Jarrett Preseason Thunder - MWR team interview

Dale Jarrett Quotes from Day 3 of Daytona Testing You've won this race three times, new scene for you this year, what do you feel about this year's 500? I'm looking forward to it. It's obviously a new and different challenge for me starting in...

Dale Jarrett Quotes from Day 3 of Daytona Testing

You've won this race three times, new scene for you this year, what do you feel about this year's 500?

I'm looking forward to it. It's obviously a new and different challenge for me starting in 2007. A new race team and a new car. You come to a place like Daytona where the racing is close -- I think that it gives you an idea that anybody can win this race if you get yourself in the right position regardless of how little experience the team may have but we've had a good test so far. I'm very much pleased and encouraged by what I have scene. Matt's (Borland) doing a terrific job and, trying to get to know everybody and see how things are done differently than what I was accustomed to the last 12 years, an experience this week and a good experience. The Toyota people have been fantastic here - very much on top of their game - and I think that should quicken our learning curve quite a bit because of their input.

What was the motivation behind your move to Michael Waltrip Racing and what are the realistic goals for you and for this new team this year?

The motivation I guess was -- because I felt like that whether it was me or a combination of myself and where I had been for 12 years -- it was like we were just finishing out my career -- that we weren't, that it wasn't just new and exciting anymore. I just felt like a change like this was something that was exciting to me. To think about the opportunity I had to help a good friend of mine in Michael Waltrip start up his race team. I've been very impressed, and was even before I took the job, with everything that Michael and his people had done to get prepared for this. To help him and then to help Toyota come into the sport was a challenge that I felt like would give me that energy and that fire inside me again to really want to help and make this something special. If I can look back after everything is finished and say you know I had a big part of helping Toyota enter the Cup series and be successful, then that will be pretty rewarding. It was that type of scenario I was looking for. You know I've always been excited about getting in the car but this is a lot more than just getting in the race car. Realistic goal? As we explained to sponsors, thinking that we could make the Chase that would be up there pretty far. Can it happen? Sure it can but a more realistic goal for us would be to be around that top 15 in the points in the first year. I think that is attainable. You know it'd be easy for us to go in and say well, I think we can finish in the top 25. But that's not setting your goals very high and you tend not to work as hard, and we can get to victory lane I think. Not having as much testing, that's going to hurt us a little bit. But I honestly think that we can get to victory lane and I've stated a number of times I'd like to be that driver to give Toyota their first win.

One of the things that goes back and forth in the sport these days is old school vs. new school -- the old fans and the old way of doing things and the traditions. One of the flame points to that argument these days is Toyota coming into the sport. It is something new and something different and there are fans who will say we don't want a foreign manufactured car in the sport. You understand that and have you thought about how you will answer that question to fans and other people?

Yeah, I mean, we can talk for an hour about a lot of stuff that I've thought about. But, if everything stood still then your jobs would be a lot harder. You wouldn't be here on laptops sending everything back. It would be a lot more difficult for you to do your job. The same here. Things aren't going to stand still. If we did that, things would be kind of boring for everybody if we didn't have that technology and that advanced technology to make things new and more exciting. As far as Toyota, the parent company is foreign. We could get into the argument where the Ford Fusion is built. Everyone of them are built in Mexico. The Monte Carlos are built in Canada. So we could go through all of that stuff and see who's right and who's wrong. There's a lot of Toyotas built in the United States. They employ a lot of people. They're a great car company -- probably not too far from being number one in the world. You're not going to get that across to some people and I'm not gonna try to. It's not gonna be my job or my plan to come out here and try to convince everybody that this is the right thing to do for Toyota to be involved. But we have to be accepting of change. If we don't then you know you'd still be watching 12-inch TV screens and well, that's not a lot of fun when you've got everything else that's out there. I know there are people that aren't going to change and aren't going to accept it and that's fine. Everybody can have that opinion. You just have to understand that the United States government allowed Toyota to come into our country and build and sell Toyota vehicles. And there's a lot of people out there that drive them because they again are close to being number one in the world in sales. If I wanted to really get nasty, I guess I could say go in your house and check and if you're going to argue with me about not being American which I'm as American as the next person that's here and I pay my taxes just like everybody else and I love this country. But check and see if that TV you're watching was made in the United States that you're watching our great races on. But there's a lot of things you could say. In fact it's going to be something that I can't convince everyone and I'm not going to try to do that. I just hope they understand we all have to make decisions at times based on what was best for me and my situation and that you know Toyota is a big part of the United States economy. We have to be accepting of that, and should they be a part of NASCAR? Why shouldn't NASCAR change along the way too. There's nothing saying that we can't continue to change here in this sport and see what's best for the sport and Toyota's going to be very good for the sport. They're going to put a lot of dollars in the sport and that's not, I don't mean the dollars in the way that a lot of people are talking -- going in and buying this and buying that and buying people. They're going to put a lot of dollars in promoting our sport and that's going to be good for our sport as a whole.

Do you believe you'll have a Toyota dealership -- not only in North Carolina, and secondly, can you talk about the difference between the Toyota and the Ford in the draft?

As far as the dealership goes -- that process had been started well before I ever thought about driving a Toyota. I say we -- that's the Dale Jarrett Automotive Group -- my partners had explored that opportunity a little over two years ago. We had applied. We got the application and sent it back to Toyota -- been approved at that time. We weren't ready at that time to really get ourselves in that position. If it would have been one in North Carolina -- we were offered one but it wasn't in North Carolina -- it was in Alabama and we weren't in the position to do it at that time. This is not something that's going to happen just because I started driving a Toyota. Do I want to acquire a dealership? Yes, absolutely, simply because it's a money-making operation and that's what we're in business to do. We will keep the Ford store. We're in the process right now of breaking ground right beside that with the Suzuki store that we currently sell right beside the Ford dealership. Then hopefully in some point in time . . . it's not like this deal was that they could just give me a dealership somewhere, that can't be -- it's against the law first off. But we do have our application in. I have a good friend in Hickory, Mike Johnson that owns a Toyota store there and he and I have talked numerous times, even before this came along, about the possibility of doing some things together. So hopefully that is down the road and hopefully maybe the first one will be somewhere in North Carolina, but we are ready now to explore outside of North Carolina if we have to. As far as the car, the Toyota in the draft was pretty good yesterday. The car that we used wasn't the better of the two cars for me either in speed or drive ability. But I was still pretty pleased with what I saw, especially as we made the changes to it. The first time out it wasn't very good. But we made some changes and it responded to that and we got the car driving much better to where it would keep up and would suck up in the draft. We have two cars here today. We brought in a different car for our other car today that's a little bit different feel and I'm excited about seeing what it's going to do in the draft. We'll get out this afternoon and get a lot more but I've been very pleased with what I've seen so far.

Right off the top of my head, you, Sadler, Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Burton, Mark Martin have all been at Ford since like 2001 or 2002. Can you assess where Ford Motor Company is in their racing program and in your opinion, can they keep up?

Well, they certainly can keep up. I believe that even since Dodge came in not that many years ago that it's been but I think they brought a new era into our sport too with a lot of engineering and a lot of support from that manufacturer. I think that Ford has slacked off a little bit in that respect over the years and that they're still very strong. They have some very good teams out there but it's going to cost money to be successful in this sport and you're going to have to be willing to put those dollars out there, and when the company itself is struggling a little bit that makes it more difficult. They're going to have to realize that's what they're going to have to do and hopefully we'll start selling more Ford vehicles and that will help them. From the technology side of it I do think they haven't put the effort there that the other manufacturers have.

We hear a lot about how Toyota is having all the teams share data with each other. Has that been going on so far and how much of an advantage do you think that will be?

Yeah, that's a good question. That's what's been preached since the very first time that I spoke with the Toyota representatives that that's what was going to happen. They felt like in their model and in their plans that was the best way for all of us to become more successful more quickly. And yes that is happening. Even before we got here to start testing on the race track that was happening from other tests at tracks when we were going to Kentucky or we were going to Nashville or even Lakeland. Red Bull is the same way and Bill Davis is the same way. Information is being shared and again we feel like that is our quickest way to get over some of the hurtles that we have. Toyota is still very much behind that and preaching that and I think the teams right now understand that for us to be successful that we have to do that right now. There will come a point in time that some of that will break away but we have a ways to go before we get to that point and I think everyone understands that and is very much willing to work together.

I'm looking to hear a little bit about the relationship with you and your crew chief and what kind of change that takes on for you and how difficult that might be.

Normally, you wonder how long it's going to take to start learning each other's speak, so to speak. What is Matt looking for me to say and when he's telling me something because he could talk way above my head being the engineer that he is and I'll not understand a word. I think he figured that out pretty quickly so he talks on a level that I can understand and we've had a lot of good talks from the first time I went down and sat down with him and we talked for probably a little bit over two hours. We had good conversation there, I understood a lot about where he was coming from and what he was looking to do. We've had a lot of conversations since then whether it be at lunch or just around the race track and after practice and things. It's gone very well. Matt is a very determined young man, very knowledgeable. He understands a whole lot more about what's happening with the race cars then you could ever imagine. I've preached for a long time about needing engineers so I have one as a crew chief now. I think that's a benefit to any race team -- not that you have to have that to be successful. But obviously if you have an engineer in that position they're much more willing and able to work with the engineering staff. I see that with Matt and I think everybody is very comfortable with him and he works people very good and so, I'm excited about the opportunity of working with someone of that caliber. I think that it was going to take someone like Matt Borland to come in where this operation was to get us up and running this quickly and he's done a really good job of that in a short period of time.

Fans are following the testing, watching where the Toyotas are and making responses and reaction in gaging it. What would you make of the Toyotas from where they are on the charts?

"I think it's gone pretty well. I don't know that I've looked at it that much. I think that Dave Blaney has been pretty fast pretty much the two and a half days we've had so far. They look like they have their program going very well. We have one car that's been pretty good, then another one that wasn't quite as good. But we're working to make those closer. But I think as a whole everyone in the Toyota camp has to be pretty pleased with what we've seen. The engines have been very good and to be quite honest that was a concern of mine obviously coming from where I came from that that was never an issue. You wondered just how caught up they could be because I know the many hours and hours and dollars that have been spent by Robert Yates Racing, by Hendrick Motorsports and Richard Childress on these restrictor-plate engines over the years. How quick Toyota could come in and be successful at this. But I was very pleased the first time that I went on the race track with what I saw in regards to the engine so I think we've been very good. We're doing a lot of things to see. We're kind of having to do a balancing act to see what we can do to gain the speed yet then what changes can we make that are going to be beneficial to us in the race downforce-wise without hurting the speed too much. So we kind of go back and forth and the fans that are following that you might wonder today why we're not as fast as we were yesterday. Wind has a little something to do with it. But we concentrated more when we came in today on trying to make some of those changes that would give us some down force back with one of the cars. It may not even be my car because we have Michael and David Reutimann coming next week and those guys we know need to get in a good lap so we've been back and forth between the speed and the downforce issue just to see where we can be, but again, I think everyone has to be very pleased.

I just want to clarify what you said about Ford and some of the criticism has been that Toyota is creating a new pay scale and paying outrageous salaries. Are you saying Ford isn't catching up and that Toyota is at the pay scale other manufacturers are or Toyota is much higher?

Toyota hasn't set the bar. This has always happened regardless of whether it's been new teams coming in or new manufacturers. When Dodge came in and Ray Evernham started his deal up he had to go and do the same thing to get some experienced people to make sure they start off in a pretty good mode. You have to go get some experienced people. You can't take all novices and rookies and bring them in and expect to be pretty good. So you might have to pay someone a little bit more to get them to come over. But basically I can tell you for a fact -- because I know what we're paying a lot of these people -- that they're not getting a huge raise to come work for Toyota, especially at Michael Waltrip Racing. We have a budget that we have to live within and that's not what is happening here. They're all trying to say Toyota is coming in and buying people off. I know that there were a number of people that talked from Robert Yates race team -- before they knew they were going to have the second car back again -- that talked over here and they were making more money there than what they were being offered at Michael Waltrip Racing. So it's not like we're coming in and buying everything. Is Toyota stepping things up from an engineering standpoint? Absolutely. That's where they are gonna step everything up. Dodge did the exact same thing when they came in. They had the huge engineering staff and a lot of technology there and that's where their dollars were. I mean they're sitting there the sponsors of a couple of cars. It's going to be a battle and it's going to be a feud. But yeah Ford's going to have to step up and make sure that they keep up with their program. Again they have very good race teams. Robert Yates Racing and Roush Racing and the Wood Brothers are very good teams but they're going to have to put that support behind it to make it all work. Again, it happens every time when you have new teams coming in and in this case you do have some new teams coming in. You have to go get people that you can count on and rely on and kind of mix those along with some new people that you can take a chance on whether they're from Busch teams or Truck teams. It's going to be a battle and it's going to be an argument. You're going to get he said and he said but I'm in a better position to state the facts because I know both sides of it. People can believe me if they want to or not, that doesn't really make any difference but everybody will have to step up. It's no different than the amount of money and technology that a Hendrick Motorsports has. It's just amazing. It's tremendous. They can try to put it on the new guy on the block in Toyota coming in that's creating this expense but it's just the sport in itself and it's the other manufacturers that are doing that too.

-credit: mwr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Jarrett , Michael Waltrip , Kurt Busch , Kasey Kahne , David Reutimann , Ray Evernham , Mike Johnson , Robert Yates , Dave Blaney , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports , Michael Waltrip Racing , Yates Racing