This Week in Ford Racing July 19, 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, comes into this weekend's Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway in 10th place in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series standings.
This Week in Ford Racing
July 19, 2005
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series
Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, comes into this weekend's Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway in 10th place in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series standings. Jarrett spoke about the position he and his team are in with seven races remaining until the Chase for the Nextel Cup begins.
DALE JARRETT - No. 88 UPS Taurus
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR SITUATION RIGHT NOW? "The season has been, I would call it average at best. We haven't, obviously, performed the way that we would like. If we had, then we would be further up into the top 10, but we've had good weekends and then a lot of what I call average weekends. We find ourselves racing from 12th to 16th a lot and getting a lot of finishes in there, and I think that's been the key so far is that we have finished. We haven't had a lot of problems as far as mechanical problems go or getting involved in accidents, so we've made the most of what we've done so far. We realize in these next seven races that we need to step our program up. Hopefully, looking at Pocono this weekend, one of the two cars that I have here at Indianapolis, we've decided to take it to Pocono this weekend. That wasn't the original plan, but with the way it's performed here, and a lot of times we have seen things that we learn here - cars that run good at Indianapolis - perform well at Pocono and vice versa, so we're gonna do that with hopes that the things we have learned here in the last two days will help us be a lot more competitive this weekend."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BOTH POCONO RACES BEING ONLY SIX WEEKS APART? "It doesn't really make that much difference. I think if there's a positive side to it it's that the race track doesn't see a significant amount of change. I think if we spread that out and one was earlier and one was later, then you get a lot of change in the race track. It probably doesn't make much difference. If you ran well, then you can go back with something that you think is reasonably close and it's not gonna be a lot different. Although we've had a pretty warm summer. I would expect the track to be a little bit slicker this time, but as long as the fans enjoy us being back there within a six-week period that's what counts."
HAVE THINGS EVENED OUT AMONG THE FIELD OR DO YOU FEEL YOU'RE GAINING ON SOME OF THE OTHER GUYS? "We've made some gains in some areas. We had two good weeks there that helped us, but we still then had two weeks - one at Chicago and then one last week at New Hampshire - where we again found ourselves in that 12th to 16th to 18th-place, and that's not what we want to do. We've worked extremely hard to try to make ourselves better and I think we're learning some things, but it's been a slow process for us and one we have to be really careful with. We don't want to get too far out on the limb and really knock ourselves completely out of this. As much as we would like to make wholesale changes as far as our setups go to see what may work, we can't really do that within the races. We're just kind of inching our way there, and I think everything is still wide open. If you look at where I'm at in 10th, and I haven't looked at the standings that close this week, but I'm sure there is barely 100 points up to about sixth or something and there probably aren't a 100 points back to 15th either. It's gonna be a wild seven weeks."
LIKE SITTING ON THE EDGE OF A CLIFF? "Yeah. You've got to make sure that you've got your balance right over these next seven."
CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE DIFFERING STYLES OF MIKE FORD AND BILL WILBURN? "What's been asked of Bill Wilburn is totally different than what was asked of Mike Ford previously. Mike was put in charge of everything and ran things how he saw fit and basically weren't really questioned to ask even though that was a direction that was kind of separating the two teams quite a bit. To be quite honest, it wasn't what we were really looking to do and that was kind of the downfall of everything. Bill has been asked to come in and not necessarily be a crew chief, so to speak, because you've got to have someone in that position, but his job was just to kind of orchestrate and organize things between Elliott's team with Todd Parrott and his engineers, and with our team and with our engineer, and then with our car chief. It's two totally different roles and Bill's done a good job in that respect and making all of that work and carrying the information between the two teams. We still have work to do. We still have cars to build to get things more alike so that we can compare apples to apples, but he's done a good job of that and a good job of calling the races. It's hard to make comparisons of the two because they've had two totally different roles, really, even though they may have the same title."
HOW HAS THE GREEN-WHITE-CHECKER RULE WORKED IN YOUR OPINION? "It seems to have worked OK. It's made for a few exciting finishes. I don't know if there's really been a big change in the running order or certainly for the lead that I can remember in the green-white-checker, but it's created some excitement. It certainly makes you look at your strategy just a little bit different. Anytime you're looking at your fuel mileage situation you have to take that into account. We know that if we have that late-race caution not to run a lot of caution laps there, but that is still a possibility that you may get in some and it will only take a few to put you in that bad situation there. It happened to me last year at Homestead. I was running in the top five and because of the green-white-checker I ran out of fuel. You're gonna have pluses and minuses, but I can't really see to where it's affected anything a whole lot."
DO YOU THINK RYR WILL EVENTUALLY EXPAND TO A THREE-CAR TEAM? "We've had a lot of discussions - some this week even. As we traveled from New Hampshire on my airplane to here, Robert and I had discussions about that. We feel like the time is kind of right for that to possibly happen, trying to weigh the options of what sponsors might be available, and then Robert has had ongoing talks with a number of them over basically the last 18 months. And then who would it be that we would put in that car, that we feel would be a benefit to Robert Yates Racing. The things that it would allow us to do - with the additional dollars to go out and get the additional people that we feel like is needed to really make a full fledged effort at this. We do everything that we can with the people that we have now, but there's a sign that there is strength in numbers here and to get like those teams that seem to be the most dominant, each of those have at least three teams and I think there's a big benefit there. We see that and we're working hard to see if we can make that happen for next year."
WHAT DOES IT SAY FOR YOUR TEAM NOW THAT BOTH ARE IN THE TOP 10? "Yeah, it says a lot. To the other side of it, we probably haven't - either one - performed as well as we would like to. So we realize that there is a little something there that we're missing. A lot of the things that we have incorporated into our organization this year are probably just now starting to take place and show some benefit. We realize that we're gonna be a stronger organization when we do add that third team in 2006 or 2007, and that will only benefit us more. But it says a lot about the people that we have right now - the organization that we have - the teams working together for both of us to be in that position."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE LAST POCONO RACE WITH THE TIRES AND GEAR RULE? "Racing there was totally different because it had been so long since we had not shifted. When you put all the cars at basically the same horsepower, then it's gonna come down to something else to make you better than that person in front of you, and then you have to work in other areas. I think the people will see this time as we go back that they'll make their cars handle a little bit better and that in turn will make it a little more of a racy race - to see if we can make that happen, which I think we'll be able to. But you're always gonna have that. I mean, it's a difficult race track to pass on anyway - always was - so that just brought the field a little closer together and with the level of competition this day and time, and when you do something to level the playing field even more, then it's gonna make it a little more difficult to pass at a place like Pocono. I think there was a pass for the win. If I remember correctly, Carl Edwards had to pass the 25 car to win the race, so it is possible that if you've got a good enough race car to make that happen. The tire situation, I wish I had an answer or that we all had answers for actually what was happening. We didn't have any tire problems at Robert Yates Racing, but I know a lot of people did. It would be nice to have that answer. I don't know exactly what's been done to the track. I understand that a curbing has been put over at the tunnel turn. I wish somehow the two bumps over there could have been smoothed out a little bit. I don't know if that contributed, but it certainly couldn't have helped the situation. Hopefully when we get back it will be much better."
DO YOU THINK THE TIRE PROBLEMS WERE DUE TO UNDER-INFLATION? "Goodyear really doesn't make a bad tire, so you can't put it at that. They're not gonna do that. They're gonna bring their very best to the race track for us. Tire problems happen because we abuse them and we do things to them that they weren't built to do, so you would have to think that was a major contributor to the problem. I think the possibility of that low air and going out and, if you didn't hit the bumps over in turn two at the tunnel turn, then you had to go over the ripple strips. I would say that was probably damaging the tire to start with. We don't have anything else really concrete to show us anything different, so I think Goodyear has gone up on the recommended pressure for the left side and it'll be up to us to adhere to that."
DO YOU COMMISERATE WHEN SOMEONE LIKE JEFF GORDON IS HAVING THE BAD LUCK LIKE HE'S BEEN HAVING? "Yeah, it's difficult. It seems that there are times, no matter how hard you try, it doesn't seem like you can do anything right. I'm sure that he thought the other day he got within 10 or 15 laps of the end of the race and maybe they had kind of come out of that slump and here something else happened to them. It's not a lot of fun. I certainly feel for Jeff. He's a great competitor and it's not like he's put himself in a position to wreck a lot or create wrecks or anything happening, you just go through these things. It's like a batter getting into a slump. Sometimes he doesn't really understand why he is and it just takes time to go through that, or those hits that he was getting to where he was hitting the ball solid that we falling in the gap, all of a sudden were being hit right at someone. That's kind of where Jeff and them are. They may run well, but, right now, they don't have that racing luck to help them finish. I'm sure they'll come out of it and start winning races shortly, but it's not a fun time I know."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT CONSERVING BRAKES? "I know Jeff Gordon is a very talented driver and he's never been one that I've seen to abuse the brakes and he is certainly smart enough to know when he's doing that, so I would look at it as though there's a problem there possibly. That's not for me to say, but Jeff is a very talented driver and he's never been one to abuse his equipment, so I think that's what was surprising about the whole thing."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT TONY CLIMBING THE FENCE AND WOULD YOU EVER TRY IT? "No, I'm not gonna do that. I'm afraid I would embarrass myself. Tony's doing a good job of climbing up there. I'm pretty impressed with what he's done. I heard him say he's gonna have to get in better shape or something and I actually saw Tony eating an apple this morning, so maybe that's part of his routine to get in better shape or something. Hopefully, he's gonna let somebody else have a chance to celebrate in whatever fashion here shortly, but he's certainly the man to beat right now."
IS THE MENTALITY YOU RACE WITH NOW UNDER THIS POINT SYSTEM DIFFERENT THAN BEFORE? "It's not really any different from my perspective. I'm not racing any different, I've just tried to be smarter on the race track and keep myself out of positions that might create a problem for us - realizing that right now we aren't the team to go lead laps and run in the top five every week. So we have to make the most of it in some way. It's not that I'm going with the conscious thought of, 'OK, I'm just gonna ride around here and try to finish in the top 10,' because you can't do that anymore. If you go out to ride around, you're not gonna finish in the top 25, so you have to be aggressive. You still do the same things. You want to run as well as you possibly can, but I try to keep myself out of position that could create a problem and cost us points on that day. We still know in these last seven races that if we're gonna make the top 10, then we're gonna have to finish somewhere around that top 10 every week. If not, we've got guys that are coming hard from behind us and there are guys in front of us that are running in that top 10 every week unless they have a problem so we've got to do our job. It is of utmost importance in these last seven that we keep that streak going of finishing every race and doing our very best to finish on the lead lap. That will be key to giving us a chance."
IS THE COMPETITION AS HIGH AS IT HAS EVER BEEN RIGHT NOW? "I think it is. To win races you've always had to outrun everyone, so it's always been tough competition. But now you have so many teams that run well, that have the resources to run well, they have good pit crews. Everything is there, so if you're off just the slightest bit, it's not a five or six spot different, it's literally 15-20 positions that you finish back. With all the rules that we have now, with whatever you want to call it - the lucky dog or giving a lap back during the caution - it creates a situation of more cars on the lead lap and as guys go through the day they're gonna work on their cars and make them better. So you better not have any problems or you're gonna find yourself finishing well down the list."
WHAT ARE YOU IMPRESSIONS OF WATKINS GLEN NOW COMPARED TO WHEN YOU STARTED RACING THERE? "All I had seen before I went there to race was remembering when my dad raced and then, obviously, watching it on TV. But the first few times I did race there we didn't have the chicane on the backstretch, so that was a pretty wild ride up that backstretch and then making turn five there. It was a lot of fun, but now it's a lot different than that. They've changed that quite a bit and added a new challenge with the chicane back there. I love to race there. It's a lot of fun. It's probably the closest thing for a road course for stock cars that's ever been built. I know when it was built it wasn't built with stock cars in mind, but it's probably the best place that we've ever raced that stock cars can really race. It's fun. It's very challenging and I look forward to going back in a few weeks."
THEY'VE ELIMINATED THE SAND TRAP IN TURN ONE. HOW WILL THE AFFECT YOUR CARS? "I don't know. They should have done that a few years ago for me when I got stuck down in that sand trap while I was leading the race. I don't know. It'll be interesting to see. I'm going there to test my Busch car in a couple of weeks - I think like August 1st - so it will be interesting to see what it has and what may take place now. That's gonna be interesting."
IT'S PAVED AND IT'S LEVELED OFF. "I don't know. That's gonna be interesting to see. I might have to talk to you after I see what that's like."
IS POCONO THE MOST UNIQUE TRACK ON THE CIRCUIT? "I think, by all means, the most unique race track we race on. I'm here at Indianapolis where there are four distinct corners, but each one of them are pretty similar. At Pocono there is nothing similar about anything there. Even though we said earlier you could take a car from here at Indy and run well at Pocono or take a car from Pocono and run well at Indy, why that relates, I don't know because it's just so totally different. We were talking yesterday, the only thing that I can come close to comparing with Indianapolis and Pocono would be turn two at Pocono. It is similar to how you drive the corner here at Indianapolis, but the other two are just so totally different than anything else that we do. You have a big banked corner down in turn one that is very fast and we have the longest straightaway that we race on leading to that, and then the flat corner over the tunnel, and then turn three is just a big wide sweeping corner that is obviously one of the most important that you race on because it leads to your longest straightaway. So it's a great challenge and just a lot of fun to race on. I look forward to it every time that race comes up."
ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THE OFF WEEK? "Yeah, I'm really looking forward to it. As far as free time, it won't be at the race track. My 15-year-old daughter, Karsyn, her AAU Nationals start in Roanoke, Virginia. They actually start this Saturday, so I'll be there on Monday as soon as I can get there after Pocono. I'll spend probably Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at those, and then on Thursday, my 10-year-old son, Zach, won their district in baseball for the all-star team and they're playing in the North Carolina state tournament starting Thursday night, just outside of Raleigh, North Carolina, so I'll be there Thursday, Friday and Saturday at least. I'll be spending time with the kids, so it'll be a lot of fun."
DO YOU HAVE ANY REASON AS TO YOUR POPULARITY? "I think having good sponsors help a lot, and I feel like I have the best sponsor in UPS in the garage area here, so I'm very fortunate in that respect. They do a lot of neat things at the track and away from the track, so I think that helps a lot. Being associated with other companies like Ford Motor Company, Coca-Cola and CitiFinancial you have opportunities to meet a lot of people. A lot of my sponsors understand that I like to play golf, so a lot of my appearances are based around a golf course or playing golf, or something like that. So I think I get the opportunity to get to know people a little bit better than maybe a lot of other people do. The fans have been great to me over my career. I'm sure a lot of it has to do with my dad and people kind of just following me from that point on, so I appreciate the support that I've gotten. NASCAR has been very good to myself and my family."