Ford Daytona test - Dale Jarrett interview

Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, was the fastest driver during yesterday's test session and has been among the quickest Fords all week. Jarrett, who has a new crew chief in Brad Parrott, spoke about the changes his team has...

Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, was the fastest driver during yesterday's test session and has been among the quickest Fords all week. Jarrett, who has a new crew chief in Brad Parrott, spoke about the changes his team has undergone and his hopes for the new season.

DALE JARRETT - No. 88 UPS Taurus:

HOW HAS YOUR CAR BEEN THIS WEEK? "We're happy with what's gone on so far. This is so difficult because you don't know what everybody is doing and how much of an effort they're putting forth or who may be capable of running quite a bit quicker than what they're showing. But we like where we're at. We feel like where we're at, especially right now from the past two years, that we're in a lot better position. Whether it's more of the common template for everybody, the same shape of cars, that we're able to be a little more competitive here than what we have been the last two years. It seems since we won the 2000 Daytona 500 that it's been very difficult for a Ford to be reasonably fast and have the capabilities of getting out here and try to lead these packs, instead of just hanging on and trying to follow these guys. That could all change, but with what we're seeing now we're extremely happy. We put the car we've run the last two days, the one that was the quickest, we've put it in race trim and started doing some race runs. We won't be drafting with it mainly because we're a short period of time away from the Daytona 500 and our guys are working to not only get ready for that, but the races shortly after that. With the new rules we've had to cut every body off of every car that we had, so we don't want to take any chances here. We'll have plenty of time between Bud Shootout practice, the Bud Shootout, and then practice leading up to the 125s and then the 125s. We feel like there's adequate time to work in the draft, but we're just gonna work with that car in race trim and see if we can make it faster that way, and then, hopefully, that will be driveable in the draft. The other car, we're still working on that trying to get a little more speed out of it and, hopefully, if we can make it faster, that will translate into our other car."

ANY CONCERNS ABOUT HAVING BROTHERS WORKING TOGETHER? "No. Brad and Todd have worked together for years so this isn't something that's new. I've said a number of times that our race team was always a better race team simply because of the energy Brad brought and the knowledge in certain areas that he brought. I guess he's been with us five of the years that we've had this race team, so they've worked together. Yeah, they have their arguments and their spats, but I look at it most of the time as a good thing. Most of the time it's constructive arguing, if there is such a thing. There's a lot of respect between the two of them and with the position that Todd has basically moved in, I think this is gonna allow Brad to show what he's been able to learn over the years and put that knowledge to work. And with Todd working between the two teams, I just think it's a great move and one that's gonna be very beneficial. If there's a down side, I haven't really seen that. You always have to be careful in bringing in relatives of any kind, but especially when it's a brother-type situation. You wonder if that's gonna work, but this is such a family organization that I work for anyway with Robert and Doug and their relationship and then, of course, Robert's brother, Richard, running the financial side of it, so that's what this is based on and we feel like we can make it work."

DO YOU EVER REMEMBER A YEAR WHEN THE CHAMPIONSHIP WAS SO WIDE-OPEN? "No, probably not. Just looking at it as to how many people would honestly have the capabilities of running for and competing for and then someone eventually winning, no, I can't remember this many teams that could be in the championship battle. Honestly, there has to be somewhere in the range of 20-25 race teams that legitimately have a chance to win this. That will be pared down to probably 15 that shake out, but that's still a lot of teams. Normally, you don't have anywhere close to that, but it's pretty amazing what is going on within this sport and how competitive it has gotten.

"From the top level as what we used to know all the way down through. That's what makes this so difficult in getting prepared for that. I use the '99 season because that's the best way for us to compare, but we went in knowing that if we had a good day we were definitely gonna be in the top five and if we were off a little that was just gonna be a top 10. That's not the case anymore. You can find yourself finishing 20th or something and have run pretty good that day, but maybe you made the wrong call or wrong move at the end of the race. It's very competitive so you're really gonna have to be on your toes every single week to make sure you don't give up anything."

DO YOU SEE TODD ADJUSTING TO THIS NEW ROLE A LITTLE BETTER THAN A YEAR AGO WHEN SOMETHING SIMILAR WAS TRIED? "Yeah, I see it working a lot better. One of the things is he has a lot of confidence in Brad. The other thing being that we've moved both race teams into the same shop again, so we've kind of re-organized. I think Todd likes his new role. He was obviously trying to move away from the crew chief side of it last year. I've explained this a couple times, but it seems to be that the life a driver-crew chief relationship - and a lot of times it's not necessarily the relationship between the two - it's just that working partnership and the crew chief side of it that's so demanding for those guys. That life span is only five, seven, maybe eight years. You can look back to Kirk Shelmerdine-Dale Earnhardt, Andy Petree-Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon-Ray Evernham. It's not as much the relationship as far as friendship that goes away, it's just difficult for that crew chief, with all the demands on him, to make that work for a long time. It's really a burn out situation and they just can't continue at that pace. What Todd is doing now, I think he's very comfortable with that and he's very comfortable with the re-organization we've had. Doug has been put in charge and Todd is basically the director of competition. He's gonna oversee making these race teams as close as he possibly can to where Elliott and I, week in and week out, are gonna have very similar race cars. That way, there can be a lot more information shared and they can be beneficial, so I think he's very comfortable with this because of the people we've put in place. Because of that, I think it will work very well this time."

WITH THE CARS BEING SO SIMILAR ARE MOST OF THE GAINS GOING TO BE IN THE ENGINE? IF SO, WILL THAT BENEFIT YOU? "It certainly should help a little bit. I think that's one area, obviously, that is wide open. I shouldn't say wide open. Everybody knows a lot of what everybody is doing, but, historically, our engine program has been among the two or three top ones, so that should be beneficial to our race team, especially here. There are a couple of other areas you can still work even with all the templates and things that makes it difficult. You're not gonna gain an aero advantage here now, so you do have to look in other areas. Getting the balance of your car exactly right. Seeing what your car wants, I think that changes from make to make and I think that changes within each different make of car. We hear from guys saying that different attitudes with their cars might not be the same as the same make of car. Maybe front down is good for one and the front up is good for another. That's just what you have to do and that's why these three days are very important. You've got to find what really makes your car the best, so there's a little bit you can do there. Shocks and springs in the front are still things you can work with, so we're much more limited as to what we can find, but, again, our engine program gives me a good feeling. I know that there won't be anyone here any better, so that should be an advantage for us."

HAS NASCAR GOTTEN IT RIGHT NOW? "I don't know. That's difficult to say if it's the right thing to do. It'll sure cut down a lot of the complaining. If they want to keep us, the crew chiefs and car owners out of their trailer for a while complaining about somebody having an advantage aero-wise, then they've done the right thing.

"Is it the right thing for competition and everything? That remains to be seen. The biggest thing that we have to be able to do is put on a good race. We'll see shortly if that's the case. We can find out in the Bud Shootout on that Saturday night if we can pass and if it's gonna be a good show because that's the important thing for everybody here - for our sponsor and for the sport - that we be able to put on a good show when the Daytona 500 rolls around."

CAN THE RACING BE BETTER? "I think we can have some better racing at certain places. I think that what we will still see are calls in the pits still being very important, but it's gonna be interesting to see. You've got two new cars in this with the Chevrolet and the Pontiac and I'm not sure we exactly know what to expect there. Hopefully, it will be better racing. We're still gonna fight this aero-push so much just because we've come to rely so much on aerodynamics. I think if we're gonna get away from that a little, it's still a couple years down the road as they continue to work on the cars with the bigger greenhouse and things. I'm not sure that we can solve that with what we have right now, but I think what you'll see is the opportunity for better racing with a lot more people in the mix. So it's brought the competition much closer."

WHAT ABOUT SOFTER TIRES OR SMALLER SPOILERS? "I think that Goodyear does a good job. Anytime that we start getting with a softer tire situation, you get people that put Goodyear in a bad position by doing other things. Not only do they get that softness again, but they start trying to do things camber-wise and air-pressure-wise and that puts Goodyear in a bad position. The next thing you know, they're saying the tires aren't any good. That's not the case, it's that you've abused the privilege so to speak. I don't know if that would be an answer. If you get a softer tire, you're gonna increase the speed some more. Anytime you increase the speed and increase the cornering speed in particular, the racing's not as good. I think we're pretty good where we are there."

HOW DO YOU AND ELLIOTT SADLER WORK TOGETHER? "From my perspective having someone like Elliott that is basically the size is a benefit. One thing Todd's working extremely hard on is that we've agreed to try and get things similar. Last year, what was the 28 and is now the 38, a number of times they ran a different chassis than what we did. We've been pretty much all in-house chassis with the 88 car and Todd is incorporating working them into a lot of our chassis. Our goal before mid-season is to run all in-house stuff and the cars be the same. We have already incorporated the same seats. I fit in Elliott's seat, so I've gone and changed my seats so now we're exactly the same. If I have to do anything, I might have to add a pad somewhere but right now it's the same exact seat. If we go and test, we don't have to paint cars and put numbers on them because they're very interchangeable. We can fit in the same seat, so that's a benefit we'll have. When we want to go to Kentucky on Tuesdays, whichever driver is available, we'll know we don't have to change seats or do anything in particular. We can just jump in and out of each other's cars, so that should be a huge help. Elliott brings a lot of enthusiasm over and a lot of knowledge. He's got a different way of looking at things. He's got this younger guy attitude with some things and I think that's gonna be beneficial to us. I'm really excited. Nothing against losing Ricky, it's hard to replace that kind of experience with a teammate, but I think we're gonna see that Elliott Sadler brings a lot to the table and will be very beneficial to us."

HOW IS DOUG YATES DOING IN HIS NEW ROLE? "Doug's doing great. I'm very impressed. Maybe Robert was like this when he was younger, but I wasn't there first-hand to see how he handled situations. I don't know if he was even in this position as a younger man. Robert is such a brilliant man, but he has such a kind heart that when it came time to make changes that needed to be made, that was very difficult for him to do. One side of me says maybe we should have left him in charge and I could have a job for quite a while because he doesn't want to make changes, but the other side of me says there were areas we needed to make changes and Doug has come in and made those changes. It's not that he's cold-hearted, but he's gonna make the decisions that need to be made for us to be championship caliber teams and that's what we need to get back to. He's handling things very well. Even though he's been in the engine shop his whole life and whole career, he's been paying attention the last couple of years to what we're doing chassis-wise and aero-wise, so he's very knowledgeable there. But he doesn't try to pretend to know something that he doesn't, so he either asks questions or lets the people in charge of those particular things inform him and then lets them make that decision. So he feels very comfortable in knowing he has helped put the right people in all the right places and he can rely on them. He's doing very well and he's as happy as I've ever seen him. He's really taken to being there day in and day out and knowing all the workings of the race team. I guess the one thing he's had a more difficult time with is sitting down with sponsors and working out all the details of the money and what it takes to do this, but he's learning that. Again, I think he's very happy and it's gonna be very beneficial to this race team for him to be in charge."

-ford racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Andy Petree