Jarrett Wins Budweiser Shootout; History Repeats as 2004 Ford Taurus Wins Debut * Just like in the 1998 Budweiser Shootout when Rusty Wallace took the new Ford Taurus to Victory Lane in its racing debut, Dale Jarrett did the same thing ...
Jarrett Wins Budweiser Shootout; History Repeats as 2004 Ford Taurus Wins Debut
* Just like in the 1998 Budweiser Shootout when Rusty Wallace took the new Ford Taurus to Victory Lane in its racing debut, Dale Jarrett did the same thing tonight with the new-and-improved 2004 model.
* This marks the third Budweiser Shootout win for Jarrett and the fourth for Taurus.
* Tonight was Jarrett's 10th career win at Daytona International Speedway.
THE LAST TWO TIMES YOU'VE WON THE SHOOTOUT YOU WON THE 500. "Yeah, I hope that's a good omen. You just have to have a good race car here. Wow, I had no idea I had won at Daytona 10 times. As a kid dreaming about racing here, it's pretty incredible to think that that's happened. But I love to race here, especially when you have a good car - one that you know is competitive and the event was just so competitive. I worked back there all night. I wasn't staying in the back intentionally, I was trying to work my way forward. It seemed like when I would go forward and it would feel like I was in the right line, then the other line would start and I'd work my way to the back. I got a really good run there on the restart. I was a little upset that we made the move to change two tires under green and that was the right move for those circumstances and then the caution came out. We decided because my car wasn't gonna be good enough to really work the way that I needed to fight those guys, especially the ones that had four tires, so we decided to come in. Then they decided to red flag the race and then that let everybody get tires, so there I am back in 10th when I could have been fifth. I guess it all worked out, but I thought that they maybe should have gone back since the red flag. Anyway, that doesn't make any difference. I got a great start. Rusty was ready to go and our cars worked good together, but the big key was getting Junior in behind me. He was beating the back bumper off of my car, but that's what you've got to have especially to get that type of situation."
YOUR TEAM HAS A LOT OF CHANGES. "Yeah, this isn't to sit here and say that we're all the way back, but we are a much better race team. We're a much better organized race team. We know who the leader is of our team. Eddie D'Hondt came on board with about six races to go last year as a general manager. We basically haven't really had anyone in that position and came in to kind of oversee and look to see where our problems were. The first thing he did was bring in Mike Ford and Mike has done a terrific job with our people. He's brought in some new people. He's instilled a lot of confidence even before we came here, before tonight happened. The guys had a little bit different step about them. Even though we hadn't run our first race, we had two good tests. Mike has done a terrific job. This is about having a race car that was put together properly at the race shop and the fab shop and all the time in the wind tunnel. They did just a terrific job. Mike, the leadership that we have there, is gonna allow us to be a much more competitive race team week in and week out."
WHAT WAS THE DIFFERENCE IN BEING ABLE TO PASS ON THE OUTSIDE TONIGHT VERSUS YEARS PAST? "Part of it is the cars being more equal and then I had a fast car behind me in understanding the draft and the air certainly helped. But I think the tires had something to do with it. They stuck so good that you could just let the car really roll and you could free the car up a little bit more. Where in years past if you tried to get up there, you had to have the car tighter and it wouldn't turn and that would scrub off speed. These tires let the tire roll. They're gonna wear out now. We saw that as we got to that 25 and 30 lap mark that we had a lot of wear on the tire, but that's not gonna be a bad thing. At that time the handling is gonna come into play and you're gonna have to put four tires on the majority of the time. I think that was a big key. For us in Ford obviously now the nose has made a big difference and it's reduced the amount of drag we've had here the last three years, so that was a key for that happening.
"But having a fast guy behind you, there's no substitute for that - somebody that understands the draft and understands where they can hit you and where they can't. He hit me hard, but he hit me hard where my steering wheel was straight and you can overcome that. You get some guys that are trying to beat you through the tri-oval and going into the corner and that's not the proper places to be hitting people, but Junior did a great job. I could never have made the move without it and don't know that I would have tried that much if I wouldn't have had somebody like that, but I knew that was my one opportunity to get to the front was having him to push me there."
DID YOU EXPECT DALE, JR. TO HELP YOU? "I don't do those things for him to help me on the track, but I did tell him when he came to Victory Lane that he has a helicopter ride to Martinsville or wherever he wants to anytime. That's lifetime for as long as we got it. I think a lot of Dale, Jr. I look at the spotlight he's been put in and the things that have been asked of him and I just think he's a neat kid. I've known him since he was probably seven or eight years old and he and Jason, my son, were hanging out at the race track and in our van together. Just to see the things that he's gone through and the way that he's handled them, I really think he's a neat guy. We've talked. He's come to me before with questions and I've tried my best to give him as good of advice as I could because that's what his dad did for me, so I was just kind of repaying the favor. But if he would have hung me out to dry there, I wouldn't do it any different whenever he calls or needs a ride somewhere. That wouldn't have changed, but it's nice to know those things do work out like that. But I don't know that he had much choice if he was gonna try to get to the front. I think if we could have gotten there a lap or two sooner, then I think he probably thought he could work on me and get by me because he had a fast race car."
JUNIOR DIDN'T THINK HE HAD A GOOD CAR. "That's scary to think isn't it? That something can by that fast and it's not very good. I would have had my hands full trying to hold him off anymore. Even when I got the lead right here through the tri-oval I was concerned because he reminds you so much of his dad and how well he knows the draft. There's a distance you can get behind a car to try to make that run on somebody. There are certain people who are good race drivers out here, but don't understand exactly what that distance is, but he seems to know just like his dad did. It's like he knows exactly what area he needs and where he needs it. That's what concerned me if we would have had more laps than that. There was concern for just the three-quarters of a lap that I had to block him there. They kept telling me that he didn't really have any help, so I wasn't too concerned. I knew he couldn't pass me on his own, but if he got somebody up there behind him, then my hands would have been full. It would have been interesting."
WHEN DID YOU KNOW THINGS WOULD BE DIFFERENT HERE? "Actually when I hit a good driver the other day at the golf tournament. That kind of told me because my golf game sucked last year, too (laughing). I knew from our test that we had good race cars here, so I was excited about coming here. I knew that after we left the test and Elliott came down that they found some things. We applied those to our car and then we went back to the wind tunnel and we found a little bit more there, so I was pretty excited coming here just knowing. But yesterday's practice, I got out in the first session and was kind of back in the pack and the car was just OK. We made some changes and then I got out in front of the pack and nobody could pass me then. Then I did that in the second session and nobody could go around me, so I was pretty excited last night. Until I went to the draw party and drew 15th, I didn't have any choice because I was the last one to draw. I wasn't sure how I was gonna get to the front, but I knew a lot of things happen in this, so I've been pretty excited the whole time knowing that we at least had something to compete with and I could put what knowledge I have of this place to work now. Whereas, the last couple of years it didn't make any difference of how much knowledge I had because we didn't have the proper equipment to get the job done."
YOU MUST BE HAPPY TO SEE 2003 END AND HAVE A GOOD START TO 2004. "Yeah, as a matter of fact I had forgotten about it until you all keep bringing up 2003 (laughing), but I know we've got to talk about it. It's a step in the right direction. I'm not saying that, 'Yeah, we're not gonna have any problems.' We're gonna have some bumps, but this is a great way to get this new organization started because that's basically what we have here. It's good for Mike and the reason I say it's good for Mike is because these people have put a lot of trust in him coming in. They changed a lot of things from the way they've been accustomed to doing them the last couple of years and Mike just asked them to trust in him. I think that's gonna go a long way with our race team to know that they have a leader that they can put that type of trust in right now."
WHAT KIND OF RACES DO YOU THINK WE'LL SEE WITH THE NEW RULES? "I think we're gonna see a lot of passing. I think tonight was a little bit of the exception from what we may see in the way that this wasn't a points race. This was just about winning, so you saw throughout the race a lot of rubbing and beating and pushing. You're gonna see a lot of that probably in the latter stages of the 500, but I think because the cars drive really well and the tires are doing their job that I think we're gonna see a lot of passing. I honestly think you're gonna see a lot more passing, especially for the lead than what we've seen in years past. That's what we're looking to do. That's what NASCAR's objective has been for a long time, making it to where you can have that pass on the last lap, which we had tonight for the win. I think that's highly possible to see that next Sunday, too."
DID THE SOFTER TIRES HELP THE VETERANS TONIGHT? "I don't think so. I've disagreed with that a little bit. It does give us the feel we had a few years back, but it's still a different feel than that. The cars have changed aerodynamically since that point in time and I don't know that it's gonna favor anyone. It's definitely a different feel, but these young guys have such a tremendous amount of talent and great feel for the car. If there's anything they may have to learn somewhere along the way is because the tires feel so good at the beginning - and I'm not necessarily talking about here but from our test in Vegas - they feel so good that you can really just run the heck out of them but you're gonna use them up. Then you're not gonna have anything. You're gonna run really fast for 15 or 20 laps, but you're gonna have to go longer than that to try to make a fuel run on them. It's gonna be four tires pretty much every time, so they're probably gonna have to learn a little bit in that respect that they haven't had in the last couple of years. It's not that they can't learn it, it's just that they haven't had to do that because of the tires we've had have been so hard. You could abuse them and not really hurt them, but these you can. There may be a little bit of that too here on Sunday when we get in the sunlight. You're gonna have to be careful because of how you get your car set up. If you're thinking that you really want something to where you can go hard for those 15-20 laps, then you're gonna find yourself in those last 15-20 laps or whatever that fuel window is, your car is really gonna be pushing probably and you're gonna have to get out of the gas. The people that figure out how to make their cars go wide open for the entire 35-40 lap window are gonna be the ones you're gonna have to watch. That could be a veteran, but I think everybody has so much skill about them that they'll figure it out shortly."
WHAT DID THE NEW ENGINE SITUATION LAND ON? "I don't know that I could tell you exactly. I can tell you pretty much the motor combination that we have run, but there are some tuning processes that Jack and his people ran that we found. Actually when Elliott was here testing they put that into place and it was much better for our engines. It performed better there, so I think we kind of have a combination there. Our assembly, but there tuning techniques seemed to make a real difference. Their expertise seemed to help us in the carburetor parts and the way you tune jetting and all of that. I had great power, probably the best I've had here in quite a while."
SO IT'S ALREADY MADE AN IMPACT? "I think it absolutely has. I don't think there's any doubt. Again, we were in Vegas a couple of weeks ago testing and Jack and Robert were there talking throughout the entire time that we were there testing. I know that we made some tune-ups on our car out there that I believe were the way that Jack and his people did them and it made a difference there. So I think we're already seeing benefits definitely. And the teams are even talking and sharing information about chassis setups and what they're feeling in the car, so this may even go further than what I thought it may at the beginning."
DID YOU EVER THINK JACK AND ROBERT WOULD BE TALKING MOTORS? "Not in a calm way, no (laughing). There have been discussions before, but it wouldn't be anything we could print or say (laughing). That just goes to show you how much all of this has changed and how much Ford has to do with all of this. Here you have two people that are very skilled in their areas and are willing to say, 'OK, we can be better if we join forces and we take and put all of Fords money in one place. Instead of going in two separate directions, we can make all of our race teams better.' So you have to commend them for that."
DO WE CALL IT A YOUSH? "You'll have to go to those guys and ask them that (laughing). I've probably gotten more in the middle of this than I need to be."