Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus, has the most impressive restrictor-plate record of any Ford driver since the Taurus was introduced in 1998. In nine plate races with Taurus, Jarrett has six ...
Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus, has the most impressive restrictor-plate record of any Ford driver since the Taurus was introduced in 1998. In nine plate races with Taurus, Jarrett has six top-three finishes (3 wins, 2 seconds and one third) with four of those coming here at Talladega (1 win, 2 seconds and 1 third). Jarrett spoke about his restrictor-plate success and other topics during Friday's rain delay at Talladega Superspeedway.
DALE JARRETT --88-- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus
IS THERE A REASON BEHIND YOUR TEAM'S RESTRICTOR PLATE SUCCESS?
"Probably the two biggest would be the horsepower we have that Robert and Doug Yates produce, and the second thing is Todd Parrott and his attention to the aerodynamics of our cars. As everybody else seemed to sit and complain that the Taurus had too much drag or had this or that, Todd just continued to work and enjoyed the challenge that it presented. I think that made us better. You put those together and when I know that I have that package, then that gets me excited. I like the challenge of knowing I have to do my job properly in the closing laps for us to have a good opportunity to win, so I think it's just a combination."
ARE YOU A CHESS PLAYER BECAUSE THAT'S REALLY WHAT THIS KIND OF RACING IS ISN'T IT?
"No, I've never played chess. I couldn't even set the pieces up in the right spot. I've never played, but I guess I am a gambler and that probably works well for me. Not that you're taking chances, it's just you trying to out-think, out-smart and out-maneuver the guys around you. You're trying to entice others to go with you because I think, after a while, if you act like and prove that you somewhat know what you're doing, that you get people following you and that helps. That's what you've got to have in these situations and I think that's what has made Earnhardt great. Not that he's not great at what he does at driving and knowing the draft, but he's respected so much for it that he gets that help automatically because people know that if they go with him, more than likely, they're gonna enhance their position. They're gonna enhance his for sure, but the opportunity is there for them to enhance theirs. So, when they look at our car they know the horsepower that we have, they know that we have a good aero car and that, most of the time, Dale Jarrett's not gonna lead them somewhere that's gonna get them in trouble."
THE LAST FOUR TALLADEGA RACES HAVE BEEN PARTICULARLY STRONG. ARE YOU THAT COMFORTABLE HERE?
"It just goes back to having a car capable of doing what you want to do. The other thing is you have to know when and how to use the draft. There are a lot of times that you get that little bit of a push or that little bit of a pull and you feel that rpm go up a little bit that you say, 'Man, this might be it,' but it's really not. You have to hold back for that exact right moment and I think it's having that patience to do that that separates the guys that end up finishing up front and the guys that get shuffled back at the end. I've watched Earnhardt and how he's gotten his way to the front. I've followed him enough times. I followed him across here twice last year. I don't particularly like that scenario, but we've run one-two a lot of times in these plate races and I think it's just that you have to acquire that feel and have that patience to know that right time. There have been times that I've made that wrong decision and thought that I had something that I didn't, but as I've gotten more experience I know the exact feel I'm looking for."
DO YOU FEEL NEAR THE END OF THE RACE THAT WHEN YOU MAKE A MOVE THAT OTHERS WILL FOLLOW YOU BECAUSE OF YOUR SUCCESS ON THESE TRACKS? IS THERE A COMFORT LEVEL THERE?
"I think, yeah, the history of our car and maybe somewhat me, but knowing that I have a car that's capable of making that pass and eventually getting to the front is something that others look at. I know that when I was in the position most others are in now, that's what I was looking for -- that fast car for me to hook on to, somebody that knew and had been there and had that experience. I was looking for guys who had won these type of races and generally finished up front and put my front bumper on their rear. I didn't have the car to be winning the races at that time, but I had to use them and the knowledge that I did have to get us up as far as we possibly could. I think that's when I learned more about using the draft and how to use it. So, yeah, I think it's that respect that our race team has gained that helps us."
WITH THE WEATHER BEING WHAT IT IS TODAY, WILL LESS TRACK TIME HAVE A MAJOR EFFECT AS FAR AS THE NEW SHOCK RULE AND GET TEAMS SCRAMBLING?
"I think that it would work against us having a really really big race to where there are 35 cars up there capable (of winning) because if they don't get some practice time...it depends on how it works out. It looks like today is gonna be a wash. If we have to try to fit tomorrow with a practice session early in the morning and then a qualifying session followed by an IROC race and then we're gonna have a happy hour, that's not much time with the new rules to get things worked out. At the end of the day if we said, 'OK, we're gonna take our practice session in the morning and we're gonna start by points and then have our happy hour again after the IROC race,' then that gives us plenty of time and we'll have the type of race people expect to see here. It could be a little bit of a scramble if we only get that happy hour to work."
WHAT ABOUT THE RULE IN GENERAL?
"For qualifying, the rule is not really gonna change anything. Qualifying is about two things -- it's about your car being balanced or getting the back end of the car out of the air. If you just suck the front down, then you stick the back end of the car up in the air more, so you're only hurting it there. I don't see it changing qualifying any from what we saw at Daytona. Racewise, with what you can do with the shocks now, will probably help balance the car a little bit better where it seemed most teams at Daytona followed a situation of the front end flying a little bit. That wouldn't be as critical here because it's more aero here than it is the handling, but it will help as you open the front end up, to be able to run all day and not run hot. Then that creates a little bit of lift in the front end, so then you can hold the front down a little bit more to get your balance right again with the shocks, but you're gonna have to have a little bit of time to determine what is the right combination to go with the rear shocks."
YOU'RE SEVENTH IN THE STANDINGS RIGHT NOW.
IS IT STILL BUSINESS AS USUAL COMING INTO THIS WEEKEND? "I think we realize that just as we did last year when we got in front and in other years, that we can't control what everybody else does. We can only try to control what we do, so we have to look out for what we're doing and try to improve our race team. I think last week was an example that we have made efforts to improve. We had two good weeks before that going. We ran well at Bristol, had ourselves in a good position and, unfortunately, had the tire going down. Then we had a good race going at Texas, a really good car, not good enough to beat Junior (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) but we had a good car to run in the top five. So those are just things that happen. We realize that we're doing a lot of the right things that we need to do and, if we just continue to do those, we'll be OK."
IT'S A MARATHON AaND NOT A SPRINT, RIGHT?
"It's a marathon, definitely, and we're way early. I guess we're still in the first or second mile of this thing."
STACY COMPTON --9-- Kodiak/Cougar Taurus
"That's certainly a lot better than we were in practice. The Kodiak Melling Taurus is pretty good. We're not quite as good as we were at Daytona, but I think we'll be OK. The guys worked awful hard and made a whole lot of changes and that's a good half-a-second quicker than we were in practice. We're pretty happy with that lap. It amazes me the how small the things are that make a difference. Bodies are so important here and Ernie (Elliott) gave us some awful good horsepower too, so the little changes make a big difference and every little bit helps."
ED BERRIER --90-- Hills Brothers Taurus
"We were hoping for a little better. We ran a little better in practice, but had a little help. It was hard to get a good lap in practice and that's about what we expected. We just hope we can get this thing in the race. We've been struggling quite a bit this year and we're trying to get some things turned around here for Hills Brothers and Junie and all the guys that work on the car. Hopefully, we can get in the show here."
RUSTY WALLACE --2-- Miller Lite Taurus
"We ran a 51.20 in practice and I thought I'd run a 51.05. I don't really know what happened or why it happened, but it just really got killed. Whatever we had to do in technical inspection getting ready for qualifying just hurt us really bad. We should be good for the race, no doubt about that, but I just wish we would have qualified better than that."
ROBERT PRESSLEY --77-- Jasper Engines Taurus
We were pretty good in practice. We were like 14th or 15th and then at the end everybody started going out there running and getting drafts and fell back to 28th. We're at Talladega and there ain't much you can do. We slowed down a little bit from where we were at Daytona, but we're right there with a couple of the other cars."
RICKY RUDD --28-- Texaco Havoline Taurus
"It's about what we figured. We ran about the same thing from practice and I think it'll put us somewhere in the top 10. With the new rules, we elected not to come down and waste our test, so that's had an effect. Anybody that came down here to test is going to be an advantage to them. We're happy, I think. That's about all we had today. I think everybody has slowed down a little bit. I've been watching them down here and everybody who went through the (tech) line had to put more rear spoiler on the car. For some reason it's not lining up with maybe the one they did in the tech inspection, but that spoiler is slowing everybody down right now."
SCOTT PRUETT --32-- Tide Taurus
"The weather is getting quite a bit cooler and as far as we're concerned the Tide Taurus ran good. We got everything we could out of it. As the temperature drops and the air gets heavier and heavier it means there's just a little bit more drag in the air and the cars aren't quite as slippery. I think that's what we're seeing because everything else is virtually the same with how we finished this morning. Unfortunately, it's not as quick as we wanted to go but we got a good, solid run and we'll be racing here on Sunday."
IS THIS YOUR KIND OF TRACK?
"It could be. I seem to run better at these places, the faster tracks or mile-plus tracks, but that's a lot of what I've been used to with the Indy cars. Racing at Martinsville last week, I had my hands full but really enjoyed it. I had a great time and I'm anxious to get back to our next short track as well."
MARK MARTIN --6-- Valvoline/Cummins Taurus
"I ran a bad line there that first lap, but that's all car man. I tell you what, I don't have anything to do with that, haven't had anything to do with that speedway car. We did do a test Monday and Tuesday, but Greg Biffle did, I think, three tests for us over the winter while my back was rehabbing. That's all car. I don't have anything to say about it. Anybody could have drove it around there. It's pretty fast."
BILL ELLIOTT --94-- McDonald's Taurus
"We picked it up a lot from practice. These guys have worked their tail off and done one heck of a job. They put it all together. We had a good run at Daytona, went back and worked harder and here we are."
WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO WIN SUNDAY IN YOUR 600TH START?
"I don't think words could describe it. We've gone through so many emotions the last three or four years. It's been a struggle in one way, but I think adversity makes you better in a lot of ways and I think we've all looked back and take a look at ourselves and say, 'here's where we need to be.' Ford's come up and given us a good race car and we've worked hard to put everything together. I don't know where we'll end up, but at least we'll be somewhere up front."
THAT WAS A BIG SMILE WHEN YOU GOT OUT OF THE CAR?
"Especially here at Talladega. Talladega has been a tough race track for me the last several years, but what these guys have put under me lately between Mike (Ford) and all the guys on the car and Ernie (Elliott) and everybody on the engines, they make me look good because all you do is sit here and hold it wide open. If it goes it goes, if it don't, it don't. But they've worked really hard and put a lot of effort into this weekend and we'll just have to see. I think these guys are due to do something good. We had an awfully good car at Daytona and we'll just see what we have here."
CHAD LITTLE --97-- John Deere Taurus
"It was a good lap. We ran a little bit quicker than that in practice on what we thought was a good lap, but it's hard to tell a lot of times if you get a quick lap. That will probably get us a top 25 starting position and we'll be able to concentrate a little bit more on our race setup and get ready to go for Sunday."
JIMMY SPENCER --26-- Big Kmart Taurus
"There's not much you can do here. You just hope the car is a real good aero car and you've got a good motor and try to hold the thing wide open with the new qualifying rules they have now. That was the best lap we ran and the third lap on the race track with a brand new car. The Kmart team has been working hard. We've not had a good year by any means. I love Talladega and I hope we can turn it around this weekend."
JEREMY MAYFIELD --12-- Mobil 1 Taurus -- "It's pretty cool. We worked hard
"There's not much you can do here. You just hope the car is a real good aero car and you've got a good motor all the guys did. Everybody in the engine shop and everybody back at the shop, they've been working their butts off on this car trying to get ready for Talladega. Our qualifying, we've been struggling all year, so to come here and sit on the pole is pretty awesome."
DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD A GOOD CAR OFF THE TRUCK?
"We knew we had a pretty good car, but you never know here. I shouldn't say pole yet because it ain't over, but that's a good lap for us and no matter what happens we're excited with it." HOW WAS THE LAP? "Man, what a great lap. A great car, great engine. These guys worked really hard, harder than you could ever believe on the speedway program -- trying not only to qualify but get our car better."
THIS FALLS IN THE CATEGORY OF WAITING FOR SOMETHING, RIGHT?
"We are waiting for something right now, we're waiting on the rain probably. That would be our luck, but it doesn't matter because we all know we have a good car. We know we've made good gains in our whole speedway program and that's what I'm proud of."
DALE JARRETT --88-- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus
HOW ABOUT THE NEW RULES?
"There wasn't a lot of time to try a lot of things and with all the changes we just kind of had to guess on what gear we needed and what shocks we needed in the front and the springs. Todd is pretty smart, he and Brad (Parrott) work pretty good at that and gave me a good car. It's pretty easy for the driver today, that'll change come Sunday." HOW WAS THE LAP? "It ran good. It went through the corner good. This is all about car here, the driver has nothing to do with it. That'll change come Sunday, but today it's just about having a good car."
WHAT ABOUT THE RACE?
"It should be exciting. It's hard to tell right now, but just looking at the speeds and what we generally do here, it should be a great race for the fans to watch. Two, three and four-wide I would expect and it gets down to, as it always does, that last 50 miles of getting yourself positioned to win."
WAS IT TOO DARK?
"I could see. I mean, it was still good enough you could see. It wasn't a problem. If we were running 210 miles an hour it might have been different, but what we were running there wasn't a big deal. There were still 11 cars to go after me, so it got pretty dark there at the end but it seemed to be OK."
HOW MUCH HAVE THE RULES AFFECTED THE CAR SPEEDWISE?
"I think the combination because we hadn't really been here with the shock and spring deal, I think the combination between the two, that you just really don't feel like you're going anywhere by yourself. I told my guys the first time after I came in, they said, 'How was it?' and I asked who wanted to drive next. If you don't mind a little bit of speed, get in here and go because it drives that good."
WILL THAT CHANGE SUNDAY?
"Oh yeah, I mean, regardless of the speed that we run you're gonna be three, four and probably sometimes five-wide and then the driver has to do his job. But I think it's gonna bunch everybody up more and usually when you do that people sometimes take a few more chances so we just have to see how it works. But it should be an exciting show, I guess."
WITH SLOWER SPEEDS ARE THERE CONCERNS ABOUT DRIVERS GETTING BRAVER?
"Yeah, maybe not because we're not running as fast but to make a pass here you're gonna have to have help and you're just gonna have that split-second to make that decision. And, I think when you put people in that position then, we tend to not make as good judgements. I don't know that we'll be any braver because you're still running 190 miles an hour and it still hurts if you hit at that speed and things happen quickly at that speed. But what I think it does is makes us do some things at times that we ordinarily do. We lose our patience a little bit more because it's gonna be so difficult...you're never gonna get away, out away from a pack or anything like that. You're always gonna be bunched up and that tends to make you lose your patience."
ROBBY GORDON --13-- Menards/Duracell Ultra Taurus
"We thought we'd be a little bit better than that, but, obviously, the air is getting thicker as it gets later at night...it's cooler. We ran a 51.7 and we thought we would have been pretty happy with that 51.7, but this should get us in the show. It's something to work and build on from and, hopefully, we'll have a decent run on Sunday."
JEFF BURTON --99-- Exide Batteries Taurus
"I didn't shut it off because it was dark, I shut it off because the motor blew up. The oil pump is locked up and that's why I shut it off. It wouldn't have been any problem making a lap."
COULD YOU SEE OK TO MAKE A LAP?
"Hell, I don't look where I'm going anyway, so it doesn't matter. It's dark, but we tested here last year or the year before last with the new Taurus and it was this dark and we were still running. Darkness, certainly this isn't what we need to do at a place like Martinsville or Richmond or somewhere you've got to get on and off the gas, but here we could still be running now if we had to, so it was not an issue."
JEREMY MAYFIELD PRESS CONFERENCE
"Man, I'm real excited now. This is the first time we've really qualified good here. The guys at the shop and everybody at the engine shop just worked so hard. I know you guys hear that every week, how hard everybody works, but our program struggled a lot on qualifying and especially speedway qualifying. Everybody's just working so hard to get our team where it needs to be and they've worked their hearts out on the car and the engine and everything else and it paid off for us. Now we can go into the race knowing that we've got a good car and a fast car and I'm excited about it."
YOU FEEL GOOD ABOUT YOUR SPEEDWAY PROGRAM?
"We've been concentrating on everything. We went through, as everybody knows, some ups and downs in the last year and a half or so and I think by now everybody has seen that this team has nothing but ups on it. We're back up where we want to be and plan on going further. We're not gonna get down again, I can tell you that. To go to Bristol and run good and Martinsville and run good, those are places that we've struggled at before and those are our best finished. Then to come here to Talladega and qualify, this is the best we've ever qualified here so I think on Sunday you're gonna see the 12 car run as good as it's ever run here."
DID THE WEATHER HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE SLOWER SPEEDS?
"It might have run a little quicker if there wasn't as much humidity or as far as the air being kind of wet and thick today because of the rain. If it would have been a little cooler and drier, you might have run a little bit quicker...maybe two-tenths or something like that, but I don't think you'll see speeds like we've been running."
IS IT DAUNTING TO HAVE GUYS LIKE ELLIOTT, JARRETT AND EARNHARDT BEHIND YOU?
"No, that's what I like. Those are fast cars and guys with a lot of experience. We race with them every week and it's good to show everybody that we can come here and beat those guys. They're the best here and, especially for our Ford Taurus, having it on the front row here in front of that Goodwrech Chevrolet is pretty awesome."
HOW TIRED OF YOU RUNNING WELL AT THESE TRACKS AND NOT WINNING?
"Man, I've gotten tired of that everywhere we go with what we've been going through. We've been running good and then something happens. We're covering our butts on the details. We're working hard on everything that has bit us before. You'd be surprised. Everybody's got the big stuff -- the engines and the bodies and the chassis and all that -- you've got to go into detail and get all the little stuff figured out to beat these guys. That's what you've gotta do and that's what we did. I said we've worked hard on our car and covered all the little details. That's what we're doing in the races. You're starting to see our team not have mechanical trouble and be able to be there at the end and that's what it's all about. If you keep doing that long enough, you'll start finishing good in the races and that's what we're gonna try to do here."
BUT DAYTONA AND TALLADEGA HAVE HAD SOME STRANGE THINGS HAPPEN TO YOU?
"Yeah, we have. Most of the time at Daytona we've been running first or second and end up fifth or eighth and here we always end up around 12th, 13th, something like that. A lot of that was we were able to work our way up throughout the race because we didn't qualify good, either the top 10 or top five, and all of a sudden there'd be a caution with 10 or 20 to go and our car wasn't fast. It took us longer to get back up there, but we've analyzed it all and that's what has bit us here more times than anything -- that and running out of gas. A couple years ago I couldn't keep gas in the car, so we fixed that and now we've got to fix the rest of it."
ON SPEEDS BEING SLOWER.
"I'm not sure if that's good or bad. I think if they slow us down and it works, they'll slow the Busch cars down and just keep it for everybody. It'll be interesting on Sunday to see what really happens. We call it slow, but we're still running pretty fast out there so we'll have to see what happens on Sunday. It'll be interesting."
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
"It's either gonna be good or bad. I think it'll definitely make us drive a little wilder and stuff, but we'll have to wait and see. Talladega always has good three and four-wide racing and I think you'll see the same thing on Sunday."