Jarrett to make 500th start this weekend. "The challenge of Darlington is unbelievable. I mean, you can't go out and build tracks like that anymore. It's as hard of an afternoon as you'll have as a driver, but it's very gratifying and rewarding...
Jarrett to make 500th start this weekend.
"The challenge of Darlington is unbelievable. I mean, you can't go
out and build tracks like that anymore. It's as hard of an afternoon as
you'll have as a driver, but it's very gratifying and rewarding if you
can be fortunate enough to stay off of the wall and do well. The two ends
are so totally different. Trying to get a car setup for both is almost
impossible, so the driver really has to do his part."
Dale Jarrett on Darlington Raceway
Jarrett Will Make 500th Winston Cup Start This Weekend . . . Dale Jarrett will reach a career milestone this weekend at Darlington Raceway when he makes the 500th start of his NASCAR Winston Cup Series career. Jarrett made his Winston Cup debut in 1984 at Martinsville Speedway when Emanuel Zervakis put him behind the wheel of a Winston Cup car. Since that spring day in 1984, Jarrett has gone on to score 31 Winston Cup wins as well as a Winston Cup Series championship. Jarrett makes his 500th start at a track he considers special.
"I guess my winning percentage isn't very good when you look at it that way," Jarrett joked about his 500th start. "It's hard to believe it's been 500 races. There are a lot of them I can remember and a lot of them I can forget, too. Darlington is a pretty special place for that. There are a lot of things that have taken place there, whether it was my career or my dad's career. I remember being there when he won the Southern 500 and basically clinched the championship in 1965, but, aside from that, I've been very fortunate as a driver to do well there."
Jarrett's record at Darlington speaks for itself as he has three wins, 11 top fives and 13 top 10s. Despite Jarrett's passion for Darlington and its memories, it wasn't until the 1997 spring race that he finally conquered the track to where he ended the day in victory lane.
"That was a big thing because you know how difficult that race track is for 400 or 500 miles," Jarrett said. "When you look at the names that have done well there and know that you can put yourself in that group of people that have won races there it is pretty special."
Jarrett's success at Darlington improved dramatically after joining the #88 Robert Yates Racing team in 1996. He sat on the pole for the '96 Southern 500, and went on to win at the very next race in March 1997. Jarrett and the #88 UPS Team has combined for nine top-five finishes, including three wins, in 14 starts at Darlington.
Learning to Get Around Darlington . . . Dale Jarrett knew from an early age the importance of knowing how to navigate Darlington in order to finish the race. Jarrett asked some of the business' best for advice.
"One of the reasons I've done well there is due to the help I got from people like Harry Gant," Jarrett explained. "I just asked him one day how you get around that place when I was in the Busch Series and he explained how he did it. I watched David Pearson and then being able to compete against him in the Busch Series there, and then watching Dale Earnhardt helped, too. Those are three different styles, but I picked up a little bit from each of them and utilized each of those styles at different points in probably every race."
Jarrett passed that information along in 1996 when a youngster from Virginia asked for advice about getting around the 1.017-mile track. Elliott Sadler, who is now Jarrett's teammate, was that driver.