Ford Racing - Dale Jarrett / Todd Parrott Interview

This Week in Ford Racing NASCAR Winston Cup Driver Dale Jarrett and crew chief Todd Parrott of the 1999 NASCAR Winston Cup champion Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus team were this week's guests on the Winston ...

This Week in Ford Racing NASCAR Winston Cup

Driver Dale Jarrett and crew chief Todd Parrott of the 1999 NASCAR Winston Cup champion Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus team were this week's guests on the Winston Teleconference.


DALE JARRETT --88-- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO BE INVOLVED IN THAT PHOTO SHOOT WITH ALL OF THE NASCAR CHAMPIONS SINCE YOU HAVE RACED IN JUST ABOUT EVERY DIVISION YOURSELF? "It was a great experience for me also. I hope they understand that I enjoyed it every bit as much as they did and being able to realize my dream of becoming a Winston Cup champion. If anything comes out of this whole thing as much as Robert Yates getting his first championship as a car owner and Todd getting his first as a crew chief, as much as anything, I hope our story is a little bit of an inspiration to others. That perseverance pays off and hard work and dedication. I think that's a story that can be told by Todd, Robert and myself. Hopefully, it'll be somewhat of an inspiration to these other aspiring drivers, owners, crew chiefs and crew members alike, that if you work hard and dedicate yourself to what you're doing, then you can become champions. A number of the guys that were there that day, the other champions, I had the opportunity to meet before and new. Of course, Robert Huffman is from here in Catawba County where I live and we're very proud of him and the accomplishments that he has had. Of course, Jack Sprague did a fantastic job of getting the truck series championship and all the other guys I know raced hard all year, so it was fun for me to be there and be a part with these guys and, hopefully, one day they'll reach their total dream. I know they've reached a dream of theirs already in gaining those championships they won, but I'm sure that they all have the same type dreams of getting to Winston Cup and that one day they can get there. You're never too old. I know a lot has been made of the age of being 42, almost 43 years old and if they just keep working that can happen."

KENNY WALLACE SAID YOU'RE HIS HERO. IN YOUR OPINION WHAT TOOK SO LONG FOR YOU TO ACCOMPLISH THE GOAL OF BECOMING A WINSTON CUP CHAMPION? "I guess it seems like a long time, but to me I don't know that it's been that long. It doesn't seem like 1977 was that long ago and I think that's part of it. I didn't start in this business until I was 20 years old, knew very little if anything about a race car and certainly didn't know anything about driving one, so I think that it's just taken awhile and a progression to work my way up the ladder and get myself in other opportunities. This sport is so totally different than other sports. It's not like you get the opportunity in junior high and high school and then on to college to give yourself an opportunity to succeed and to learn your business there. This is one, unfortunately for a lot of people, it requires money and a lot of people don't have that, so you have to work your way around that. I'm not saying your success is totally dependent upon those dollars, but a lot of it is and getting yourself in those right situations. And I would have to say it doesn't matter how good a race driver you are and the talent that you have, until you surround yourself with the people that know how to use those talents, then you're not gonna be able to make all of this happen and that's what I tried to work myself towards was getting in the right situation. Todd Parrott and the people that he's surrounded us with are definitely the right situation and right combination for me."

YOUR SPEECH WAS A HIT LAST YEAR, HAVE YOU STARTED WORKING ON IT YET? "Actually, I was laying awake last night pretty late trying to get some idea of how I was gonna go about this because it is different than the two or three minutes they give you up there being one of the top 10 participants, so I have a little bit more time but there are a lot of people to thank -- not only the sponsors of this year and the previous years with Robert Yates Racing -- but a lot of people that have made a difference and helped myself and others get to this point. So I don't really have a take on it yet as to what I'm gonna do, but, hopefully, it'll be somewhat entertaining. I'm sure it's gonna be pretty emotional and trying to be able to hold my emotions intact for that amount of time might be difficult because there are some of the people, obviously my family, that mean a lot and have sacrificed a lot for this. Hopefully, we can get through it and it'll be somewhat entertaining."

HAVE YOU HAD ANY FUNNY THINGS HAPPEN AT THE BANQUET TO YOU? "The only thing, I don't know how funny it is, but the last two years I've left the check that they give you on the podium. I hope that I don't do that with a two million dollar check this year. Even though those have been sizeable, hopefully I can keep my wits about me. As a matter of fact, I need to first off just put that in my pocket. The teleprompters have been good and everything has gone pretty good with that, but I just seem to leave the money laying around."

WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A SECOND GENERATION CHAMPION AND WHAT INFLUENCE HAS YOUR FAMILY HAD ON YOUR CAREER? "As far as my family goes and helping with this throughout many years, the support I get is just tremendous. Not many people get to go to their work and have their family there supporting them week in and week out. I have someone in my immediate family there pretty much every weekend, whether it's my wife Kelley and our kids or my mom or my dad there, my sister Patti is there at times, Glenn is there, my brother, so I have someone there all the time and, certainly, if they don't happen to be around then I have my next family who is Todd and Robert and the race team, so I'm pretty fortunate in that I have that type of support. Not many people get that kind of support in their jobs. They've meant a lot to me, they've sacrificed a lot. The sacrifices that Kelley and all of my children have made for me to chase this dream is tremendous and, hopefully, this is somewhat of a reward for them -- that they can be there and be a part of this. It truly is almost more than we can explain how special this really is to our entire family."

HOW MUCH DIFFERENCE DID DRIVING THE FORD THIS YEAR HELP YOU IN GETTING TO THIS POINT? "Ford Motor Company has been a huge part of our success. I think Todd can tell you that they've been great to work with. They've given us something we could work with in the Ford Taurus and from there it was up to Todd and the crew to make all of that happen and do the things we needed to do to help give us that opportunity to challenge for a championship and eventually win that. I think with that help and support that we get from everyone at Ford, and certainly our sponsors, that Todd takes that with his people that work there and through the hard-working efforts on their part, that we were able to basically go through a season and not have any problems other than the two accidents I got myself in at Daytona and Bristol. Other than that, we pretty much had a smooth road as far as having no mechanical failures or anything like that. That's just a tremendous accomplishment on our guys' part -- preparing a car for 34 weeks and not having any failures like that. That's what makes me proud, that we realized what we were able to do and then we were able to go out and execute that plan."

HOW DOES YOUR DAD FEEL ABOUT THIS? "He's excited. As a matter of fact he just left my office here a few minutes ago. He's excited about it and I think as much as anything with this championship a lot of people understand that Ned Jarrett is a racer more than what they did maybe. Maybe the new fans that have come along that just know him as a really good commentator and someone that tries to be impartial, a lot of people are understanding now that Ned Jarrett was a tremendous racer and that he won two of these championships and 50 races in a very short period of time. So I think that's one of the neat things that's come about from this."

WHAT WAS DIFFERENT FROM '98 TO '99 TO ALLOW SUCH CONSISTENCY WITH ONLY ONE DNF? "I think that 1999 was kind of a culmination of 1996, '97 and '98. You have good leadership with people like Todd Parrott and Robert Yates in guiding that and looking at what has gotten us in the past. We sat down at the end of 1998 and decided on the people that we needed in each position and what it was gonna take to try to win a championship. That's what we were after, it wasn't about just winning races. I don't know that we went about things in a total different way, in fact I know we didn't, we just paid attention to detail. Our people were more experienced in working together and the people we were fortunate enough to bring in and add fit right into the mix and all of that worked to our favor. The guys in the engine room continued to produce a lot of horsepower, very adequate horsepower, to win races and to run up front week in and week out, but they weren't living on the edge every week. That's something you can't do as a driver, you can't do it as a crew chief, and you can't do it from an engine builders perspective either. If you're on that edge every week in trying to do your job, then you're gonna find yourself getting in trouble and those were things that we looked at. I can say when I tried to get myself a little bit too much on the edge I got myself in trouble this year. In qualifying at Darlington and trying to be a little bit too much on the edge at Bristol in the race, so those were things that got us. But the guys in the engine shop did a fantastic job there and Todd and the guys in the chassis shop gave me great cars to race hard with week in and week out. So I don't think it was one thing in particular that we did different, it was just a total team effort that had been building for three years."

YOU HAVE A NEW TEAMMATE AND PIT CREW FOR NEXT YEAR. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS? "We're certainly excited about the year 2000 and the prospects to challenge for another championship and possibly win that. We've added what we call a dedicated pit crew. Our other guys are certainly dedicated, but they have other jobs and things that they have to do and we're just looking into the future of this sport. Knowing that we've got 34 races again and looking to 2001 that there will be more races than that more than likely, then we've got to take care of our people somewhat. These guys that we have, that go on the road week in and week out that work at the shop, they get maybe half a day off on Monday and then whenever they do have an afternoon that they might finish a little early at the shop, which is hard to do in this sport, but if they get that time then they feel like they need to practice their pit stops so they're spending another two or three hours there whenever they could have gone home. So, we're trying to make life easier for those guys, that they can have some family time along with being a part of a championship team, a huge part of it, but also making sure that on race day that we have a crew there to do the pit stops that hasn't been working day in and day out and all they're thinking about and focussed on is doing those pit stops. So, it's kind of a two-fold deal -- we're trying to ensure that our people are taken care of and then on race day that we have people there that are fresh and ready to go. Then, also, it's not like those people are gonna be going home on Sunday who did our pit stops in the past, they're gonna be there and be a part of it in case they need to work on the car during the race or something. So that gives us a great crew of backup people in case something should happen, so we're just trying to cover all angles and make sure that we've got all our bases covered to where we can continue to try to win championships. Certainly, bringing in a teammate like Ricky Rudd who has experience in this sport, who is experienced at winning, we feel like can only be beneficial to our entire organization."

IN 1977 AT HICKORY THE STORY GOES THAT IF YOUR DAD HADN'T FRONTED YOU SOME MONEY YOU WOULDN'T HAVE BEEN ABLE TO RACE. CAN YOU COMMENT ON THAT? "There were a number of people, my dad being one of them, that put a few dollars in. It was kind of a group effort with a lot of people that I talked with. I couldn't begin to name those people, but I wasn't above begging and this was how I was gonna get my career started and help Andy and Jimmy out with being able to get an engine. My dad made some contacts and also gave a little bit of financial support. He didn't have a whole lot to be giving there, so we did what we could and made that happen."

WHAT KIND OF CAR WAS THAT? "A Chevrolet Nova Limited Sportsman."

DID YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHTS BACK TO THAT FIRST $30 PURSE YOU WON AFTER THE RACE ON SUNDAY? "All of that was coming back to mind and of what I could remember from that first night -- just how hectic it kind of was and just how little I knew about driving a race car then and the excitement that I think that I felt with a lot of the same excitement that I felt Sunday. That was just the thrill of being a part of a great sport and getting involved in it and then to be able to come home 22 years later from that very first night and become NASCAR Winston Cup champion is pretty incredible. But, yeah, I've thought back about a lot of the things that have taken place, a lot of the people that helped me get there, but I think as much as anything at Atlanta it was enjoying watching the entire Robert Yates Racing organization enjoy this championship. That's what it's all about are these people, these friends that we've been able to make, these people that dedicate their lives to helping us achieve that championship. The memories of the past are great, but seeing those guys on Sunday afternoon enjoy themselves was really what it's all about."

YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE YOUR KIDS WITH YOU IN NEW YORK, WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR PLANS? "Not only my children, but we've got a bunch of kids when it comes to all of our crew too, so I'm not sure New York is ready for all of this. We're certainly excited about it. I'm not sure of all things we'll have to do and I'm sure a lot of that will come as we get there and we'll just be kind of led around by the good people at R.J. Reynolds and NASCAR for what we need to do because if there's one thing we do want to do is we want everybody to say that those guys at Robert Yates Racing were the best champions that they ever had, so we're gonna try to accommodate everyone as much as we can. I know Kelley and I leave this Sunday afternoon. I think we have dinners every night. I haven't seen the total schedule, but I think we're gonna be on Regis and Kathy Lee one morning. We're on Letterman, maybe it's Tuesday night. Hopefully, I saw something about the possibility of going to a New York Knicks basketball game which will be thrilling to me, and then just a lot of media stuff, pictures, sightseeing opportunities that we're gonna get. And then, again, when we start getting down to it a couple of parties and the banquet on Friday night. We have a lot of interesting and fun things to do. The guys will be able to come up a little bit early and enjoy some things. I think they're gonna be over at Niketown one evening and, hopefully, we'll all be able to enjoy that there and I think they may even go to a Ford dealership there. We're excited about the opportunities that we're being given. My kids are coming up Wednesday to help us enjoy this and then actually Saturday we're gonna be able to take the opportunity, Kelley and I with our kids, and go to a couple of plays Saturday afternoon and Saturday night. So there will some time for them, and, of course, they want to go to the toy stores too, so we've got a lot planned and a lot to get done in a short period of time."

ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT DOING SOME NATIONAL TV OR ARE YOU NERVOUS? "There's nothing to get nervous about, they're people just like we are so I'm looking forward to it. I know Jeff Gordon I believe was on their show (Regis and Kathy Lee), so they understand a little bit about NASCAR and even though I'm not Jeff Gordon I think that I can get on there and hold my own with them."

WHAT WAS THE MOST DIFFICULT DECISION YOU'VE EVER HAD TO MAKE TO GET TO THIS POINT? "There have been a number of decisions I've had to make to get to this point, but I'd have to say the two that were kind of in succession. One was to leave Eddie and Len Wood at the Wood Brothers at the end of the '91 season to join a brand new team that Joe Gibbs was starting and then, obviously, the crossroads then at the end of '94 with the opportunity to come to Robert Yates Racing and help them out not knowing exactly what the future was gonna hold. Even though I thought at the time it would be my own race team, I think that was a very, very difficult decision and probably the hardest one because that involved family. My brother-in-law Jimmy Makar, who helped us start that organization at Joe Gibbs and it was something that I did help start. That was a very difficult decision that I had to make, but just one that I felt I was being led to Robert Yates Racing for a reason."

WHAT ABOUT OBSTACLES? "I don't know, I think you look at them as challenges and there have been so many of those. Trying to come into this sport, especially looking back at the Busch Series and the years I was there trying to run and be competitive there with not a lot of money. My story isn't a lot different from a lot of other people, but that's how we raced on just what little money we could get. I guess people assumed a lot of times that because I was Ned Jarrett's son that we had plenty of money and didn't have to worry about that, but that certainly wasn't the case. I think that created more problems than anything. As far as the other things, there have always been decisions to make and hurdles to cross, but those are just things that come about in your life and you have to learn to handle those."

DO YOU THINK YOU COULD HAVE ACCOMPLISHED ALL OF THIS WITHOUT A STRONG FAITH? "I think there have been a number of times, especially in the more difficult times...anybody can pretty much handle the good times but I think it's definitely my faith and belief in God that got me through those difficult times and helped make some of these decisions I was talking about. That was the guiding light really. That's where I went to see what I was supposed to do and where I was supposed to go because I didn't have those answers. For a long time I tried to do it Dale Jarrett's way and even though I'm far, far from being a perfect individual I still pray constantly about what I should do and the direction I should go and the decisions I should make and to help make the right decisions. Again, I won't get off into something totally different, but I get totally amazed that people want to take prayer out of school when that's the one thing that we have that the answers are all there for us. Again, we won't get off into that, but my faith is what got me to this point and got me through all of the things coming up through this and is still a very big part of my life as it is for a lot of people at Robert Yates Racing. I think that's one thing that's really good about all this is seeing the number of people that do believe in God there, that do pray on a consistent basis and it's very evident in the number of people that we have at our bible studies when Max Helton and his people come over on a regular basis to our race shop."

TODD PARROTT, Crew Chief --88-- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- IS THERE ANY ONE THING THAT COMES TO MIND OF WHAT IT TAKES TO GET THE JOB DONE? "Like Dale said, it goes to show that if you work hard at something and you really set your goals to achieve something that you can. Being a rookie crew chief, I call it a rookie crew chief, but when I came into this deal I felt that we could win races. I told Dale Jarrett that we would probably win a lot of races and I knew that in time with everything in place, we put all the pieces of the puzzle together, that we could succeed and we would win a championship. I knew Robert Yates was very capable of winning one because he's been very close to doing it on a couple of occasions and I knew that if we got all the things together and we just put all that stuff together with hard know, this thing isn't given to you. That's the good thing about it, the neat thing about it. It's hard, it's a lot of time away from your family, it's a lot of sleepless nights. I think that's something like Dale said that it's kind of an inspiration to a lot of other people that if you do work hard for something and set your goals high that you can achieve."

DID YOU KNOW WHEN YOU WENT TO DAYTONA IN '96 AND WON THE CLASH AND THE 500 THAT THIS WAS THE START OF SOMETHING SPECIAL? "I felt real good about it. Like Dale said, he hasn't been given anything. All this stuff didn't come on a silver platter, he had to work really hard for it and I've kind of been the same way. I've grown up in this sport all my life and the fortunate thing and the lucky thing for me, and I say it all the time, is I feel like I'm the luckiest guy in that garage area because I'm so blessed to have worked with the people I have worked with. The guys what I call teachers. Everybody says, 'Well, you turned down a chance to go to college and play golf and go on and be a professional golfer.' Well, I always tell them that I went to the University of NASCAR and it's been a good one for me. Like I said, the lucky thing about me is I've been with successful race teams all my life. I've always been around race teams that have been really good, have won championships and have won a lot of races, so obviously I've had good teachers -- the best teachers in the sport I would say. So when I came over here in 1996 I had a lot of confidence. I had total confidence in what I did and what I do because that's just the way I've been growing up is I set my mind to do something and, sooner or later, I achieve that goal. So winning the championship is a dream come true, but it's something I felt like it would happen, it would come to us, if all the pieces of the puzzle and everything was put in place."

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT THAT NIGHT AT THE BANQUET? "A lot of emotion. Like Dale said, the biggest thing I'm worried about is trying to hold that back because that's the way I am. It's gonna be really exciting. It's a dream come true and it's something that's really hard to put into words how big that night is gonna be."

WHAT ARE THE TEAMS PLANS FOR NEW YORK? "Most of the guys are gonna be coming up on Friday, but we are taking the guys that go over the wall, the pit crew, and the guys that go to the race track early on Wednesday afternoon. We have a couple of functions. They're doing a pit stop demonstration at Manhattan Ford, I believe on Thursday, and another deal at Niketown so it's gonna be neat. We've tried to plan this deal where it's not just for me, Dale and Robert, it's for the whole team because it's the whole team that has gotten us to where we are."

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Jack Sprague , Ned Jarrett , Robert Yates , Robert Huffman
Teams Yates Racing