Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, will be trying to extend the longest active winning streak in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series this weekend at Kansas. Jarrett, who qualified ninth for tomorrow's scheduled Banquet 400, has...
Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, will be trying to extend the longest active winning streak in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series this weekend at Kansas. Jarrett, who qualified ninth for tomorrow's scheduled Banquet 400, has posted at least one series win in each of the last 11 seasons. He recently spoke about the streak and the strides his team is taking to get him back into Victory Lane.
DALE JARRETT - No. 88 UPS Taurus
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO YOU TO KEEP YOUR WINNING STREAK GOING?
"It's important. You always want to win at least one race a year and it would be nice if we could keep that going. I think we've got a few good chances coming up, but, sure, that's important to us."
WHAT IS YOUR BEST TRACK FOR THIS TO HAPPEN AT?
"If you look at it, the best chances would be Kansas, Charlotte, Atlanta and probably Homestead. I think there are at least four good opportunities out there. Even though I have never finished a race at Kansas, that's a pretty tall order to think I could go from not finishing to winning, but we ran well last year and came up about three laps short. But I think it's a place we have a good chance to win."
DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT A LOT - THE FACT YOU HAVEN'T FINISHED A RACE AT KANSAS?
"We've just had some misfortune. I got involved in an accident the first year and then missed a gear the second race that blew the engine up, and then last year we broke a part in the engine with three laps to go. It's just been unfortunate circumstances. You just put that behind you and don't worry about it."
DO YOU SEE THIS TEAM REBOUNDING AFTER NOT MAKING THE CUT AND GETTING FOCUSED ON THE 11TH SPOT?
"We still have work to do in certain areas and that was very evident at Richmond and Loudon, but I think we showed coming back at Dover that we've been working hard in the area of banked race tracks - the one-and-a-half to two-mile tracks. That's been our strong suit, so we have to go back to work on these other type of tracks. We're in much better position at a lot of places, but you're always having to work somewhere. Right now, our test at Phoenix will be very important for us, not only to finish this year, but to kind of get those flat race tracks and shorter tracks on a good start for next year."
IS WHAT THEY'RE DOING FOR THE 11TH SPOT - THE MONEY AND THE BANQUET - IS THAT ENOUGH INCENTIVE TO GET YOU REVVED UP TO GO AFTER IT OR IS IT JUST A CASE OF DOING THE BEST YOU CAN AND FINISHING AS HIGH AS YOU CAN?
"Yeah, money, trophy, going to New York makes no difference, I'm going to New York regardless. The money would be nice, but that's no incentive at all for us. The incentive is for us to become a better race team and continue to do that and get ourselves positioned for next year."
NOTE: Jarrett hosted a Q&A Saturday morning in which he spoke about a variety of issues including his team's resurgence and his involvement in the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR TEAM'S RESURGENCE?
"It has been difficult. Once you reach a level of success, you get accustomed to that and you like to think that with the people and the hard work and effort that you won't ever go down that other side, but I have been fortunate over the years. I've been around this a lot and have seen that happen to a lot of really good race drivers and drivers much better than myself, so I can understand that it's out there and can happen to anyone. So that's helped me somewhat, knowing that we have sponsors and I have a car owner like Robert Yates that is gonna do anything that he possibly can to help us to get back. That's helped a lot, too. As much as anything over the last couple of years, having Elliott as a teammate, has probably helped as much or more than anything for a couple of reasons. One, he's just great fun to be around and he knows when to be serious and when to have fun.
"He's been a good friend as much as he's been a teammate and the other side of it is that even whenever we were struggling and couldn't make it happen, I could see progress in Elliott. Not that I'm trying to take credit for anything that they've done, but we have talked a lot. He gives me a lot more credit than what I deserve in helping him, but it's been fun to watch that and be a part of that, too. I knew I wasn't gonna give up and I think the inspiration - a lot of things that a lot of us say and do but, in particular, myself - is I go back to Dale Earnhardt. I know that just two years before his accident people were writing him off, too, and there he was the year before just having another great year. I know that if it can happen to him, it can happen to anyone. I remember talking to him about it and all you can do is work hard and, hopefully, you'll make your way back."
HOW KEY HAS EDDIE D'HONDT BEEN?
"Eddie D'Hondt's been a big inspiration to us, but he's been huge in looking at our operation and seeing where we were really lacking. The engineering staff that he's put in place at Robert Yates Racing has been just a tremendous help to us. That's where we knew we were lacking, but didn't really have the capabilities of going out and making that better, but Eddie is that person who knows a lot of people and can look from the outside and decide who those people were that we needed. Then he could go get them. He didn't have to rely on the crew chiefs to get them or anybody else. He knew those were the people, so it was his job to go acquire those people and he's done a tremendous job." HAS THE ORGANIZATIONAL PART BEEN TE KEY?
"Certainly the organizational part because we had gotten pretty slack in a lot of things that we did around there and the way that we were going about them -- keeping records of parts and pieces that we were running. We just didn't have any leadership, basically. Robert is a great person and knows more about this sport than most people will ever know, but being able to lead people in the right direction and getting the quality people that we needed - we had to have someone in place to do that and Eddie has done just a fantastic job of that. He's been around this sport a lot. He knows what it takes to be successful and he knows the type of people that we need to put in place to make that happen."
WHAT CHANGES WOULD YOU MAKE IN THE CHASE?
"I talked with George Pyne about this last week and I talked to Mike Helton. This came to me after the first race at Loudon, where Tony and Jeremy had their problems. I would propose that you would take those 10 teams and, even though they're still racing against everybody, that their point structure would only be for those 10 cars. Say that Jeff Gordon finished fifth and he was the first one of those 10 drivers, he would get the 180 points for being the highest finisher of those, and then the next guy might be Elliott, who might finish 10th, but he would be the second-highest and he would get 170. Then it would just drop down from there, regardless of where their finish was. So if you look at it in that way, the most anybody could lose would be somewhere between 50 and 55 points, so you're gonna keep everybody closer for the extended period of time. Now you've got Jeremy two hundred and some out and a couple of other guys over 150, so, this way, you might have one bad week but you're not gonna be so far behind that you can't catch up. That right now, to me, is one of the only things that I see, other than the fact if you wanted to think about having more people involved in the chase, then you move that 400 number to 500. I don't even know how many more that would put in during a normal year. This year it would have worked out for a few more, but I'm not sure you can call this a normal year in a lot of ways with the problems that the leaders seem to have there. That may become the norm because of the competition."
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE EVERYBODY IN THE BACK OF THE FIELD GETS THE SAME NUMBER OF POINTS?
"Yeah, I think it's a good idea for a number of reasons - that you're not penalized so much there - and the other thing is that we've got people out there, myself being included in that, where we've been in accident or something and we're just out there running around.
"It's a lot harder to stay out of the way than it is to race up front in these things, especially on some of the short tracks, so that would eliminate people having to go back out there and meet a minimum speed and things like that in a time when they would probably be better off out of the way and letting everybody that's still in good shape race for the win. I think that's an excellent idea."
DO YOU LIKE THE TRACKS THAT MAKE UP THE FINAL 10 RACES?
"Since I have never finished one here, this wouldn't be at the top of my list (laughing). I think in looking at it right now it's a pretty good mix of what we have. I think that we could look at some scenario that we might change out one or two of those a year to give other people opportunities to be involved - that we don't have to have the same 10. As far as a road course in there, if it were up to me I would probably say no, but to put a total mix on it, yeah, I think that's probably a pretty good idea. I think we could look at changing those around, but there are certainly some that probably need to be there year in and year out. I think it's a great idea for Charlotte and probably Atlanta - to get California in there would be beneficial and Phoenix is in there - so we get a broad range across the nation of letting everyone have their chance at one of the 10."
WHAT WOULD YOU THINK ABOUT ENDING THE YEAR AT DAYTONA?
"That would definitely throw a wild card into it as far as not having any idea what was gonna happen until the end. Homestead is a great place to finish, but Daytona would be a pretty interesting scenario to finish up there at a restrictor plate race. It's a little more of a handling track than what Talladega is, so I think that it could probably be a pretty interesting race. I think myself that it would be a pretty good idea to start and finish the season at Daytona."
TV RATINGS ARE SLIGHTLY DOWN. DO YOU HAVE ANY REASON WHY THAT MIGHT BE?
"The sport is pretty popular and it's not like we're off a lot to start with. We have a huge fan base as it is. Maybe it was a little unrealistic for it to grow that much more. Sure, that would be nice, but we may have come close to kind of our limit, especially in a situation in a time of year when we have Major League Baseball right now, the playoffs are there, the NFL started up and in just a couple of weeks the NBA is gonna be starting. So you've got a lot of competition for the sports fan and I think we have to be careful. Sure, we would always like to have more viewers, but I think we have quite a few as it is. If you put it in comparison, if we had 15 races on a weekend like the NFL has 15 games, then, yeah, I think we may have to look at trying to get more viewers, but I personally am not concerned. I don't run the networks, though. That's their business."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR INVOLVEMENT IN THE KOMEN FOUNDATION?
"It's been a wonderful program. Myself and Kelley get way too much of the credit for what is happening here and the people behind the scenes. There are a lot of people involved and Ford Motor Company and Ford Credit in particular with what they've done through our racing program and through the Race Fans for a Cure and making the fans aware of exactly how they can help and the input that they can have. And then the volunteers that we have are just fantastic. It's unbelievable what has really taken place around the race track and the amount of money that has been raised and the awareness that is there now. We're just kind of the showpieces that can bring some attention and we're glad to use our name and face if that can be beneficial. The number of cards, letters and e-mails that we get now is unbelievable. They come through my office and I don't see everything that the people at Ford and Ford Credit get, so it's been a great program for us to be involved in. We want to stay involved. We certainly would like to get our race program back to the point that we're adding those dollars on a weekly basis too, so we're just very proud to be associated with such a fine organization. There's no doubt in my mind that over the years of what I've seen, the people that are involved and the doctors that are involved, that in the very near future we will have a cure for breast cancer."
IT MUST BE GRATIFYING TO HEAR STORIES OF LIVES THAT HAVE BEEN SAVED.
"That's the big thing. I can be walking through the grocery store or at the mall and I'll have people come up to me and tell me their stories within their family or people that they know. There's not a better feeling. I don't think that the feeling of getting out of the car in Victory Lane is any better than knowing that you've done a little something to help others and that you're making a difference. These are truly great stories that people have to tell you."