Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, is in 13th place in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings heading into tomorrow's Pocono 500. Last week, he finished in fifth place at Dover - his fourth top-10 in the last seven races. In 30 career...
Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, is in 13th place in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings heading into tomorrow's Pocono 500. Last week, he finished in fifth place at Dover - his fourth top-10 in the last seven races. In 30 career starts at Pocono, he has two victories and 16 top-10s.
DALE JARRETT-88-UPS Taurus-DOES LAST WEEK MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER? "Yeah, definitely. We were at least competitive for the entire race, and that's what you're after. I mean, it's hard to build on something if you're running 15th to 20th, but when you make yourself competitive then you can go back and say, 'Okay, this is what we did,' and we can adjust from there. We were at a point where a small adjustment may have gotten us to second - I'm not sure we would've caught the 48 car - but, yeah, that felt a lot better."
HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO GET ANY HELP FROM THE 28 TEAM'S TEST? "Yeah, I think we've worked together and I think that we found out that a lot of our problem was the aero side of it. We've been at the wind tunnel some, but I think that we weren't looking at the numbers exactly right. I think that we found something else that we happened to look at there, and their on-track testing has given us a better idea of what we had to do. So, we were scheduled to come here and test, and I was excited about that, but the rain had the track messed up, so we didn't make that. We did go to Kentucky on Tuesday, and we learned a lot there in a day. That's a great race track. I think that we're headed in a much better direction. But, the teams working together, yeah. We realized that both teams were struggling. To make this a quicker process, we've got to work together."
DID YOU HAVE THE SAME PROBLEMS IN TESTING HERE THAT THEY DID - RAIN ONE DAY AND SEEPING THE NEXT? "We ended up not even coming because the 32 car was here the day before, and they called us and told us what was happening, so instead of us sitting here, we stayed at home. They were going to call us if things got better, but that's exactly what they explained to us what was happening with the track. A little bit in two, more in three, that the track was just seeping, and they said they sat here with the sun out all day and never did get to run."
SINCE TODD PARROTT HAS RETURNED AS CREW CHIEF (PRIOR TO THE TEXAS RACE), YOU HAVE FOUR TOP-10S. WHEN HE RETURNED, DID THE TEAM PICK UP WHERE IT LEFT OFF LAST YEAR, OR DID IT TAKE A WHILE? "I don't even know that we picked up there. I mean, we may be back there, but everybody has improved, so we have a ways to go yet. It's just continuity. This business is no different from any other business - it's about people, and having the people in the right places and everybody working within themselves and with somebody that's in charge. And when you get too many people maybe trying to be in charge, then that creates problems. It's just a continuity deal, and Todd and I work well together. I mean, we have our struggles, too, and sometimes it's almost difficult to see exactly what the problem is, why we're not running better. We're doing a lot of the same things, why aren't we running better? But, just like the aero side of it, if you don't have a good aero package in this business right now, you can find yourself in trouble. It doesn't matter how good of a setup you may have or how good your chassis may be or how good your engine may be, you're not going to get the job done."
IF YOU HAVEN'T YET TURNED THE CORNER TO GET THIS TEAM BACK TO WHERE YOU WANT IT TO BE, CAN YOU AT LEAST SEE THE CORNER? "We're making progress, but we're still - a race or two here and there is not what's going to make us back to the team that we were. So, we got a ways to go yet. It's something that's going to be an ongoing process for us, to get more than one car capable of doing that. That particular car that we ran last week was a car that has run well everywhere that we've had it. Unfortunately, we hadn't taken it to a lot of places - maybe we should've been using it more often. But I think that it gave us a better direction. We know we have good race tracks coming up for us. This is a place that we normally perform well, and this should be something that could be good medicine for our team."
WITH ALL THE SUCCESS THAT YOU'VE HAD WITH THIS RACE TEAM, DID THIS YEAR SNEAK UP ON YOU, OR WAS THERE SOMETHING IN THE BACK OF YOUR MIND THAT LED YOU TO BELIEVE THAT LED YOU TO BELIEVE THIS YEAR WOULD BE MORE OF A STRUGGLE? "I didn't really feel, I can't say that I had a tremendously good feeling - other than I thought, maybe, we'd bring Jimmy Elledge on board that things might get done and get turned in a right direction. But we kind of fell off the last quarter of last year, and I didn't see anything that we had done over the winter that was really going to pick that up. And, so, when this happened, it wasn't by total surprise. I had seen this kind of coming, and you want to head it in another direction, but until you're out there competing week in and week out, it's hard to say we do need to do something. And, unfortunately, it's taken it's toll on us, it's put us back in the points, but we can make our gains and we can rebuild this and get it back to where we need to be. Other teams have done similar things over the years, and we at least have that experience to draw off of. We know what we can do and what we're very capable of doing."
HAS THE AERO SITUATION GOTTEN OUT OF HAND? "I guess we have because it's become so critical, but I don't know how we go back now. I don't have any idea what we can do because it's such a big part of our racing. It's hard to say that, 'Well, we can do this to the bodies or do that,' we've become so dependent on that that the car drives so totally different when you're out front. When I got to the front last week at Dover, at that particular time I was the quickest car by a tenth of a second - just by being out front. Hadn't been there all day so we didn't know that we had that good of a car. But then once I got back in the pack, I was like a lot of other guys, I was struggling. It would be nice if we weren't so dependent on that, that we could have everything involved. It still takes, even if you've got a good aero package, you still have to have a good chassis, and you have to have a good engine to make all of that work, but it seems that if you have that really good aero package and you can get yourself placed at the front, you can make a lot of things happen."
WITH CARS BEHIND YOU, YOU'RE JUST TOO LOOSE, AND WHEN A CAR'S IN FRONT OF YOU, YOU'RE JUST TOO TIGHT? IS THAT IT? "Yeah, most of the time. If you've got that air on the nose of your car and then you get somebody behind you then you are in trouble. There's only one guy that's going to be out front all the time or part of the time, so you have to get your car set to where you're going to be in traffic. And, knowing that, if you get your chassis tight, then you've got an aero-push that comes into play there, too, then your car's extremely tight. So, what you have to do is free the chassis up so that you can try to get yourself in that position to get to the front. And when you get a car stuck up behind you then, it just makes you extremely loose. There's a very fine line there of what you can do and what you can't."
HOW DID IT GET TO THIS POINT? "I don't know. We just kept making changes to the cars, and obviously with these teams being exposed to more wind-tunnel time we saw things that would help our cars, and just kept working in that direction, harder and harder, and before you know it, we've got the cars so aero dependent that a lot of people quit worrying about chassis as much and went to work on the aero side. It's nothing that anybody's done intentionally, it just kind of evolved. I don't know where we go from here, honestly. I think it's just going to be a part of our racing. How big of a part will certainly depend on if NASCAR decides to make any changes rule-wise in the near future - I'm not talking about just for this year, but looking into the next few years."
WHAT HAS TODD PARROTT'S RETURN TO THE TEAM AS CREW CHIEF BROUGHT TO THE TEAM? "Just continuity to the race team. You have to have one person in charge of this, and Todd's the guy that is in charge here, and I think that's what's been important for us, is everybody looking to the same person."
WHERE THE TEAM IS NOW. "We have a long way to go. I think we are headed in a better direction right now. We've got a better handle on what we need to be doing. Before, we didn't exactly have that. Even when Todd came and was in charge, we still didn't have that idea. But because of some hard work and effort on our crew, on Todd's part, on Robert Yates' part, that we finally find ourselves heading in that direction now. We're still a ways away from being a contender every week, which is what we expect to be."
IS THAT FRUSTRATING? "It's always frustrating when you're accustomed to winning and you're not doing that, or at least giving yourself a chance to win. We haven't been doing that, so, yeah, that makes it difficult. When everybody get frustrated then you start doing things to try to make it happen quicker, and anytime you start trying that, then you're probably just tricking yourself into thinking that you may be headed in a good direction. So we had to sit down and say, 'Look, this is not going to a fast process. This could take literally months to really get ourselves back to the point that we need to, and we're willing to do that.'"