Jarrett's foes won't concede second title By Marty Smith MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Jan. 28, 2000) Few, if any, of Dale Jarrett's competitors were displeased to see him capture the first NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship of his career in 1999...
Jarrett's foes won't concede second title By Marty Smith
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Jan. 28, 2000) Few, if any, of Dale Jarrett's competitors were displeased to see him capture the first NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship of his career in 1999 -- but that's not to say they want to see it happen again in NASCAR 2000.
This season, Jarrett is NASCAR's most distinctly marked man, but he doesn't plan to remove the "X" from his back anytime soon.
"I don't want to stay in another room besides the one I did in the Waldorf," said Jarrett of the champion's suite at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. "That's enough for me. I think it's just that success breeds success. You win this and that's what you want to do again.
"You've almost come to the point that you don't want to accept anything else. You realize that you're not going to be able to constantly, but there's no reason that we can't at least challenge, and as long as we're challenging for wins and for the championship, then we'll be OK."
Further bolstering Jarrett's run at a repeat performance is the addition of Ricky Rudd as a teammate. Unlike his former mate, 1998 Raybestos Rookie of the Year Kenny Irwin, Rudd is an experienced winner who can add valuable insight to the mix.
"I'm excited about Ricky being there, and that's not slighting Kenny Irwin at all," Jarrett said. "We all know that Kenny is an excellent race driver and will do very well in this series -- he just needs experience. But, having someone like Ricky who has winning experience, that's hard to replace and when you bring somebody in like that, you put a lot of trust and confidence in what he says."
The chemistry between Rudd and Jarrett has already proven itself productive. In a Ford Motor Company test at Daytona International Speedway last week, Rudd's No. 28 Texaco/Havoline ride was second-quickest at 187.699 mph, while Jarrett paced the 2.5-mile oval at 187.118 mph, good enough for seventh-quick. Earlier in the month, when Ford teams tested Talladega Superspeedway, the duo ranked third and fourth, respectively, on the unofficial speed chart.
"I think a lot has to do with the personalities, and I think if you look at Ricky Rudd and myself, we're a lot alike in respects that we are not really looking for headlines, we want to go out and race," Jarrett said. "We want to race to win and if we can help each other do that, I think everything will be fine. If everybody wants to talk about Ricky and his accomplishments, that's going to be fine with Todd (Parrott, crew chief) and me.
"We know how much that 28 team means to Robert Yates and he would like nothing better than to get it back into Victory Lane and challenge for championships and we want to help him do that. We know he's a much happier person when all of that's taking place, so if we can give him two cars that run up front, I think it'll just be better for everyone."
It will be a difficult task for RYR to have a better year than they did in 1999. Jarrett tallied four wins to go along with series-leading totals in top-5s (24) and top-10s (29). And to think, he started the season with a dismal 37th-place finish at Daytona after getting caught up in an accident with Irwin. This year, he hopes to erase the frustration of last year's misfortune and take the first step to his second consecutive title.
At this point, last year doesn't matter anymore.
"All of that's out the window now and this is a totally new season and everybody is at the same place right now," Jarrett said. "Nobody has any points and everybody believes they can win races and win the championship. But, I think (winning the 1999 championship) gives us a confidence level certainly that helps us and puts us a little ahead of others that haven't won it and maybe others that haven't won it recently.
"The knowledge of what it takes to win a championship, to understand the things that you have to do, the pressures you have to go through and handling that; yeah, that's definitely an advantage, because there's a lot more involved there than what I ever anticipated.
"I think that's what gave me a greater appreciation again for Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty and Jeff Gordon in winning multiple championships and what they were able to accomplish there. There are some advantages to being the champion and going through all of that, but as far as preparation-wise or race team-wise, I don't know that it gives you any there, or even on the track."
Jarrett hopes he is proven incorrect. This year, he'll take all the help he can get. He is, after all, a marked man.