DJ Looking for First Southern 500 Win CHARLOTTE , N.C. , ( November 9, 2004 ) ---- Darlington Raceway hosts NASCAR's oldest event with this weekend's running of the Southern 500. Although traditionally run Labor Day weekend, the 2004 Southern...
DJ Looking for First Southern 500 Win
CHARLOTTE , N.C. , ( November 9, 2004 ) ---- Darlington Raceway hosts NASCAR's oldest event with this weekend's running of the Southern 500. Although traditionally run Labor Day weekend, the 2004 Southern 500 will feature a "Fall" flavor with the event taking place in mid-November. The race length remains the same but the track conditions will be decidedly different. While the 1.366-mile Darlington Raceway is a physically challenging track on both driver and car, it won't be quite the same challenge when drivers aren't facing the sweltering heat that has gone along with the race in the past.
Dale Jarrett has competed in 17 Southern 500 events. Jarrett has three wins at Darlington , but has never won a Southern 500 at the famed track that is "too tough to tame." His best finish in Darlington 's 500-mile event to date is third -- picking up back-to-back third-place finishes in the Southern 500 in 1997 and 1998.
After coming off a tough weekend at Phoenix , a win in the Southern 500 would be even sweeter for the #88 UPS Racing Team. The team was running in the top 10 at PIR before making contact with Jamie McMurray in the closing stages of the race. With a cut rear tire, Jarrett had to pit with less than 20 laps to go and was unable to make up many positions before the race ended.
Dale Jarrett Discusses Racing at Darlington Raceway
How much would it mean to you to win the Southern 500?
"This is probably the one race that I have not one that would mean the most to me. It's a race that has helped to build this sport. To me, the Southern 500 just has the same sound as races like the Daytona 500 or the World 600. I've been fortunate enough to win at Darlington, but not the Southern 500 and that would mean a lot to me. Knowing the history of this sport and being there with my dad when he won there in 1965 was just incredible. So this is definitely the one race that I don't have on my resume right now that I'd really like to have."
Where does Darlington rank to you as far as being difficult for a driver to handle?
"Every track we visit is difficult for one reason or another being the weather, the track surface, the banking -- all have their own tendencies and characteristics. But I really have to put Darlington in a category all by itself because Darlington seems to have a little bit of all the things that make other tracks tough. First, the track surface is rough like we get at Talladega . It just seems like the track goes to lunch on tires during a race at Darlington. Then the track has banking -- not quite like what we get at Bristol but enough to make it physically demanding in that respect. But the other thing that makes this track so difficult is the racing groove and how close to the wall it is. You feel like you're brushing right along the wall at the exit of turn four and it must look exciting to fans to see the cars come out of that turn. If you miss the handling just a little bit then you're going to earn that Darlington stripe at the exit of turn four pretty easily."
How do you feel about this being the last "Southern 500" in that the name changes next year for Darlington's lone race in May?
"This is probably the toughest one because I've been coming to this race since I was a kid watching my dad race. I know that there has to be change. If we kept things the same then it wouldn't be nearly as exciting, even though there are some things you wonder why we couldn't keep them the same. But, again, I understand where we're at because of the popularity of the sport and a lot of the popularity for this sport comes from the media and the networks and the opportunity that they've given us. They kind of tell us where to be and when to be there, but change sometimes takes a little getting used to and this is one of those that is going to take some time to get used to."
Notes of Interest
* Jarrett has three career wins at the 1.366-mile Darlington Raceway, but has yet to score one in the track's 500-mile event. All three of Jarrett's wins at Darlington have taken place with the #88 Robert Yates Racing Team.
* While Jarrett has yet to visit the Southern 500 victory lane for a win of his own, he has visited the event's winner's circle with his dad, Ned Jarrett. The elder Jarrett won the Southern 500 in 1965 by a record-setting 11 laps. If Dale is able to pick up the win in this weekend's Southern 500, it will mark the first father-son duo to win the historic event.
The UPS Racing Team will field its most reliable chassis during this weekend's Southern 500. Chassis 28 is the car Jarrett will race this weekend. Chassis 28 has raced seven times in 2004 and has finished in the top 10 five of the seven races. The two races in which it finished outside the top 10 were at Pocono when in June the motor failed with only five laps to go and Jarrett running in fourth place. A transmission failure at Pocono in August prevented Jarrett from picking up another top-10 finish with Chassis 28. The car's best finish is at Indianapolis where Jarrett finished second. The car was raced at both events in Michigan, as well as at Chicago and Kansas.
Jarrett's Career Record at Darlington Raceway