Phoenix Dale Jarrett Looks to Return

Jarrett looks forward to Phoenix return PHOENIX, Ariz. (Oct. 20, 1998) Look up the word "dominant" in the dictionary, and you might find a photo of Dale Jarrett in victory lane at Phoenix International Raceway following last year's Dura-Lube...

Jarrett looks forward to Phoenix return

PHOENIX, Ariz. (Oct. 20, 1998) Look up the word "dominant" in the dictionary, and you might find a photo of Dale Jarrett in victory lane at Phoenix International Raceway following last year's Dura-Lube 500. Yes, he was that good

The driver of the No. 88 Quality Care/Ford Credit Ford not only won the race, but made up a lap under green flag conditions and passed the entire field, including a shocked Rusty Wallace, to take the checkered flag. It was one of the most impressive runs by a driver in recent memory in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.

"It was pretty incredible," said Jarrett, who will return to the scene of that famous day late in the 1997 season this weekend when the series visits Phoenix for the Dura-Lube/Kmart 500. "As I look back on it, I just think how few times things like that happen. You go for green for that long on a one-mile 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 on distance on him was pretty incredible. "To think 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 back there knowing we now how to run well."

Jarrett pitted under green early during the 312-mile event, but an untimely caution flag while he was in the pits cost him a lap. He was able to make his way back onto the lead lap, then, while still under green, made his way back to the rest of the pack and made his way through the field until he caught and passed Wallace on lap 240.

The No. 88 Quality Care/Ford Credit Thunderbird would never be headed for the remaining 72 laps.

"I just remember having a good race car," said Jarrett, currently third in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings. "We worked with it on our first pit stop and made it a little better, but we still 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 it the wall in turn 1 from my pit stall and knowing that had put us a lap down. It was like I always run well at Phoenix, but the same things were happening to me again...things that were costing me 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 restart, 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."

Prior to last year's Dura-Lube 500, Jarrett had never finished higher than fifth at Phoenix. In fact, he had managed only one top-five finish ever there, in 1989, while driving a Pontiac for Cale Yarborough.

Sitting in third place in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings with three races remaining this season -- 620 points behind leader Jeff Gordon -- Jarrett is mathematically eliminated from winning the series championship for yet another year. The team's main goal is to hold their position in the point standings, and another couple of wins wouldn't hurt, either.

"Obviously, you want to end the season on a good note to carry momentum over to next year," Jarrett said. "That means a lot to us. Remaining in third place in the championship - not slipping any further down -- that means a lot to us. 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."

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Rusty Wallace , Cale Yarborough