Tuesday, October 20, 1998 ONE YEAR AGO, DALE JARRETT WAS IN THE MIDST OF THE NASCAR WINSTON CUP CHAMPIONSHIP HUNT HEADING INTO THE EVENT AT PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY. HOWEVER, DURING THE EVENT IT LOOKED AS IF HIS CHAMPIONSHIPS HOPES WERE...
Tuesday, October 20, 1998
ONE YEAR AGO, DALE JARRETT WAS IN THE MIDST OF THE NASCAR WINSTON CUP CHAMPIONSHIP HUNT HEADING INTO THE EVENT AT PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY. HOWEVER, DURING THE EVENT IT LOOKED AS IF HIS CHAMPIONSHIPS HOPES WERE SCUTTLED WHEN AN UNTIMELY YELLOW FLAG COST HIM A LAP WHILE HE WAS IN THE PIT LANE. HOWEVER, THE TEAM RALLIED AND, NOT ONLY MADE UP THE LAP, BUT ALSO PASSED EVERYONE IN THE FIELD ON THE WAY TO A SHOCKING VICTORY THAT KEPT HIM IN THE TITLE CHASE. JARRETT RECALLS THAT EVENT, AND TALKS ABOUT RACING AT PHOENIX.
DALE JARRETT, NO. 88 FORD QUALITY CARE SERVICE/FORD CREDIT TAURUS: "I remember just having a good race car. We worked with it on our first pit stop and made it a little better, but still we weren't the best car. We were probably a top five car at that point in time. I can still remember sitting on pit road and watching a car hit the wall in Turn One from my pit stall and knowing that had put us a lap down. It was like I always run well in Phoenix, but the same things were happening to me again ... things that were costing me a chance to have a shot at a win. I had no idea that the changes that we made on that particular stop were going to be good enough to really have our car be the class of the field after that. Once we got back and ready for the re-start, my objective was mainly to stay in front of the leaders and get my lap back. I knew the leaders were going to be in traffic because I knew there were a number of us who got caught in the same position. So I was just going to fight it until the caution came out, and it turned out I didn't need the caution. We made up a lot of time on the race track with a very good handling car, and then we had a good pit stop that helped us catch the leaders a little bit more. Even though the car got a little looser at the end of the race, we were still able to get out and hang on."
DID YOU SEE THAT AS THE DOMINATING PERFORMANCE EVERYONE ELSE WAS RACING ABOUT? YOU CAME BACK FROM OVER A MILE DOWN UNDER GREEN: "It was pretty incredible. As I look back on it, I just think how few times things like that happen. You go green for that long on a one-mile race track against people like Rusty Wallace. If it was someone else who got the car off a little bit, but I know Rusty is strong there every time, and to make up that much of distance on him was pretty incredible.
"To think that we could get it back there ... to think we could duplicate something like that ... is pretty much out of the question. It does give a good feeling going back there knowing we know how to run well."
WAS IT ANY PARTICULAR THING THAT MADE THAT CAR DOMINANT? "I think the big thing was the way that car got through the corners. We made some changes late that Saturday afternoon that helped the car, and then Todd (PARROTT, CREW CHIEF) and I talked a lot that night about going more in that direction. We were just very fortunate. We made it to where we could adjust on the car throughout the day and then we made just small adjustments. The car was good from the beginning, but not good enough to win. It was those small adjustments, and making the right ones, that really allowed us to get the car to where it was dominant."
DO THE SET-UPS YOU LEARNED THERE TRANSFER FROM THE THUNDERBIRD TO THE TAURUS? "We've had some difficulties in that respect, but it seems that as you get to the shorter tracks and the flatter tracks that things don't change as much. Even though we have less downforce now than we did last year, there probably has to be a little bit of an adjustment made and I hope we make the right one."
WHAT'S THE KEY TO PHOENIX? "I think as much as the turns are as different as are, you have to work to accomplish the same things at each end. The tendency is for a car to want to push there, so you need to get it freed up to the point it rolls good through the center of the corner, and that seems to be where we really beat people last year. But I was still able to get on the gas hard. A lot of times you try to compromise and you try to get it not to push, but then you get it too loose and you can't utilize the horsepower you have. There's a very fine line between that, especially at Phoenix, to where you go over the edge of being a little too tight and it hurts you off the corner, and you go the other side and get it to where you roll through the center and then you can't get on the gas good enough. We were fortunate to hit a combination that was right on."
"I like Phoenix. I like the challenge of the different corners. It's a tight race track, but wide enough that you can race side-by-side and that's fun. We don't have a whole lot of places where you're able to do that. Phoenix is the type of place that if you get hooked up on the bottom you can really go, and if your car is off a little, you can move to the top of the race track and still make good time. That allows you to pass on either side, depending on how good your car is. It's just a fun race track."
WHAT'S YOUR OUTLOOK ON FINAL THREE RACES: "Obviously, you want to end the season on a good note to carry momentum over to next year. That means a lot to us. Remaining in third place in the championship; that means a lot to us. Not slipping any further down. If we could get to victory lane another time, our guys would realize that their hard work really paid off. They realize it now, but it would give them the extra incentive to do even better next year."