Continued from part 1 Dale Jarrett CAN YOU TALK ABOUT FORD'S POSITIONING IN COMPETING IN THIS SPORT? "I don't know that I'm speaking exactly for Ford, but what I see is that maybe Ford thinks that the number (of teams) aren't as important as...
Continued from part 1
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT FORD'S POSITIONING IN COMPETING IN THIS SPORT?
"I don't know that I'm speaking exactly for Ford, but what I see is that maybe Ford thinks that the number (of teams) aren't as important as the quality. If they can put their efforts and resources into a smaller group, that gives them a better chance. Obviously, it's worked reasonably well. They've won the last two championships. Even though we race against the other manufacturers that have quite a few more teams, Ford has gotten to the point that they've put a lot more support towards our teams and a lot more engineering staff towards that and I think that's paying off. I also think the merger between Roush and Robert Yates with the engine program only showed how their efforts are gonna be put forth in the future for this - that we have to work together and use those dollars that Ford is putting towards this racing program towards everyone's best effort. And if we can do that in a smaller group, then that is gonna make us more successful as a small group."
WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO WIN A FOURTH DAYTONA 500 AND DO YOU HAVE EMPATHY FOR RUSTY AND MARK WHO HAVE NEVER WON IT?
"Yeah, they obviously both can't win this last chance for them, but you wouldn't be upset to see either one of them win. Until you win it, and I've been very fortunate again to do it three times, it's just incredible what it does for your career and the feeling you get, the feeling of accomplishment. I've said this a number of times that this race, being our biggest race, we're the best prepared for this race of any that we go to. We do more wind tunnel testing, more track testing. Everybody is in the best shape that they're gonna be in. Nobody is injured, so you have the best at their best and when you win, you know that's a great feeling of accomplishment.
"I hate that at least one of them isn't gonna get the opportunity to see what that's like, but I don't think that takes anything away from what they've accomplished in this sport. I think that they'll be remembered a lot more for what they've done than for what they didn't accomplish in their career. As far as winning a fourth, gosh I would love to do that. That puts you in a very select group that has made that accomplishment and I think this year might be the opportunity for us to do that. I think that we've worked extremely hard. This has always been a focus of Robert Yates Racing, this race here. The last few years, even though we may qualify well, we haven't seemed to be there when it came time to try to win the race. We're putting a lot more emphasis on that. Even though we ran fast yesterday, our objective was to get something that we know is gonna drive good, so it would mean a lot to me, especially at this point in time of my career to get that fourth Daytona 500."
YOU WON THE SHOOTOUT LAST YEAR. WHY DIDN'T THAT CARRY OVER?
"When you win that, you have to be a little bit careful in what you say and how you say it. Obviously, I didn't have the fastest car that night but I put my car in front of the fastest car at the right time, so that helped me to win the Shootout. In all of that excitement and giving that reward to your team for their hard work and efforts, you don't want to bring them down by saying, 'Look, this isn't what this season is gonna be all about right now. We have a lot of work to do.' Again, we weren't the fastest car that night, but we ended up in Victory Lane.
"What needed to be said was that, 'this is great, it's great for morale, but we have a lot, a lot of work to do.' We were trying to build a team back and decide what type of race cars we were even gonna race. Obviously we were gonna race Fords, but what type of chassis we were gonna be running. We didn't settle on that issue until late May, really. So we were trying to build cars, build two different types of chasses - get to Kentucky to test, wherever we could - and still try to stay focused on the race that we had each and every week, so it was a long process. Even though we showed some signs of improvement the second half of the season and were able to compete at certain types of tracks, we still realize where our weaknesses are, so we've put a lot of effort towards that.
"We saw early in the year that the mile-and-a-half tracks seemed to be our downfall at that time. We weren't competing well at those places at all, so that's why we were at Kentucky literally three out of four Tuesdays of every month, getting as many laps as we possibly could - to the point that we got that part of our program very good, except for the mile-and-a-half tracks like Charlotte that are rough and worn out, so we know that we still have work to do in that area. So now we're concentrating on that part of our program. Obviously, this part of our program we have been concentrating on.
"We started last year putting a lot of effort into this, but we realize now that short tracks and flat tracks are an area that we really have to deal with, so that's our emphasis for this year. We weren't the team that it looked like when we won the Bud Shootout. That saying of things may not always be as they may seem, we had a lot of work to do."
YOU HAVE A GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH ELLIOTT.
"Friendship. That's where it starts. I've had teammates for quite a few years now and maybe some of the interests outside of just this sport weren't a lot the same, so that made it a little more difficult that the only thing you ever talked about were the race cars. Even though that's what we want to do and that's what we do, you can't just totally put yourself in this position every single minute of every single day.
"I talked to Elliott a number of years ago as he started in the Busch Series and even came to Darlington for his first time. We were testing to try and win the Winston Million at that time. We got in a car and I took him around and showed him and basically told him what Harry Gant had done with me a number of years ago. We kind of struck up a friendship at that time and it's carried over. We have a lot of the same interests. We like to play golf. We like to compete in other areas. Both of us are big Tar Heel fans, so that's a good thing too, especially this year. But we enjoy each other's company. Gosh, I probably spend as much time around him as I do with my wife and kids, so it's nice that we have that relationship.
"But we're very open and honest in the fact that when we do something to our race cars, or we try something, if he's off testing - literally if he's off testing I know that by 6 o'clock that evening I'm gonna get a phone call from Elliott and he's gonna tell me what they'd done, what worked, what didn't work. So that gives me that process to start thinking about our cars and then I can call Mike or go to the race shop the next day and we start that process of talking and seeing if that's something we want to look at and do with our car. I'm the same way with him when I'm testing. He's gonna be the first person I call after that to make sure that he understands what we did and try to work in that direction. So we have a good relationship. Even though we do have a friendship there and we have fun away from the track, it's still a pretty serious business for us.
"We make sure that there's nothing hidden. I can't go back in the two years so far and tell you any time that I felt like there was something I had to go over in their books and see and to find out that he either told me something wrong or failed to tell me something because everything has always been right there and he's told me anything that they've done. That's the type of open relationship you have to have to honestly make this teammate thing really work well."
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF FANS LOOKING THROUGH THE NEW GARAGE WINDOWS HERE AT DIS?
"I think it's a great idea that they get to look in. I'll be honest with you, the fans are great and it's a great opportunity that has been presented to them to be able to see first-hand what takes place in these garages. I'll be honest with you, the one thing I'm not sure that I like is the opportunity for them to hand stuff in to be autographed because that again is our work place.
"I have a policy, plain and simple, if I'm in the garage area and it's during practice time, I'm not autographing anything. I hope they understand that, so that's the only problem that I foresee is someone may get a little bit angry. When I'm in there I'm there to work. I might not be driving the car at that time. I'm either thinking about or talking with my crew about things that we need to do, but the opportunity to be able to look in and see things that we're doing - making changes and really be a part of that - I think that's a great idea to be able to see first-hand what really goes on. So many times, even though they may see it through a camera lens or see it on tape, it's not the same as being there to actually take advantage of that opportunity. So I think that part of it is gonna be a lot of fun for them."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON LETTING ROOKIES DEVELOP AT THIS LEVEL?
"Sometimes that opportunity is not there. I think some of these young guys that come in and have all of this fanfare that comes with them and all of these expectations, when it doesn't turn out like that they get down on themselves a little bit and then maybe they're not given as much of an opportunity to develop into the drivers that they certainly can become. Elliott is one of those that has persevered through some things. He's worked his way up. He didn't get that opportunity in a top-level car right as he came from the Busch Series.
"That's not saying anything about the teams that he went with there, it's just a matter of looking at making your way up. It's different roads for everybody to come in here, but Elliott has a level head on him and understands that these things come in steps. I think that's probably him, looking at the sport over the years, has helped him to understand that and he didn't panic whenever he wasn't given a Robert Yates ride right off. He realized that he needed some experience and he used that to his advantage. Others may not be so lucky with that. We may see some that come in and maybe don't meet those expectations, whether they were their expectations or those of others.
"That makes life a little more difficult for them at times. You would like to think that they're gonna be given that chance, but, again, it goes back to the earlier question. This is a performance-based business and it's especially seeming like it's more so for those younger guys because that's the direction that everything seems to be headed in. But I think Elliott has now solidified himself as one of those, not only young drivers, but very good talents that has a chance to win championships."