Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, was part of the Winston Breakfast Club earlier today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Jarrett, who won the Brickyard 400 in 1996 and '99, talked about returning to the famed race track and what ...
Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, was part of the Winston Breakfast Club earlier today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Jarrett, who won the Brickyard 400 in 1996 and '99, talked about returning to the famed race track and what winning there has meant to his career.
DALE JARRETT-88-UPS Taurus
ON THE IMMENSITY OF THE INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY AND DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY, AND THE TWO BIG RACES.
"Both tracks have so much history. As you come through the tunnel in both places, you get a special feeling that you don't necessarily get anywhere else that you go. We realize that they both pay the same number of points - both races pay a lot of money, but that's not drives us; those trophies, getting the bricks, the trophies that you get at Daytona. That's what this is about. When you have race tracks that much history, I think that it makes that competitive nature inside you come out a little bit more. You know that everybody has their best equipment here. We prepare more for Daytona and for Indy than we do for any other race. You know that if you can do well that you've beaten the best at their best."
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF EXPERIENCE AT THIS TRACK.
"I think that experience does play a big part in how you handle this race and everything leading up to it and getting to that point. But I think the opportunity is here with some of the young drivers, with their teams, that have performed extremely well to this point this year, to come in here - they seem to be ready and willing to go out on the limb a little bit with their chassis setups, and with the calls that make in the pits. And that could very well put them in a position to win this race on Sunday. So I think that the opportunity is there for even a rookie - we have two guys that come to mind with Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson that have the opportunity. The team's behind them, and the willingness to take the chance to do whatever it takes to win the race - and I'm not talking about, necessarily, on the track, but taking that chance with a two-tire call, or no tires, just to get themselves track position. So, I think that opportunity is there and that could win out over the experience."
HOW MUCH WILL EXPERIENCE HELP WITH THE NEW RETAINING WALLS HERE?
"It's a situation that we know that they're there, and we're grateful that's it's there. We need testing to be done, but there's nobody out here that wants to be that person to test it. We really hope we get through here and still don't know anymore than we know right now, but that's probably not going to be the case."
IS THERE A PLACE THAT THE CIRCUIT GOES THAT PUTS A GREATER PREMIUM ON PIT STRATEGY?
"It's like the road courses, to me. You get in, you get your tires and your fuel as soon as you can do that to make your window. Getting out front here is important because as people behind you try to negotiate traffic, the guy out front has a huge advantage, so you make that call as quick as you possibly can. But, I don't think that there's anywhere that we go that it's more of a premium than right here."
THERE HAVE BEEN YEARS THAT THERE HAVE BEEN DOMINANT DRIVERS, AND YOU'VE HAD A YEAR LIKE THAT. ONLY THREE WINS BY A DRIVER IS THE MOST THIS YEAR. DOES THE SPORT NEED A DOMINANT DRIVER?
"If it could be one of us, sure. I don't know. I don't think so. I think there have been, the times that it happens, where we've had someone like Jeff [Gordon] winning a lot of races. I think that it was good for the sport at that time. But what I think is happening right now has to be great for this sport. Honestly, there's no way that if you're a fan of this sport, maybe - I read some, I don't read everything that you all write, but obviously you read stuff that maybe our racing isn't as good as what the expectations are there, but it's been pretty good as far as not knowing who's going to win these races at the end. If you're a fan and you're sitting at home watching it, or you're sitting in the stands, you can't get up with 20 laps to go and know who's going to win it, because it's happened so many times this year that who was leading with 20 to go went on to win the race. So I think that's good for our sport. I think that's why we have all these fans. There was a Ford Fan Day yesterday and there was just a tremendous crowd out there, that's what these people enjoy. I think they like the opportunity to know that when we come here that there's 43 guys starting this race and, literally, there's over 30 of them that have that chance to win. And I think that's good."
WILL THE NEW SAFETY BARRIERS AFFECT PASSING?
"To me, the race track has actually gotten wider with what they did to the surface of it. I think there's more race track there to work with. So, to me, it's gotten wider so the opportunity's gonna be there for us to race more side by side. I don't see that as an obstruction. Again, you don't even know that it's there, but the groove, when we were here testing, seemed to me to be a lot wider than what we had here in the past."
AFTER HIS EXPERIENCE AT DAYTONA REGARDING THE SPEED OF THE ARRIVAL THE SAFETY CREW, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS TRACK?
"I feel quite certain they'll be right there. And if we were back at Daytona, and the same thing happened, I feel quite certain now that measures have been taken that it wouldn't take very long for someone to have gotten to my car or Steve Park's, whoever else might be involved. I think there was a miscommunication there. You can't say that there's never going to happen, you like to think that everything's going to go smoothly, but it's just like, as I was discussing with NASCAR about the situation after the fact, we make mistakes, too. And we have miscommunication within our race team and our calls, so I feel very confident that they have taken the steps - not only at Daytona, but at a lot of other places that that won't happen again." IS THERE ANYTHING ABOUT THIS SEASON THAT HAS SURPRISED YOU?
"Yeah. Obviously, these new teams and the young drivers have kind of taken things over here and that's a little surprising. Nothing wrong with it, it's great for the sport again, but when you start thinking about could they continue that from the fast start that they had. You had to think maybe at some point in time that they might falter a little bit but they stayed right there. But I think the two best stories are right at the very top: Sterling Marlin and Mark Martin. Guys that haven't won the championship, they're right there with that opportunity, and it seems that you see Sterling doing things that I know that Bobby [Labonte] and Jeff will probably agree that if we look back on our championship years, you see things happening with Sterling that kind of made our years the same way. Whenever they weren't having good days, they made good days out of it with good finishes, and that's really what wins you championships. I think that's the best story that's going on, and it should be interesting to see if they can continue that."
DRIVERS HAVE BECOME MEGA-SUPERSTARS IN THE LAST 10 YEARS OR SO. HOW HAS THAT AFFECTED YOUR LIFE?
"It's great. It's what you work hard - not necessarily for the notoriety - but just because you want to help build something. And I think not only do we want to get involved because this is what we love to do, but you want to know that you've helped a business or a sport to grow. It's great. NASCAR has done such a phenomenal job in making all of this happen. It's easy to sit back at times and look at what has taken place and sometimes criticize what's not getting done or how you would've done it differently, but you can't argue with the end result as to what has happened here. The France family and NASCAR has done just a fantastic job. Obviously, Winston and RJ Reynolds have been a huge part of this in making all of this happen. So it's great to be part of something that is this exciting."
ARE YOU IN FAVOR OF THE '"GREENHOUSE CAR"?
"I guess I'll represent the guys over six feet and 200 pounds that anything that'll help us get out of these cars would be nice, if you are in an accident. And what better combination, if indeed it would make the racing more exciting, I mean you can't have something that's safer and something that's going to provide better racing, that's obviously what we would be looking to do. Can we make that happen easily? I'm not sure. I think it's going to be a pretty long and drawn-out process. And I know that that's a direction that NASCAR is working in."
WAS THE FIRST TIME THAT YOU RACED HERE THE FIRST TIME THAT YOU SAW THIS PLACE?
"I had never seen a race here before I had the opportunity to race here, and really didn't know what to expect. Watching something on TV and closed-circuit TV before that with the Indianapolis 500 for so many years, to be able to come here was just a really special feeling. It was on that literally I don't know that I had felt, other than the first time of getting on the race track at Daytona. It's still special. Whenever you drive out onto this race track, it's just a different feeling than a lot of these other places that we've been for a lot of years - even though we've been here, I guess, eight or nine years now, it's still just an incredible place."
THE STANDS MAKE IT SEEM EVEN BIGGER...
"I don't think that I was prepared for how massive this place really is - and then when the people filled this place up, it was just incredible. You've seen it on TV and you've heard the numbers about how many people were here, but you can't fathom what that's really like until you come here and experience that."
WHEN YOU'RE ON THE TRACK, CAN YOU SENSE THE CROWD?
"I think you do. This is a place because the stands and the people or so close and because how big this place really is, there are fans everywhere that you look. So, yeah, you get that feeling while you're on the race track, too."
WHEN PEOPLE WIN THE INDIANAPOLIS 500 HERE, IT'S SAID TO BE WORTH QUITE A BIT IN ENDORSEMENTS. DID MUCH FOLLOW WHEN YOU WON HERE?
"Oh, yeah. It probably rivaled for me the Daytona 500, the opportunities. Of course, when I won my first one, in 1996 here, I'd also won the Daytona 500 that year, so it was just an incredible opportunity for me to be able to do that. I was the first person that did win the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 in the same year. And so the opportunities, I know that a lot came from winning the 500, but there were so many things, they got the attention of potential sponsors out there and associates of mine that opened up so many doors. It was just incredible. And it still happens. Whenever I'm either introduced or I go into a company and we start negotiations or talks, the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 are the two things that they bring up the most. And so this has afforded a lot of things for me in my career."