Daytona Ford Friday notes

Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus, will go for his third straight win at Daytona on Saturday. He spoke about starting from the pole and the opportunity to tie Cale Yarborough as the only drivers to win ...

Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus, will go for his third straight win at Daytona on Saturday. He spoke about starting from the pole and the opportunity to tie Cale Yarborough as the only drivers to win three in a row at this facility.

DALE JARRETT --88-- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- DO YOU THINK THIS COULD COME DOWN TO A DALE VS. DALE FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "We could and nothing would suit me better, but we've got a guy that's out there in front of us that we've got to contend with. I think he probably has the best organization going right now with the way that they're performing at every race track and that's Bobby Labonte. But, it would be great. Nothing would be better. I've said it many times, he's a good friend. He's helped me in many ways throughout my career. He was probably one of the first guys to congratulate me on the championship last year. He talked to me all throughout last year and he was always there for me to talk with about different things that were going on, so he's a friend but he's a competitor too. Obviously, he has more experience at winning these championships than Bobby and I put together and we could take a lot of other people and add them to that mix and he'd still have more experience. We know that he's gonna be tough as this goes on and as the season winds down, if he can hang around and we certainly feel he will, it's gonna be interesting to see. You've got a guy that's hungry for his first championship in Bobby and a guy in second wanting to become the all-time leader in championships in this, so maybe they'll get to racing each other and we can slide by both of them. I wouldn't count on that happening, but it's gonna be a fun race. There are still a lot of other guys that are in the mix, but if it could come down to Dale and Dale there would be nothing more exciting for me." CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR DOMINANCE HERE AT DAYTONA OF LATE? "It shouldn't be worded that it's my dominance, it should be our team because that's what it is. It's not anything that I do. Certainly, when it gets into race type situations you have to know what to do with the equipment that you have and I have very good equipment, it's just a matter of me getting myself in the right position to take advantage of that on race day and race night. This is just a place like. I enjoy the draft. I enjoy the challenge that it presents. The challenge that we have as far as getting the setup right where I don't have to come out of the gas, where I can use that horsepower all that time and that's what the key is -- that we get our car that good that I don't have to get out of the throttle." HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THE MANY DIFFERENT WINNERS THIS YEAR? "Everybody has a lot of different reasons and they're probably all valid, but to hit some of the high points I think there are teams that have been together longer now, they're more experienced together. We have drivers that have more experience and more dollars in the sport now than ever before, so all of that translates into more teams being more competitive. The other factor, and I think the biggest one, is the new Goodyear tire and the way it has made more teams competitive. It's helped teams that maybe struggled with handling at some of these tracks, it's helped their performance which is a good thing. It's brought more people into the mix. Now we have certainly 15-20 teams that you can count on that have a chance of getting into victory lane and then you throw in another eight or nine, maybe 10, that on any given race day can hit the right setup and be in the mix. That means you've gotta outrun a lot of cars. When they hit it right and things don't go exactly right for you, then you're gonna see some new faces up there and that's only good for the sport." CAN YOU SPEAK TO THE MAGNITUDE OF POSSIBLY WINNING THREE STRAIGHT RACES HERE? "Again, it's more that I have the equipment to do it. Yeah, it's something that would be pretty special to me, especially to know that it's Cale Yarborough that has done that and Cale really was one of the first ones to give me my first break, really, in Winston Cup racing. I have the utmost respect for him and what he accomplished in this sport and to think that we have the chance here to do something that he did is pretty special. I love this race track and it makes it even better when you have good equipment and you know you have the equipment that's capable of winning, I just have to go out and do my job. It would be a special feat for us. The main Saturday night because we know that's the main way we can gain some points on Bobby Labonte and Dale Earnhardt who are the two in front of us in points. That would enable us to know that we have picked up some points and the way those two guys race, you have to take advantage of every opportunity that you have. We know that this is a race track where we have an opportunity to win coming in here and it would be a chance for us to pick up some points. Both of them run well here. Obviously, both of them have that same chance at winning, but we know with the equipment that we have and the background we have here that this is a chance for us to gain some points." HOW PROUD OF YOU ARE OF THIS TEAM TO BUILD A CAR LIKE THIS AND WIN THE POLE? "Very proud. I mean, that shows the type of organization that we have that they can do something like this. There aren't a lot of teams out here that can do that. It could be devastating if you're not careful of having a very good car taken away because these things are so particular. Really, they give me good aerodynamic cars every week and here where it is critical and the engine guys do their job which makes it that much better." HOW EASY IS IT TO HAVE RICKY BY YOUR SIDE UP FRONT? "It's nice to know I have someone there -- most of the guys up there you're not concerned with, but I know we're gonna race hard. We both want to lead a lap and get those bonus points to start with and we'll try to make that happen for both of us early in the race and get that out of the way, and then hopefully we can fall in line and race each other to victory lane." DO YOU SEE THINGS BEING JUST AS RACEY HERE AS TALLADEGA WITH THE RULES? "No reason to think that it won't be. We obviously can't race the four-wide that we do there, but there are places we can get three-wide here and probably will. I see no reason to think that, other than later in a run as the tires wear here and the handling comes more into play, things can get strung out a little bit. But I see too many cars in the mix for much of that to happen, so I see a lot of the racing like we saw at Talladega." FORDS HAVE DOMINATED QUALIFYING AT DAYTONA WHILE CHEVROLETS DOMINATED AT TALLADEGA. DOES THIS TRACK FAVOR FORD? "I don't see that at all. At the end of that race it's just a toss up. When you get late in that race it's just a matter of positioning yourself and it doesn't matter if you're driving a Ford, a Pontiac or a Chevrolet, if you get yourself in a position with the right partner you can get to the front and you can win." THIS RACE ENDED PRETTY STRANGELY LAST YEAR, BUT YOU DID WHAT YOU HAD TO IN ORDER TO WIN. "Yeah, we did. We got ourselves in a position to do that with a very, very quick pit stop and probably not getting as much gas in as we needed to get but it was enough. The way it turned out here, even under caution, you don't save much fuel. We've learned that by tests here, so there's not much difference so even if it would have gone green we would have been able to make it. They think because they had a couple of tires there that they would have beaten us, but I think different. He was gonna have to have more than just tires to pass our car, but it was an interesting race. A lot of things happened there late and I felt before the caution came out we were in pretty good shape." AS A RACE FAN THEY PAY TO SEE YOU AND EARNHARDT ON THE LAST LAP. "Oh yeah, I'd pay to see me and Earnhardt on the last lap here, so it's a shame that we didn't get back to green where they could see that. We've raced here a number of times and, fortunately, the last few years anyway I've come out on the better end of a lot of them here. But as I told him, he kids me about the three Daytona 500s and he only has one, but he's way up in the championship department. At least I've scratched in that department now because it used to be 7-0, but I'd like nothing better than for it to come down to he and I on Saturday night and I think the race fans deserve something like that." AS LONG AS IT'S YOU AND SOMEBODY ELSE, YOU REALLY DON'T CARE. "I'd prefer it to be me and Ricky and Dale finish a couple positions back because we need to gain some points, but it is fun racing him (laughing)."

WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO TIE CALE YARBOROUGH? "It would mean a lot to tie somebody like Cale Yarborough at something like that is pretty special. I'm a little bit into the history of the sport and things like that are pretty neat for me, especially somebody like Cale, who gave me a great opportunity early in my career to get into Winston Cup racing so it would be pretty special. With the competition level the way it is this day and time, to think that one team could come here and win three straight races is pretty amazing, but that shows how good our race team is." HOW DID CALE HELP YOU? "At the end of '87 as he was retiring, his last year was in '88, he chose me to drive his car in the races he didn't run that year and then full-time in '89, so even though I was in Winston Cup in '87 that was the first big break I ever got." YOU'VE LIKED THIS PLACE FROM THE START, BUT IT'S NOT SOMETHING YOU GREW UP DRIVING ON. "No, it's not but you look at Earnhardt too -- it's not like Concord (Motorsports Park) or anything like that, so I think it's just things that you adapt to, you like the challenge it presents. He's been through a lot more changes from the days of all different types of cars he's raced here and the speeds that he's raced. I came along here, basically after we'd gone to the restrictor plates, but I've still seen a lot of changes in the size of the plates, the rear spoilers and everything that we do to go fast, but through all of that the thing that hasn't changed is learning about the draft and how to use it -- how to use other cars, where you can get that air that maybe not everybody knows about. I enjoy that and trying to find that, but I got it -- there's no reason not to be honest -- watching him. He's been the master of it and I still watch him in races today because there are things I can learn." IS THIS TITLE RACE GOING TO BE AS GOOD AS IT LOOKS LIKE? "It's a pretty good scenario and there are a lot of other guys that are right there that are hungry for championships too. I think this thing is far from over and I think it has the possibility of being the most exciting championship race we've ever seen with more guys in the mix than what we're used to seeing." IT'S FUN TO BE IN THE MIX? "Oh, it is -- it's fun. With where we're at right now with our sport, with new TV packages and new race tracks coming on board, the sports at its highest level ever and to have Dale Earnhardt in a championship battle couldn't be better and I couldn't be more proud than to be there racing with him." THAT RAISES THE BAR FOR EVERYONE. "It really does. Bobby Labonte is someone who is very experienced. He's won Busch Grand National championships and he's a lot like Terry, you won't find a cooler customer than him so it's gonna be a lot of fun I hope." ANY PREDICTIONS? "I'd like to sit here and say we're gonna win this, but Bobby's in the catbird seat right now. They're very consistent and very good at what they do and we're just gonna have to stay focused on what we do and maybe that will be good enough and maybe it won't. We understand where he was sitting last year in looking for us to make a mistake and a lot of times that doesn't happen. They're a good enough team that they can perform well at every track, but I've got to think at the very least it will come down to three cars at Atlanta and we'll be one of those."

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Valvoline/Cummins Taurus, announced today that his primary sponsor for the 2001 season will be Pfizer. He spoke about the sponsorship change and about his accident one year ago in which he had to race with a broken left wrist, broken rib and injured knee.

MARK MARTIN --6-- Valvoline/Cummins Taurus -- CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW MUCH THIS DEAL IS WORTH? "I personally don't agree with putting your laundry out like that. I don't think companies and teams and sponsors should be talking about that. You guys don't tell each other what you all make. I don't sit around with other drivers and talk about what I get paid. To me, that's something that's just business. I believe a year or a year-and-a-half from now I will have a letter that comes to me from a fan that says thank you for saving my daddy's life or my husband's -- that's very possible and that's important. To me, what's really important, is what you can do and that's rare. I'm excited about it and I really think it's a great company. This sport is moving toward that and when you brought up the Jeff Gordon deal, or, if there are gonna be changes with some of the other top teams coming up, I think that the sport is growing. You all know that. There are twice as many of you here at this thing than would have been five years ago. There are more teams out there with good funding and more fans in the stands every year, so I see this sport evolving with that and that's part of what we're doing here." CAN YOU RELIVE THE LAST YEAR AND HOW YOU FELT THE LAST HALF OF LAST YEAR VERSUS THE FIRST PART OF THIS YEAR? "Well, I did a lot more smiling the first half of this year than last year. Even when things weren't going good on the race track for us. Injuries are one thing, and having back problems or broken bones that's one thing, and that's why I said how excited I was to get chosen to be on the men's health initiative. Everything else I've ever done in motorsports I've tried to sell the fans something. I never tried to give them something that could possibly make a difference in their whole quality of life, so I really think there's something special about that. They've supported me for 25 years and NASCAR has enabled me to reach out and touch so many people and convince them to go see a doctor. I just think that this is a neat opportunity for me to come in here and really go full force. It fits me perfectly. I don't have to change my lifestyle. I can set the example. It's not something I say that I do that I really don't do, it's a cause I believe in and I think it's neat to be associated in this way." WAS THE 400 MILES HERE AT DAYTONA A YEAR AGO AS TOUGH AS ANY YOU'VE EVER DRIVEN? "It was tougher than any. I just can't tell you. It hurt so bad I can't even remember. It was just unbelievable. We didn't have anybody to get in the car and I wasn't gonna get out anyway. It was just a lot of pain. The wrist, the little cast thing we had on it, just about killed me but we got through it. The next race was real tough because I didn't find out the knee was broken until Tuesday and had the surgery Wednesday. Then I had to go to New Hampshire Thursday and qualify Friday. The knee was in bad shape after the surgery, so that was a tough weekend for us too. We had a good result up there anyway, a good top-10 finish, and I just had my eye on the target -- that Winston Cup championship. No matter how bad it gets all that does is make me more determined. The worse I hurt, the harder it is. The more devastating the situation, the more determined I get, and I gave it everything I had." IN SOME WAYS DOES MISERY MAKE YOU BETTER? "It probably makes me more determined, yes. That might be a shame, I don't know, but adversity typically gets a determined response from me -- it always has. I've always stood up to it, whether it was being bullied by somebody I couldn't handle or whatever. It's always sort of forced me, maybe not rise to the occasion, but it's sort of pulled everything that I have."

Kevin Lepage, driver of the No. 16 Taurus, and Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Taurus, went to the garage early after being involved in a practice accident. Kenseth has been forced to a backup car for Saturday night's race while Lepage's team was welding new sheetmetal to the right-side of his primary car.

KEVIN LEPAGE --16-- Taurus -- "I'm pretty sure what happened is there were a couple cars in front of me. I believe the 20 was out of shape a little bit and the 17 checked up, but the 4 car got in the back of him. I saw the 17 swerving left and right, and I really thought he saved it. I was as low to the race track except for going on the apron, which I didn't want to do, and the next think you know the 17 just got me in the door. I hate it for the guys because this was a brand new Ford Taurus and we christened it in practice. Maybe we got it out of the way and we won't have to worry about it come tomorrow night."

MATT KENSETH --17-- DeWalt Taurus -- "It all started in front of me. The 20 car got sideways. I think somebody hit him in the side and he (the 20 car) was all the way sideways, so I slowed down for him so I wouldn't run him over. He was trying to gather his car back up, so I put my hand up but the 4 car was real close behind me and he hit me in the back and spun me out. I didn't really have any control." WHAT ABOUT YOUR BACKUP CAR. "We'll see what happens. We finished 10th with this car in the Daytona 500 so at least we've run it. It should be halfway decent. It's not as fast as the other one by itself, but, hopefully, it'll still run alright."

PPI Motorsports announced today that Brad Parrott has been hired as the new crew chief for Scott Pruett and the No. 32 Tide Taurus. Parrott will assume his new duties next weekend at the Jiffy Lube 300 in Loudon, N.H. after concluding his responsibilities with Dale Jarrett and the No. 88 Quality Care Service/Ford Credit race team Saturday night.

BRAD PARROTT, Crew Chief --32-- Tide Taurus -- YOU MUST BE EXCITED ABOUT THIS OPPORTUNITY. "This is kind of ironic because the first time I ever went go-kart racing was back in 1982 in a week-long event called the "King of Karting". It brought racers from all over the United States and the guy who won that event was Scott Pruett. That's the first time I ever heard of him, but I've always made it a point over the years to speak to Scott at the IROC races. We haven't gotten to really talk a whole lot about where we're headed with each other, but with my background and his background it's only gonna go to the top." HAVE YOU FELT ANY PRESSURE TO DO THIS BECAUSE OF WHAT BUDDY AND TODD HAVE DONE AS CREW CHIEFS? "Definitely what they've done impacted me in my decision to take this job. My dad told me that he was 37 when he took his first crew chief job, so I've got a four-year jump on him because he's been doing it for 20 years. Todd did it when he was 32 and I'm doing it when I'm 33. The difference between Todd and myself in doing it is that Todd was more hands-on with Rusty Wallace before he took this job (with the 88 team). He had three years of communicating with the driver. For the last four-and-a-half years that I've been here at Robert's, I've had to go through Todd to communicate with the driver, but I've taken every written note and every mental note and I think I know where to go with the crew chief aspect. The whole thing with the crew chief and the driver is communication. If you can communicate with anybody you're gonna succeed. Communication is the biggest part of this business." HOW HARD OF A DECISION IS IT TO LEAVE THIS RACE TEAM? "Very hard. Plain and simple, they're the best in the business. They're the best in the business because everybody has input and with the input everybody has it makes Todd's job easier and it makes Robert's job easier. You go out and hire the best people and they've put together the best people. This wasn't a deal where Cal Wells came to me and said, 'You come and work for me.' I let it be known that I was out looking for a crew chief job and it just seemed to happen quicker than I thought it would." HOW WAS CONTACT MADE WITH THE 32 TEAM? "They went to Doug Yates and asked him if I was available to talk and Doug gave them the OK through Robert. Robert Yates has always been a place where when you feel like you're at the top of your game and your communication is there, you go and do something else and they gave me the OK to do this. I don't think they want to lose me, but it's a deal where I think they're happy to see that they've got another guy out of their shop that goes on to be a crew chief and, hopefully, a successful one." YOU HAVE A CHALLENGE AHEAD OF YOU WITH A NEW TEAM. IS THIS WHAT YOU WANTED OR WOULD YOU HAVE HOPED FOR A MORE VETERAN TEAM? "Two years ago I would have said that I had to go with a team that had a winning record and a winning driver. Knowing what I know now, and some people might not say I know a lot, but we're gonna find out. The opportunity to go work for Cal Wells and Scott Pruett and the Tide Racing team is the next steppingstone. Are they looking for Brad Parrott to turn their team around? Yes they are and Brad Parrott feels like he can turn it around. I've had a lot of jobs. I'm one of the few people in the garage area that's got a shirt from almost every race team, but I've learned a lot everywhere I've been. I've learned how to hopefully treat people, how to communicate with the driver and communicate with the crew." WHAT HAVE YOU SEEN FROM THE 32 TEAM THAT YOU LIKE OR FEEL NEEDS TO BE CHANGED? "The whole deal is I think they're looking for an experienced, up-and-coming guy to lead them. I think in the last six months they've learned a lot about NASCAR racing and how different these cars are from Indy cars. It's a live and learn type of deal. They've got a guy coming over there in myself that is going to say,

'This is what I've seen and I believe we need to lean in this direction.' I think Doug (Richert) gave them that direction, but for whatever reason it didn't work out. Now they're going from Doug Richert to Brad Parrott. I've been in victory lane as a Winston Cup crewman 41 times and to back that up I've won a championship and finished second in the points on three occasions. I think they were looking for somebody that knows how to win championships, somebody that has been there, somebody that can go and say, 'you guys have got to pit now.' Yes, I'm gonna make my mistakes. I don't look to make a whole lot because of the fact that in the back of my head over the last couple of years leading up to this responsibility, I've learned to teach myself, 'why do you want to do this?' I've asked a lot of questions and got a lot of answers." ARE YOU HAPPY, ANXIOUS, NERVOUS? "It's a good feeling anytime somebody thinks you can get the job done, so in that respect I'm not nervous at all, I guess, until whenever I land on top of that pit box and call my first race."

SCOTT PRUETT --32-- Tide Taurus -- "Many people don't know but my relationship with Brad goes back to 1982. I met him and his family when I was still racing go-karts. I went to Charlotte and did the whole King of Karting and that's where I first met him. And then through the IROC races and some of the other Winston Cup events I went to, he was one of the familiar faces I'd go and talk to, so, for me, I think he's going to be of tremendous assistance to the team. We been talking and trying to find someone for that position that had the depth, the knowledge and also could integrate into our program. It's a tough thing to do -- one, to find a crew chief with that sort of experience and those kind of credentials and, two, be able to integrate with our program so I think it's pretty special." DOES IT SEEM STRANGE AFTER THAT INITIAL ENCOUNTER THAT NOW THIS KID IS GOING TO BE CALLING THE SHOTS FOR YOU? "We were both kids at the time. I was 21 and he was probably 14 or so, but it's just amazing to me that you continually see how people come back through your lives and how you end up places. Here I am in Winston Cup and a year ago at this time I would have never dreamed about being here, so I think it's pretty exciting that he's gonna be part of our time. He comes from not just a great family and a great heritage, but the program in which he's currently involved is tremendous in itself." ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT POSSIBLY STARTING OVER AGAIN FROM A COMMUNICATION STANDPOINT? "No, not really. I don't think we're gonna start over. I was starting from ground zero, from scratch, and even though I still have a lot to learn and a lot to understand, I'm starting to get a lot better understanding of what to ask for and what I need. Roy McCulley has been tremendous from the engineering side of it, but we didn't have somebody with the depth, with the knowledge, with the history that could really give us a better understanding of where we needed to go instead of us trying to find our way in the dark. I see him being a real good addition to the whole program." IT LOOKS LIKE A GOOD FIT IN THAT YOU'RE BOTH STARTING NEW CAREERS AT THE SAME TIME. "Exactly and it's gonna take some time. No matter what, even in the best set of circumstances, relationships are gonna take a little time to jell but that's one of the things we knew going into it this year. Cal and Tide and myself, we knew that this was the year for us to try to get things right -- to get the people in place, to get the right race cars, to get the right setups that we're looking for in qualifying and the race, and really take what we learn this year and apply it to next season and beyond. We'd much rather make the change now rather than later. We see him being a real good guy that we can build our program with this year and many years down the road. I'm excited to get going."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Rusty Wallace , Kevin Lepage , Scott Pruett , Robert Yates , Doug Richert , Cale Yarborough , Mark Martin