Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, has enjoyed much success at Dover International Speedway, scoring one victory and nine top-fives in 13 starts since 1996. He started on the pole for both races there in 2001 and will start second in...
Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, has enjoyed much success at Dover International Speedway, scoring one victory and nine top-fives in 13 starts since 1996. He started on the pole for both races there in 2001 and will start second in tomorrow's MBNA All-American Heroes 400. Jarrett, who won the NASCAR Winston Cup championship in 1999 and finished in the top five in the standings every year from 1996-2001. He talked about his success at the race track and about this year's points race.
DALE JARRETT-88-UPS Taurus
"It's a difficult track. I enjoy the challenge. It's very fast, very physical, but that's two things that I enjoy. I think the only problem is, a number of times, when we have had problems, is getting caught up in somebody else's problems. So, that's just something you know is a possibility here, and you try to stay out of those situations. But, it's a handling race track. Over the years, a lot's changed. I raced when it was asphalt here, and now we have the concrete. We've done a lot of different things. Things have changed a lot as far as setups go, as far as tires go. It's a very difficult race track on tires. Tire management is very critical. And, I think the guys that have that somewhat figured out are the ones that you have to beat. Usually, we don't have a problem in that area, but, again, it's a real challenge."
HIDEO FUKAYAMA WILL MAKE HIS WINSTON CUP DEBUT THIS WEEKEND. HOW LONG DID IT TAKE BEFORE YOU WERE COMFORTABLE RACING AT THIS DIFFICULT TRACK?
"I couldn't even imagine coming here and trying to make the race, because things have changed a lot. We're running so much faster here now than what we did when I first started out running here, and that just makes the race track even more difficult. I couldn't imagine coming here for my first time and making my first start in a Winston Cup car at this particular race track. It's definitely one of the toughest that we have. But, if you have a good race car, it can make it a lot of fun."
ON THE NEW TIRE HERE.
"The only thing that you see is you have a little bit more grip right now. Obviously, knowing that and just running one and maybe sometimes two laps at a time what you're going to see whenever it comes race time is a tire that obviously runs a little faster at the beginning, has a little more grip, but is going to fall of more. So, you can't have all the best worlds. So, that's what we're going to look at, so you're going to have to decide what you want to do. Are you really going to want to run fast or you're going to want the longevity, the staying power? And, we usually have a lot of green-flag racing here, that's the direction we'll look at."
THIS IS ONE OF THE FEW SPORTS THAT COMPETITORS IN THEIR MID-FORTIES CAN COMPETE FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP.
"If you keep yourself in reasonable shape, there's nothing that we've seen that keeps a driver, once he reaches 40 or mid-40s or even 50 years old, that the opportunity diminishes because of the ability. That's what's great about this sport. Most other athletes, unfortunately, are past their prime at about mid-30s, and some continue on to maybe their 40s, other than the PGA Tour, and then those guys, most of the time, once they get to that point, they're having to look at the Senior Tour, where we're still competing with younger guys. And, you know, that's what makes it great. That's what makes this special. And, I guess that's why a lot of us chose this.
"We realize that we can do this for a longer period of time. As long as that competitive spirit stays with you, and I think most athletes that have that are going to continue that. And, again, if you keep yourself in shape and want to do this, there's no reason you can't continue."
CAN MARK MARTIN HOLD ON TO THE POINTS LEAD DOWN THE STRETCH?
"Yeah, he may be able to. I'm not sure. I don't know how much I'm paying attention to who all's up there, because unfortunately we're not in that battle. So, I still think they all have to beat Jeff Gordon. He's not in the lead, but I think down the stretch he's still the guy to beat. Mark has an excellent chance here, and I know he's never won, so we certainly want to wish him luck in his quest for trying to get that first championship."
IS IT HARDER TO STAY IN SHAPE AS YOU GET OLDER? DO YOU HAVE TO DO MORE?
"You have to, but it's a matter of if you're willing to do that. It's no different than just getting older and you find it harder to take care of yourself, to make that effort. But I know this is something that I want to continue to do, so that's the driving force to me every day when I get up is to make sure that one of the first things that I do is get to the gym, and that I work out and know that I've got that out of the way because I know that's what's going to help me to continue to do this as long as I want to."
YOU'VE BEEN IN A NUMBER OF POINTS RACES. CAN YOU OFFER SOME INSIGHT AS TO WHAT THE TOP CONTENDERS ARE THINKING ABOUT AS THE SEASON WINDS DOWN?
"Basically, you have to continue what got you there. It's not something that you can turn around here with nine races left, and it's not like you can turn around and change and say, 'We're going to start doing this differently.' You can't do that. You've got to continue to race, you have to continue to race hard. Certainly, you try to keep yourself out of spots that could create problems for you, but that's what you've done all year to get yourself in this position. It's basically racing as you were. The guys probably aren't going to sleep quite as much, thinking about different things. You start looking at tracks a little bit differently. You start seeing, probably, a few more trouble spots than you ever noticed before. But, they're going to continue to do what got them in that position."
IN OTHER SPORTS, MUCH IS MADE OF CONFIDENCE WHEN AN ATHLETE IS DOING WELL. DOES THAT APPLY TO MOTORSPORTS, TOO?
"I don't think there's any doubt that the guys that are headed up the board right now probably have the upper hand. And, I certainly wish Sterling the best, but, you know, they've been kind of on a decline here, and you gotta think that Mark and probably Gordon, other than the one race at Richmond, they've been on an uphill climb. So you've got to think that they have a little more confidence - and that goes a long way. When you feel like you got things going well, that you're thinking in the right lines with your crew chief and the rest of your crew, then things are going to go a lot better."