Indianapolis Jarrett seeks repeat of flawless '99 victory

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, July 27, 2000 -- Dauntless Dale Jarrett had an “almost perfect” race en route to victory in the 1999 Brickyard 400. Here’s a warning from Jarrett to all the other NASCAR Winston Cup teams and drivers...

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, July 27, 2000 -- Dauntless Dale Jarrett had an “almost perfect” race en route to victory in the 1999 Brickyard 400. Here’s a warning from Jarrett to all the other NASCAR Winston Cup teams and drivers participating in the seventh annual Brickyard 400 on Aug. 5: “Hopefully, we can do that again.” If that becomes more than wishful thinking on Jarrett’s part, he could become the first three-time winner of the lucrative, prestigious race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Last year, Jarrett joined Jeff Gordon as a two-time Brickyard winner with a dominant victory in his Quality Care/Ford Credit Ford, beating Bobby Labonte to the checkered flag by 3.351 seconds. Jarrett led 117 of the 160 laps. Jarrett then went on to win his first NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship and an incredible $6,649,596 for the season. “We did just everything right here last year,” said Jarrett, who drives for Robert Yates Racing. “We had a really good car. It was fast on new tires, and it was fast on old tires. The car just didn’t slow down. We did the right strategy. For once, everything went almost perfect.” That included taking right-side tires only on the final pit stop. The tire decision wasn’t a huge risk, Jarrett said, because the team thoroughly checked the affect of a two-tire change on the car’s handling during pre-race testing and practice. “We knew we weren’t going to hurt our car,” he said. “We didn’t know the two tires we put on were going to make it as good as what it did. That was the fastest we had run all day when we put the two tires on. The right-side tires we put on really kind of freed the car up. We had been a little bit on the tight side all day. “It wasn’t as big a gamble as a lot of people thought.” Jarrett earned his first Brickyard 400 victory in 1996. He said that he tried hard - “a little too hard, I guess” -- to become the first two-time winner in 1998 after qualifying second. But Gordon beat him to the honor as Jarrett came home on the lead lap but in 16th place after leading 27 laps. His car ran out of gas while leading at the halfway point, dropping him down the order. That has just whet his appetite to become the first three-timer. “It certainly would be very special to become the first three-time winner,” he said. “I love the trophies and rings that come from this place. More than anything, there are hats that I have that sit around saying that we’re Brickyard 400 winners. It would mean a lot to me.” So would adding a second straight Winston Cup championship. Jarrett finished fourth in the Pennsylvania 500 on July 23 at Pocono International Raceway, the last race before the Brickyard 400. He climbed past Dale Earnhardt into second place in the standings with 2,772 points. Bobby Labonte leads with 2,825. Jarrett, the 43-year-old son of NASCAR legend Ned Jarrett, said winning the championship is so delicious that it makes a driver want to savor it again and again. “The biggest thing is now I understand why Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty and Jeff Gordon had that tremendous desire to win more, because it just kind of fuels the fire inside you. “As much as it meant to win the championship last year, I want to win more now than even I did at that time. It fires the competitive spirit inside you.” In a way, the money a driver wins becomes irrelevant, Jarrett said. The challenge is more important. This season Jarrett already has won $4,075,864 in 19 races, pushing his career total to $26,038,479. Of this total, $1,876,860 has come from his six Brickyard finishes, including $712,240 last year. Even more remarkable, $17,985,659 of the career total has come after he turned 40. Jarrett said he had no idea how much he had won and jokes that team owner Yates gets most of it. He added that he would race at the Brickyard “for $10 or $20 just for the opportunity and to have a trophy from here.” “The money is great,” he said. “But what has happened since when my dad was racing to now is amazing. He won the championship and 13 races in ’65 and I think won $78,000 the entire year. We’re winning 6 or 7 million dollars a year at this now.” Jarrett said Yates reinvests much of the winnings into the team, paying his team members well for their hard work and sacrifice. Jarrett’s pit crew has done a stellar job in the pits, helping him keep the lead or gain track position. This is particularly vital in the Brickyard, because it so important to be in the front in the free air, Jarrett said. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway requires a strong engine for the long straightaways and a good chassis setup for the tight, flat turns. It appears that Jarrett and crew chief Todd Parrott have a good handle on that combination. But Jarrett cautioned against overconfidence. “Just when you think you’ve got things figured out for just what you need, you find out you don’t really know, because something that you think will work here a lot of times doesn’t,” Jarrett said. “What we run here is totally different than we run anywhere else as far as the total setup. The total package is so totally different, we would never have thought it would work. But it’s just something we found testing and racing that it works well.”

-IRNLS/IMS-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Ned Jarrett , Robert Yates
Teams Yates Racing