Indianapolis: Ford - Dale Jarrett interview

Two-time Brickyard 400 champion Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, began his day with a four-hole golf outing in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that included a phone call from Master's champion Phil Mickelson. He continued the day...

Two-time Brickyard 400 champion Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, began his day with a four-hole golf outing in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that included a phone call from Master's champion Phil Mickelson. He continued the day with a Q&A session for members of the media prior to a two-hour practice session for Sunday's Brickyard 400.

DALE JARRETT - No. 88 UPS Taurus

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE NEW POINT SYSTEM? From our standpoint the point system hasn't changed at this point in time. The only thing that's changed is that instead of everybody battling right now to be the guy in front, you're trying to solidify yourself in that top 10. Everything will change after we get through with 26 races, but, again, if I was sitting in 14th in years past all I would be thinking about is trying to get in the top 10 at some point by the end of the year. Now it's trying to get into the top 10 to give ourselves a second chance basically at winning a championship."

IF YOU'RE IN THE TOP 10 DO YOU PRETTY MUCH JUST RIDE UNTIL THE 26 ARE OVER? "I think there are only a few guys that could even consider riding right now. I think everybody from sixth on back - from sixth to 15th at least - those positions can change in these last six races, so I don't think anybody right there can ride. You've got to race hard."

DOES MOMENTUM PLAY A FACTOR? "Momentum is a good thing to have on your side - that and confidence. If you're doing things well, that carries over from week to week. I think once you establish something that gives you that confidence, then you carry that and you look at it as momentum."

ARE YOU CLOSE TO WHERE YOU WERE FROM A HORSEPOWER STANDPOINT A COUPLE YEARS AGO TO BE A FAVORITE AGAIN? "It's given us a chance to compete again, where we were pretty far behind. That's why you don't see many Fords in the laps led category. I think right now our people have done really good job in helping us get back. Hendrick's deal has everyone covered right now. There's no doubt that those cars have the total package right now. Engine-wise, they're on top, but our guys are working extremely hard to make that a comparison we can work with on the race track. Then we're much closer and it gives us the opportunity to compete, but as far as having an edge, we don't have that. As a matter of fact, we've been at a deficit for the last 18 months, but we are getting to the point again where we have enough horsepower that we can compete at every race track."

IF THIS WASN'T INDIANAPOLIS, WOULD THIS RACE BE THAT BIG OF A DEAL? "I think certainly that's what makes this place what it is. The race itself, that's what we look at is the history that you have surrounding it and the amount of people that come here. Could there be a better racing facility that is better and more conducive to our type of race cars? Yeah, there could be. But I think that we've had some pretty entertaining races. I guess we've had 10 to this point and maybe they all haven't come down to that last lap battle, but I've been in a number of battles over the years so it can lend itself to good racing. Yeah, the history is what really makes this but you can say that about a lot of places."

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE FEUDING AND FIGHTING THAT HAPPENS IN RACING? "It's competition. You go to watch the sports shows or ESPN and that's all you've seen lately are the rivalries, whether it's the Yankees and the Red Sox or the rivalries that go on within our sport. Anytime you have competition you're gonna have that to a certain extent. With this, maybe we go through a little bit of a time when there's a changing of the guard so to speak, but it doesn't take long for rivalries to start existing when you get a couple of people or a couple of teams, or more than that, that start racing each other on a regular basis you're gonna have that. From that point, you're gonna have tempers that flare at times and arguments - possibly even fights occasionally. That's just part of anywhere that you have any competition."

ARE YOU FEARFUL AT ALL THAT IT COULD LEAD TO TRAGEDY? "No, not really. I think that we're all smart enough that you only take it to a certain extent. It's not like you're going out on these high-speed race tracks that you're wrecking people and all that. No, I think we're all smart enough to keep it to what it is. It's that competitive spirit that makes us good at what we do and that's what fuels those rivalries, too. But as far as anything happening any further than that, no."

HOW HAS MONEY CHANGED THE RIVALRIES OVER THE YEARS? "I don't think that's really affected things. I think competition affects it. I don't think money really factors into the equation."

THIS RACE IS ALWAYS AN INDICATOR OF WHO MIGHT WIN THE TITLE. WHY? "I think that you find the teams that are poised to win the championship doing well here and, yeah, I think it's a pretty good indication. It has been over the years. If your team is doing well enough to race well here, then you've got to probably be doing well at most different type of race tracks. So I think this is a good indication as to who we can really look at. It's not necessarily who wins it, although certainly you can make a case there, but the teams that run in the top 10 here are teams you can look for to be a part of the championship, I think."

IS POCONO STILL AN INDICATOR OF WHO WILL DO WELL HERE? "Yeah, but probably not quite as much as we used to see, but if you've got a team and car that does well there, I think you could bring it here and expect to at least compete. But there are some changes that you have to make between the two places now because of how important aerodynamics are."

IS THIS PLACE STILL KIND OF A FISH OUT OF WATER PLACE FOR STOCK CARS? "With the lack of banking that we have, as you carry speed and make more speed through the corner, which we do and which we've done with aerodynamics and getting the cars as soft as they are in the front, you're traveling faster down the straightaway so it's gonna be harder to keep the car with the flat surface in the corner to keep it on the bottom. As we've gotten to a different type of tire here that's a little bit of a softer compound but more the softness of the sidewall and flexibility of it, I think that's when we see as the cars get probably 15-20 laps on them, you're gonna start to see the car slide around a lot in the corners. But that's what makes this place what it is. You have to get that balance. You have to decide if you're gonna go fast for 10 or 15 laps or you're gonna try to go at a good, hard pace for the 35 laps or so that you can run on fuel."

SO IT'S STILL A ONE-BY-ONE KIND OF TRACK BY NECESSITY? "Yeah, pretty much. It's difficult for us to race side-by-side very long here."

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO RUN WELL OR NOT TO RUN WELL HERE? "I think to run well here, you obviously have to have a very good chassis combination. You've found something that not only works here but works at other race tracks. If you're on to that and can run well here, you can take that knowledge to a lot of other race tracks. If you don't have that, you're gonna be struggling at the other places. You may get it every once in a while, but not on a regular basis."

IS THERE TIME TO RECOVER IF YOU STRUGGLE HERE? "Oh, there's still time, especially for people that have some testing left, but, yeah, you can still make things happen."

HOW WILL BRISTOL CHANGE THINGS? "It doesn't change anything. It's just Bristol. It's the same thing. It's a crapshoot. You go there and try to stay out of trouble and run as good as you possibly can. If you have a good race car, then usually you can have a pretty good weekend because you're not having to drive every single lap crazy back in the middle of the pack. But it's always an entertaining race and will be interesting and entertaining again."

DOES THE UNKNOWN THERE PUT ANY MORE PRESSURE ON OTHER RACES HEADING INTO THAT? "Not really. Every race has those hidden unknowns. If you ever get involved in a championship, you realize just what could happen at each and every race track and they're all kind of the same. Bristol, yeah, it's a little more so because somebody else's mistake can catch you and make for a long day for you, but you can say that about any track. So it doesn't put any more pressure. There's pressure everywhere we go."

IS TIP-TOEING AT BRISTOL IMPOSSIBLE EVEN IF YOU WANT TO DO IT? "It's totally impossible. If you want to tip-toe, you're gonna find yourself getting lapped before long because the leaders can come in such a hurry. There are certain situations that you may find yourself able to be a little bit more cautious, but, for the most part, it's going hard every single lap."

YOU STARTED YOUR DAY ON THE GOLF COURSE. HOW DID YOUR ROUND GO TODAY? "Yeah, it's a good place to start the day. You can't beat that - play golf in the morning and get on the race track in the afternoon so we need more places like this. It was fun. I got to play with Eddie Cheever and couple of media people and it was fun. We hit some good shots, but we should have played more than four holes that's the only thing, but the fans were great."

YOU GOT A CALL FROM PHIL MICKELSON AS WELL? "Yeah, I got a call from Phil Mickelson early this morning. I assume he was at home. I didn't ask him where he was, but he was up bright and early to give me a call. He wanted to know if I was working on my game for when we get the opportunity to play next year at the Doral in early March. My game's not very good, but I told him I'd work hard on it."

WHAT'S THE REACTION TO THE SPONSOR WE'VE HAD RECENTLY? "It's like it's always been. I understand that there are going to be competing products and sponsors. We came really close to winning the race at Michigan that was sponsored by a competing company of UPS, but we wouldn't have gone in there and torn everything down. That's just the way it's always been. I'm a Coca-Cola guy and we've won races at Daytona in July when it was another soda sponsor, so you go in there and you can maneuver your way around without covering stuff up. People are paying money to be a part of this and it takes all of that to make all of this happen. Everybody has different ways of going about it, but I think we all need to look and respect and appreciate what we have here and that's a lot of different companies. They can compete on their own in different ways with different things, but whenever somebody has paid for the rights to be there in victory lane, then maneuver yourself around. You don't have to be a part of that and nobody is asking you to drink that product or anything, but there are other ways to go about it."

DO YOU THINK IT STARTED BY COMPANIES THAT WANT THEIR DRIVERS TO KNOCK THE BOTTLES OFF? "I think they were being told to do that, yeah. That's unfortunate that they felt they had to do that, instead of just stepping aside and having the interview somewhere else. First off, they shouldn't be being told what to do and then, second, when it comes to something like that, I think you can go find a solution without it being that noticeable. NASCAR gave them fair warning, so you can't blame them for that."

-ford racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Jarrett , Eddie Cheever