FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES Daytona 500 February 15, 2000 Daytona International Speedway Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus, made a round-trip flight from Daytona Beach to Las ...
FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES Daytona 500 February 15, 2000 Daytona International Speedway
Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus, made a round-trip flight from Daytona Beach to Las Vegas yesterday in order to accept is ESPY award for Driver of the Year. He spoke about that experience and about this week's upcoming Twin 125 and Daytona 500.
DALE JARRETT --88-- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- HOW WERE THE ESPY AWARDS LAST NIGHT? "It was a great experience and I'm glad I had that opportunity to go and see such world-class athletes." HOW WAS THE TRIP TO LAS VEGAS? "It was short or long, however you want to look at it. It was in and out pretty quick, but it was great. We enjoyed the time with the Earnhardts, Kelley and I had a great time. It was just an incredible hour's experience in the green room and to have a chance to meet some of my heroes. I had time to talk to a lot of different people. Peyton Manning, Joe Torre, Dan Patrick from ESPN, Mark McGuire, Tiger Woods, Ben Crenshaw, Justin Leonard, Juli Inkster...I could go on and on. I was standing there and I'm not one to get autographs, but I could have got a lot. Just the opportunity to stand and talk to these people and be in the same room with them was just incredible." DO YOU THINK NASCAR ATHLETES ARE ON THE SAME LEVEL AS THOSE YOU JUST MENTIONED? "I think so. It depends on how you look at athletes, but in talking to those people they knew who I was and who Earnhardt was and they kept up with our sport. A majority of them congratulated me, before I even said who I was, on the victories we had Sunday and winning the pole so they keep up with other sports too. So I think our sport has come a long way in the fact that they do recognize us." WHAT'S YOUR APPROACH FOR THURSDAY? "To try to win...try to keep Earnhardt from winning 11 in a row." CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE RACE YOU'RE IN. IT'S PRETTY LOADED. "It's pretty incredible. When I saw it there this morning...it's not that either race is easy, but, man, I started down our race and I said, 'We'll know where we stand for the 500 aside from Ricky.' That's not to take away from the other guys, but if you look at guys that you think about who have an opportunity to win the Daytona 500, there are a lot of them in that first qualifying race. We'll know where we stand. That's gonna be exciting and I think every one of us, as much as we enjoy Earnhardt, we're all out to end that streak." CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW THINGS HAVE GO SO FAR? "It's gone probably better than we would have anticipated and could have hoped for. We've got some good race cars and things have gone our way right now. We just have to keep working because the main things are coming up." IS YOUR CAR READY TO GO FOR SUNDAY? "We're pretty close. We haven't been out in a 50-lap run like we'll see on Thursday in the 125. You won't be in that type of race condition, even in practice, so once we see that and know what the car is gonna do for a full 50 laps without changing tires or anything, we'll have a lot better idea. But we think we're pretty close." DO THE CHANGES THAT WERE MADE IN THE RULES MAKE THE TEAM WORK THAT MUCH HARDER TO FIND AN EDGE? "I think everybody comes here excited to start a new season. You've got everybody in place and I think you have to have that kind of killer instinct when you come here because everybody is here with their very best equipment. If you show up here and you're struggling, it's hard to find throughout the week. We've got a good close-knit group and it's important that we keep those guys happy, just like the rewards they got this past weekend of getting into victory lane already. Even though it was just for those two races, that's excitement for them and shows them that their hard work is paying off." IT'S PRETTY HARD TO BELIEVE THAT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WINNING AND FINISHING 15TH IS SO SMALL, ISN'T IT? "It's incredible. You make the wrong move here Sunday and you can go back 20 spots in a hurry. Everybody has caught up. I was watching a race just the other night on ESPN Classic from about six or seven years ago and the field was so strung out around here it was amazing. Now, 30 cars go by the start-finish line in a blink of an eye, so it's pretty amazing what has happened." WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF STARTING UP FRONT SUNDAY? "It's great. It's great for our team and gives them a lot of confidence going in. It gives our sponsors a lot of exposure all week. It's great to start there as long as I can stay there for a little bit, to kind of get things to shake out. You realize that no matter where you start the Daytona 500, you're gonna see most of those positions throughout the day. You're gonna go back somewhat, you're gonna get out of line and get shuffled out of line a couple of times, but it's nice to start up there and know we have the opportunity to lead some laps early." HAS LAST YEAR CARRIED OVER TO THIS YEAR? "I think anytime you win a championship that carries over a lot of confidence. We've kept our people excited and happy and I think it's made a big difference." YOU'VE WON THIS RACE TWICE, HOW DOES IT FEEL KNOWING YOU COULD BE THERE AGAIN? "It's a great feeling to know that we know how to win it, that's important, but that really doesn't matter for this year. There are other guys in here that have won it and, certainly, there are guys that haven't won it that you wonder why they haven't won it and think that their time is coming up. Still, we have a lot of confidence going in because of last year and previous years and opportunities that we've had at winning this race." IS THIS THE BEST YOU'VE BEEN DOWN HERE? IT SEEMS YOU JUST GET BETTER AND BETTER? "A lot of effort has been put forth. We haven't run as well here, especially in qualifying the last couple of years. We've run well in the races, but we haven't been the car to beat whenever you talk about speed. Now this year, between the engine department and Todd's work in the fab shop with our aero package, I think that it's given us that opportunity to be fast and feel good about what we're doing. I think with what we know about the draft and all of that, it gives us a lot of confidence going in." HOW NICE IS IT TO KNOW YOU'VE GOT THE CAR TO STAY UP FRONT AND OUT OF TROUBLE? "Yeah, but you can get yourself in trouble up front too. Just because we have a fast race car doesn't mean that's necessarily gonna keep us out of trouble, but what it lets me do is be very patient. Last year I knew that with the car we had, if I did everything right it would give us a chance to win, but if I got out of line at all, then I was going back and I was gonna struggle to make my way back. I have a fast enough car this year that I can be very, very patient and if things don't go right at that particular time, I know if I drop back that I can work my way back to the front." CAN YOU TALK ABOUT NOT LETTING UP AFTER WINNING THE TITLE? "I think we wanted to make sure we didn't have any letdowns. When you reach the plateau that we did, you don't want to come back down -- you realize that's what you want to do all the time. It's understandable why Richard Petty and Earnhardt and these guys have won multiple championships because once you get a taste of that it's what you want to do. We want to make sure that we continue to work hard. It's a hard pace to keep up, but the guys that want to win do it." HOW DOES IT FEEL WHEN OTHERS SAY YOU'RE THE CAR TO BEAT? "Even though all of them are saying that, they believe in their heart that they're the ones that can beat our car and that they plan on doing that. They wouldn't be here if they didn't think they could get the job done out there drafting and they realize that especially Sunday, it's a long, long day. You have to be patient and anything can happen. No matter how fast your car is, you have to make sure you do everything right on Sunday. You have to do it right getting in and out of the pits, keep yourself in position, and keep yourself out of trouble. There are a lot of things that have to do on, even though we have a fast car, to make sure we get into victory lane."
Jimmy Spencer, driver of the No. 26 Big Kmart Taurus, celebrated his 43rd birthday at Daytona International Speedway today with his mother (Fran), father (Ed), and his entire race team. He spoke about having one more candle on the top of his birthday cake.
JIMMY SPENCER --26-- Big Kmart Taurus -- HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JIMMY. "You can't talk about your birthday. I'm getting to the age where you want to start reversing the years (laughing). My children (Jimmy and Katrina) sent me a real nice outfit. I'm really proud of them. I miss them and that's the only thing I miss on my birthday is that sometimes my wife (Pat) and kids aren't here. They'll be here tomorrow night, so we'll have a good time and go out for a little birthday party." YOUR MOM TOOK CARE OF YOU THOUGH, DIDN'T SHE? "My mom will always take care of me. She brought me a cake this morning. My dad's here. I said to my mom, 'I don't know how you put up with me for nine months let alone 43 years.' Anyway, at this age birthdays don't mean a whole lot to us, but when my children have birthdays they're really special. The kids are at the age now (Jimmy is 13 and Katrina is 11) where they're getting me presents and I think it's pretty neat. That's more special than anything I've got right now."