Daytona 500: Dale Jarrett preview

DAYTONA BEACH (February 9, 2004) --- Dale Jarrett will compete in the 16th Daytona 500 of his career during this Sunday's running of the "Great American Race" at Daytona International Speedway. Jarrett is the only active NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series...

DAYTONA BEACH (February 9, 2004) --- Dale Jarrett will compete in the 16th Daytona 500 of his career during this Sunday's running of the "Great American Race" at Daytona International Speedway. Jarrett is the only active NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver to have visited the Daytona 500 victory lane three times. If Jarrett picks up the 2004 season-opening win this weekend, he will join NASCAR legend Cale Yarborough as a four-time winner of the Daytona 500 -- second only to Richard Petty who has seven wins in the annual season opener.

In addition to his three Daytona 500 wins, Jarrett has one win in the annual Fourth of July event, the Pepsi 400 for a total of four Nextel Cup wins at the 2.5-mile oval-shaped superspeedway. Jarrett is one of three drivers that still compete in NASCAR Nextel Cup Series events to have four wins at Daytona. The other two drivers are Bill Elliott and Jeff Gordon.

Additionally, Jarrett's win in Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout serves as a good omen for the #88 UPS Racing Team. Jarrett has won the Bud Shootout on two previous occasions (2000 and 1996) and has followed up the Shootout wins with wins in the Daytona 500 a week later.

Dale Jarrett Discusses the Daytona 500

What would it mean to win a fourth Daytona 500?

"I never dreamed I would even win one Daytona 500, let alone three. It's a tough race to win once let a lone multiple times, but to win a fourth Daytona 500 would be incredible. There are only two guys who have one that race more than three times and they are Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough. So if I am added to that list then I'll be in pretty good company with those two guys."

What are the nerves like the morning of the Daytona 500?

"It's probably a little different than for other races. I don't know if nervous is the word I would use but you're ready. You realize this is the one shot and you're going to have to wait 365 days before you have this opportunity again. We have 35 other races, but none of them are as big as the Daytona 500. I think the butterflies definitely double or even triple that morning. Everybody is excited everywhere we go from the UPS hospitality tent to the Coca-Cola hospitality tent -- everybody is excited and they want to know what your chances are and what you think about the race. You get that opportunity to get started early and it all leads up to the biggest time we have and it's probably the most nervous I am before a race all year."

Do any of the three wins in the Daytona 500 stand out from the other?

"I get asked that question a lot, and they each were special for different wins. Obviously, the first win in that race was just incredible because like I said, it is one of those races you only ever dream about winning when you first get started in racing. But then to beat Dale Earnhardt for the win is just unimaginable because he was probably one of the best ever -- if not the best -- at Daytona and everyone knew how much he wanted to win that race and how he had come close but had yet to win that race. Then when I went home and watched the race and listened to my dad that was just incredible because I couldn't hear what he was saying but yet I was doing all the things he was saying in his commentary. Then the win in 1996 was special again because of the guy I was racing for the win at the end in Earnhardt, but also because that was my first race with the No. 88 team. That team had just been put together and to be able to go out and win your first race as a team is incredible. Winning the 500 in 2000 was incredible just because of what we overcame to win that race. We had just won the 1999 championship and to start the year as the defending NASCAR champion by winning the Daytona 500 is pretty cool."

Having won the Daytona 500 three times, what has that accomplishment done for you personally?

"People who aren't necessarily NASCAR fans will tune in to see who wins the Daytona 500 because it is a spectacle. It's the same for people who don't follow the NFL all year but they will watch the Super Bowl. If you win that race your face is all over the news media. It's all over the newspapers and not just in the United States but around the world. That's what I think amazes me was all the correspondence we had from around the world. It does change your life and you had better be ready for that. Parents who have children know how much having a child changes your life. Winning the Daytona 500 does a lot of the same things. It takes a lot of that time you had before and you have to become a better time manager. It opens a lot of doors."

How hard is it to win the Daytona 500?

"The effort that's put forth to win this race, in the percentage of time that you put forth and the effort that's made probably hasn't changed over the years for race teams. There's nowhere else that we go and test three days. The amount of hours spent in the wind tunnel and cutting and re-building cars is just incredible. It just takes that type of effort. When it gets down to race day, you better know your job and how to do it better than others. Again, that's what makes this special because you realize when you win this race you've beaten the very best at their best because we've had the most time to prepare for this race. This is a huge race. This is what it's all about. It's almost hard to explain. If you haven't been down there and understand and been a part of what this race is and being in that Victory Lane, it's almost hard to imagine just how much it does for your career and for your confidence. There's nothing like it. You can race everywhere else there is to race and winning this race - the Daytona 500 - is the best thing that there is aside from the season championship. For a one race victory, there's nothing like it. You better have a team that's ready to put forth a lot of hard work and a lot of hours."


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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bill Elliott , Dale Jarrett , Richard Petty , Cale Yarborough