foot off the gas when you have a little bit of a pull or tow with the draft. You want to find some open space and take your car there and, most times, that means three or four wide. The balance is there, that it could be great racing and very safe racing if we just do our job."

DO YOU HAVE ANY PROBLEMS SLEEPING THE NIGHT BEFORE THIS RACE?

"I seldom have any problem sleeping, that's not a problem. You can sit and think and we can talk about it a lot, but it doesn't really effect me. You know what the circumstances are. If I were really concerned about it, with the way the aero rules are, I could literally probably find a partner out there and do something similar to what Bobby Labonte and I were doing at Daytona, except this time we'd get a little further back. We wouldn't find ourselves in the middle of the wreck. We could just hang back for a majority of the day and then when it really came time -- I mean literally within the last 10 laps of the race -- you have enough of a pull, you could keep that group in sight, you could run 'em back down and you could make your way through a lot of the pack and probably end up with a really good finish. I'm probably not gonna do that. We're here to race. As far as how tonight will be, I think everything will be fine. There's been a lot of concern and a lot of talk and, hopefully, when we get out today in practice we're gonna see guys starting off the weekend showing patience and it will help everybody relax a little bit tonight."

WHAT'S BEEN THE DIFFERENCE FOR YOU THIS YEAR FROM LAST?

"Things have certainly gone much better at the beginning of this season and what's making the difference is the same thing in most any successful business or sport and that's people. We've added some new people in some really key areas and those people are contributing a lot. We've been able to build new race cars and that's been a big help. Todd has had the time to work with our guys in the fab shop and whenever Todd has the time to do that, it makes a big difference. He's obviously the key to our race team. He's gotten some people in some places now, particularly our engineers, that really relate well with Todd and have helped me to understand a lot of the things we're doing. I think that's been a big difference. Todd's brother, Brad, has really been on top of the Goodyear tires and the changes that have come about there and I think that's been a big help to us too. It's just a number of things. Our engine department has just been incredible. Obviously, we've had no failures and they're producing just a tremendous amount of horsepower. So, right now, we have everything hitting on all cylinders and, if we can continue that, then we should at least be a factor for the championship."

YOU HAVE A CHANCE TO WIN THREE IN A ROW FOR THE FIRST TIME. IS THAT SOMETHING YOU GUYS ARE THINKING ABOUT?

"As a matter of fact I hadn't really thought about it this weekend. Obviously, we've had a good start and have never been in a position to where we have that true chance to do something like that. It would be kind of neat to do something different. When you've been in this sport for a while and been fortunate to accomplish some things, you're always looking for something that you haven't done and that would be pretty neat if we were able to do that."

COULD YOU BE THE GUY TO INHERT EARNHARDT'S ROLE AS THE GUY OTHERS WANTED TO FOLLOW IN THE DRAFT?

"I hope so. If we can put that word out there for 'em to fall in line, that would help me a lot (laughing). I don't know. I'm not sure that people look at us that way, even though I think we have an outstanding record at Daytona and here. I'm not sure people look at it that way. Hopefully, they respect what I've done enough that they can realize if we have a good car that I'm somebody that could help get 'em to the front and I won't lead 'em astray. I've tried to help people that have helped me and I've tried to return that favor. If you don't get a chance that day, maybe in another race as soon as you can. Maybe that will happen."

DO YOU THINK PEOPLE FELL IN LINE BEHIND EARNHARDT BECAUSE THEY FEARED WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN IF THEY PULLED OUT ON HIM?

"No, I don't think it was that. I just literally think that they knew Dale Earnhardt was going to the front at some point in time and if they didn't hook on with him, they're chances of getting a better finish by hooking up with someone else probably weren't as great. So, they were willing to take that chance of jumping in behind Dale and, more times than not, it led 'em right to where they wanted to go." HOW

DO YOU REMEMBER INSTANCES WITH OTHER DRIVERS?

"I think most of the guys, when they talk about who helped or didn't help 'em, they're thinking about who didn't help 'em or hung 'em out. You remember those a lot quicker than those people who helped you, but I think it's pretty easy to go back and relive that part and have an idea of what went on. When I strap in tomorrow, I don't think I'm gonna sit down and say, 'Okay, this guy hung me out last time and I'm not gonna help him much here.' I look for who has got a good car and who is being pretty sensible out there and then we try to work together."

WHAT ABOUT THE CONCENTRATION?

"It's just incredible what you have to do. You're talking literally 11 rows of cars that are four deep. One of them is obviously gonna have three cars in it, but that's pretty much what we've got and you're inches away. You have to be looking so far ahead and around you. This is one place where the good Lord didn't give us enough eyes. You can't put enough mirrors there and the spotters are so far away that they can't help you that much. It's really hard because you've got your eyes going in so many different directions and trying to keep up that it does give you a headache by the time you're finished with 500 miles."

WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE POSITIONED ON THE LAST LAP?

"Generally I like to be out front in control, but I don't think that's the place to be here. I literally think you're gonna have to be somewhere besides in the lead here tomorrow going into the last lap. I could be wrong, but I'm not even sure second is the best place to be. If you can get the right partner, I believe somewhere around fourth or fifth may be the best place to be."

IS THE SO-CALLED SLINGSHOT BACK?

"The guys that are newer to this racing, they don't really know what we've been doing the last 10 or 12 years, so they don't know any different. But for those that have been around, this is the biggest draft that we've seen in a long time and for most of us, we weren't racing at this level whenever that type of thing was happening. You have to kind of go back and remember what you watched and draw from that. More than anything, you just have to be able to pick up that feel of what your car is gonna do and then what you're capable of doing."

HOW CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE DRAFT?

"The closest thing and comparison that's been made a lot is driving down the interstate. If you're running 65 miles an hour behind a truck, you're having to use less throttle than if you were just there breaking the air up yourself. That truck and the air will actually pull you up to the truck. If you held your foot steady running 65, you're gonna run into the back of this truck. Whenever you pull out to pass this truck, then you're gonna realize that in order to get back to 65 miles and hour, you're gonna have to apply more gas to make the car stay at 65. That's basically what it does. The car in front is busting a hole in the air and you're benefiting because you don't have to do that. Your car is going through much cleaner air and it's pulling you along."

HOW INTENSE IS IT AT 200 MILES AN HOUR?

"Well, you're talking about 65 if you multiply that by three, it's gonna happen a whole lot faster. It's just incredible how quick things happen, especially now with the throttle response we do have and how quickly the draft lets you get to the back bumper of that car. I don't think our concern is as much what we're doing, because you can control yours, but you have to look at the effect it has three, four and five cars back, that maybe they can't see things are slowing up a little bit. That guy who is second in line, that has caught the front car, it may not be exactly where he wants to try to make his pass so, instead of doing that, he either puts his foot on the brake a little bit or rolls out of the throttle a little bit and that starts checking things up. The effect moves toward the back and that's when things start happening."

WOULD YOU BE IN FAVOR OR CRUSHABLE FRONT ENDS?

"I don't know that I can answer that because I'm not sure exactly what would be created by that. I think that's something we certainly have to look at and if that would be beneficial in what we're doing. I know that is one of the things that is being looked at and as I get more information on it I could probably answer that a little better."

ARE YOU AND TODD WORKING TOGETHER ON IT?

"That's something NASCAR is looking into also, but, yes, we have discussed it to the point we can. But, along with talks with NASCAR, it's something everybody is paying attention to."

SO YOU HAVE THE SAME FRONT END HERE AS DAYTONA?

"Absolutely, yes. This is the car we raced in the Bud Shootout and we've done nothing different to it."

-30-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte