Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, comes into this weekend's Dodge/SaveMart 350 trailing Jeff Gordon by 36 points in the race for the NASCAR Winston Cup championship. Jarrett took part in a press conference Thursday along ...
Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, comes into this weekend's Dodge/SaveMart 350 trailing Jeff Gordon by 36 points in the race for the NASCAR Winston Cup championship. Jarrett took part in a press conference Thursday along Fisherman's Wharf with members of the media regarding this weekend's race. Below are some excerpts from that question and answer session.
DALE JARRETT --88-- UPS Taurus
HOW IS RACING ON A ROAD COURSE DIFFERENT FROM AN OVAL PHYSICALLY?
You're moving all the time. You never have any time to relax. Even if you get somewhat on a straightaway you're shifting gears to get the most out of the car. With a road course like Sears Point, there are no breaks. You're moving something all the time. It's hard to say it's more physically demanding than a Dover or a Bristol, but you're using different parts of your body that you don't use at those places.
HOW DO YOU THINK THE COURSE CHANGES WILL AFFECT THE RACE?
What I see is it may have opened up some passing opportunities. Whether it's in the exact corner that they've built now, which I'll use as kind of turn five or six -- somewhere in that range -- but maybe not as much there. There could be an opportunity open up there, but I think it's gonna open up to the next corner that we see -- to out-brake someone into that corner. Whether it's passing or a little bit of nudging, I think that what's been added is gonna add a little excitement to the racing.
IS JEFF GORDON THE TARGET THIS WEEKEND?
"I think that's very fair. He's kind of been the king of the road courses for a while and I know he comes in here with a lot of confidence with the way that they've run and with his past success here. I'm sure he's looking at this as a weekend that, 'Hey, we have a chance to kind of distance ourselves from those guys.' And with us not having won a road course before, I would kind of be looking at it the same way if I was in his shoes. But a lot of things can happen here. A slight mistake puts you off course and puts you behind, plus so many cars finish on the lead lap that if you have a flat tire or something at the wrong time in the race, you don't get a chance to make that up and you finish way back. If you have a mechanical failure or something -- and when you shift as much as we do here, that can happen -- so we know anything can happen and that's the way we have to view it. I have to go and do my job and do the best that I can. Hopefully, it'll be in the top five. Hopefully, with this new car it's gonna give Dale Jarrett a little better road racing chance here and we can run up front and challenge those guys. Even though things may be kind of cut-and-dried on paper and you might say, 'Well, Jeff Gordon is gonna win and Ricky Rudd will probably finish in the top five and Dale Jarrett in the top 10 somewhere, so there's gonna be a change in points.' Well, that's why we run the races -- to find out exactly what's gonna happen.
YOU HAVE A NEW CAR FOR THIS RACE. HOW MUCH DIFFERENT DOES A NEW CAR MAKE?
There's quite a bit of difference. The cars I have been running here were primarily made for right-hand corners and we have some very important left-hand corners here at Sears Point. The old car that we had didn't have a lot of lead in it, so it didn't allow us to put the lead where we wanted. We were kind of stuck with what we could do. This new car is gonna look just like the same 88 as what the backup car is, which is the old car, but we know where we were able to situation and put the lead and we feel that's gonna better balance our race car and give me a better handling car.
EVERY YEAR IT SEEMS THIS TRACK CHANGES.
It definitely makes it more of a challenge as if it wasn't enough of a challenge to start with. When we come back here and there's something new added to the track or something changed about it, it definitely makes it more of a challenge for us. But that's just part of what we face each and every week with the different race tracks we go to. I'm sure we'll figure it out, it just takes us a couple extra laps to do that."
DOES THIS RACE AT SEARS POINT HAVE A DIFFERENT FEEL TO IT FROM THE TRADITIONAL TRACKS?
I think it is different for a couple of reasons. Obviously, we don't get to this part of the country so there are opportunities for us to do a few more things and see things that are a little different than what we have at a lot of other venues. The race fans that come here are fans that we don't see a lot of. We hear from them a lot through fan mail and that type of thing, but we don't get to see them so we have that opportunity to interact with them. They love their racing out here and, again, going to a road course is something we don't do a lot of either, so I think we all look forward to coming out here for a number of different reasons.
IF A ROAD COURSE SPECIALIST LIKE RON FELLOWS GOT IN JEFF GORDON'S CAR OR YOUR CAR, WOULD HE DO BETTER?
If you can do better than Jeff Gordon, then that would be scary. In my car I think it would make a tremendous difference. Boris Said went with us to the road course in Kershaw (S.C.) just to run our new car a little bit and it's amazing watching him. That's what they do and that's all that they know. They know what they're looking for and the feel they're looking for and that makes a big difference. I've never tested out here. I come out here once a year and try to familiarize myself again as quickly as I can with where I need to be and what I need to be doing, but if I came here and tested I think I could improve. That would be a situation where if I ran off or got into a corner too hard, I could learn that quickly. Trying to do that before qualifying is difficult. First off, you don't want to run off the course because you've only got three sets of tires and that would give you only basically two before qualifying. Those guys are good and, again, Ron Fellows or Boris Said in my car -- they would probably run quicker than I can especially right off. Maybe by the end of the day I could get somewhere close to that, but I think Jeff Gordon is a phenomenal road racer. He's someone that does both very well.
WHAT ABOUT THE SEASON KEVIN HARVICK IS HAVING?
Kevin has kind of downplayed what he's done this year. He's a remarkable young man and a tremendous talent. I would venture to say that very few, if any, could really take on what he's taking on, especially at the young age that he is and do the job that he's done. I'm a big fan of his and he's good for our sport.
WITH THE PROBLEMS JEFF GORDON HAD LAST YEAR, ARE YOU SURPRISED HE'S LEADING THE STANDINGS NOW?
I can't say that I'm surprised because someone like Jeff Gordon, who has the kind of talent he does, and the resources Hendrick Motorsports has, you know that they're not gonna struggle. He struggled to win four or five races or something like that, that's really struggling (laughter), but you know they're not gonna be behind very long. Robbie Loomis is very capable and he has a lot of good people around him, plus Jeff Gordon is a great talent. He's gonna definitely be the one we battle all year and we're gonna do our best to try to keep up and keep him in sight. Of course when you come to a place like this where he's won a number of races, we know we really have to do our job this weekend or we could lose sight of him. On the other side of it, I come to a place like this and know we have a good chance. I've never won a road race and I can't say I'd be one of the favorites, but I know that I'm very capable of running in the top five and if he makes a mistake, then things turn around.
HOW ARE YOU PHYSICALLY GOING INTO THIS WEEKEND?
I'm not 100 percent now, but it's really gotten so much better over the last two weeks. Part of the reason we went to Kershaw last week, before Pocono, was to kind of see how that (turning left and right) was going to affect me and whether or not I was going to have to bring a doctor out here with me again, and I don't have to. I got through Pocono last week and everything is a lot better. I had very little pain and I know it's healed more since then, so I'm not concerned about it at all."
HOW DO YOU FEEL FOX HAS DONE THE FIRST HALF OF THE SEASON WITH ITS COVERAGE?
Is it Fox or the Darrell Waltrip network? (Laughter)
I'm just kidding. I'm a huge fan of Darrell's. I think it's gone well. From the standpoint of what's good for our sport, we've seen our sport being advertised in places during shows and other sporting events that we had never seen before. That's one of the benefits for this sport. The Fox people have been everywhere and I don't foresee anything different with NBC coming on board in a couple of weeks. Again, it should continue to generate interest in our sport. What little of the races I've seen, I think that Mike Joy and Larry (McReynolds) and Darrell and the rest of the group has been very entertaining and the good thing about those guys is that occasionally -- I like to think our racing is good all the time -- but maybe when it's not the best, they're still very entertaining. I personally thing the package has been a great thing for our sport."