Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Ford Fusion, stands 10th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point standings going into tomorrow night's Crown Royal 400. Jarrett was this week's Nextel Wake-up Call guest in the Richmond International Raceway ...
Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Ford Fusion, stands 10th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point standings going into tomorrow night's Crown Royal 400. Jarrett was this week's Nextel Wake-up Call guest in the Richmond International Raceway infield media center.
DALE JARRETT -- No. 88 UPS Ford Fusion
IT'S THE 100TH CUP RACE AT RICHMOND. YOU HAVE 36 STARTS HERE. YOUR THOUGHTS? "That makes me seem like I've been here a lot longer than I thought at 36 out of 100, but there's a lot of history here. All the way back to watching races here when my dad was racing and then even after that when my dad was broadcasting -- coming to races because I always enjoyed especially the old track. I didn't think it could get any better than that. The racing on that surface and the hard side-by-side racing that they did at that time was just incredible. Then we built the new three-quarter of a mile speedway here and this is probably the best racing that you see anywhere that we go. It's just amazing, the first couple of years in particular, how good the racing was and it's just continued on. The place has grown. It's one of the nicest facilities that we go to, so there's a lot of good history here -- great races. We can go back to many side-by-side finishes or things that happened towards the end of the race to make them exciting. I'm sure we were all watching -- I don't remember all the guys that were involved and I'm certainly not downplaying the way that Kyle Petty won his race here, but I think Earnhardt and Waltrip and maybe somebody else -- four of them I think -- crashed and Kyle won the race so just things like that that come back to my memory of just a long history of great racing here."
DO YOU HAVE ANY GOOD MEMORIES OF COMING HERE AS A CHILD? "Most of the time in watching races during that time and watching my dad were spent in the infield, probably with Ricky and Larry Pearson. Sometimes Kyle was around at that time and Davey Allison, but it was just a lot of fun. The fun thing about it was that we had a group of guys that we pretty much knew by the end of the race we had to start paying attention to see which one of us was gonna go to Victory Lane with our dad. That was pretty cool to know that somebody within our group, most of the time, went to Victory Lane. Again, there was a lot of good racing and a lot of fun times for us. We weren't as much probably for the first half or three-quarters of the race interested in the race as much as we were whatever we were doing, whether it was playing football or finding enough space to have a baseball game or whatever it may be. But there are a lot of fond memories growing up around the race track."
HOW HAS YOUR SEASON BEEN SO FAR? "If we were gonna grade, I'd say you might get us in at a B+ because I think we've finished all but one lap, but from the competition side of it, we just haven't been as competitive as what we want to be and what we think we should be. Obviously we find ourselves 10th in the points, but we have to pick the pace up as far as where we're running. I think the majority of the year has been spent running 10th to 20th and if we're gonna plan on being back here in September about being in the top 10, then we're gonna have to pick that up to where more of our racing is done from fifth to 15th in that range. It's not from a lack of effort. We spent two long days here testing a few weeks ago. Can I sit here and say we learned a lot? We learned a lot of what not to do and things that didn't really work for us. We didn't come away from here -- either team -- with things that we felt like that, 'OK, we put this together and we can come back here and both cars can be really good.' We've struggled here the last two years at least, if not the last five races. We've really struggled and we just can't seem to get a handle on what we have to do here, so that's concern for this weekend. We went back and looked at everything from both cars and tried to make our best effort at coming up with what may work for us here, so I'm anxious to get in the car here in a little over an hour and see if we got anywhere close to that. This is an important race for us, to be able to start that climb to make sure that we are a good enough team to run in the top 10 on a weekly basis. The test in Charlotte for two days was an interesting test. I'm sure that most of you have heard about what the drivers thought about Charlotte.
"It's a very smooth track and the tire was hard, but that's where Goodyear had to go with that to slow the speeds and make sure that they weren't gonna have any problems there. So we found something that was reasonable there, but I still don't think if we had to go there and race this coming weekend that we would be ready to break into that top 10 at that track either. So we're still working extremely hard trying to make our team into one that is capable of being in the chase and then making some noise once we would get there."
HOW DID YOU DEVELOP SUCH A RAPPORT WITH DALE JR.? "First off, I think a lot of Junior, if for no other reason, I obviously think a lot of his talents on the race track, but for everything the young man has gone through in a short period of time in his life. I think that we all look at it and say, 'He's had it great other than maybe one period there when he lost his dad.' That's obviously something that stays with him for a lifetime, but a lot of people I've heard say, 'Well, he's been given great race cars,' and all that but the things he's had to go through. If it wouldn't have been for the accident, it was still gonna be difficult for him being compared to a seven-time champion, but he handles everything very well. I think the relationship came partly because I've known Junior since he was a kid. He used to come hang out with my son, Jason. At that time we didn't have motorhomes, we had a conversion van that we traveled around in. They would sit and talk about what they wanted to do and then the conversations turned away from racing a lot. It was just me seeing him grow up and then as I started racing against him I thought how uncanny it was how much he was just like his dad in the race car. I think it was kind of ironic last week I thought back to telling them both this that when Junior had the black car last weekend that I used to tell them if they would switch cars without anybody knowing, you honestly would have no idea which one of them was in which car. Their characteristics were so much alike on the race track, so I thought that was really cool that you could have a father and son and be that much alike there. His dad did so much for me that I told Junior after Dale's accident that if there's anything I can ever do and be of assistance, don't ever hesitate. I wasn't trying to take the place of his dad. That could never be done, but it's just that there's the opportunity there for him to come and see me like his dad was there for me. It's not a best friend type of deal, it's just that we have a good friendship. There are times when I go to him and ask him questions about certain things, so we just have a good relationship."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR FUTURE PLANS? "Not right now. I don't have anything more than what I said last week at this point in time. I think within probably the next 10 days that we'll have a definite answer and we'll have something to bring to you. I'll assure that as soon as I have that final answer, then I will let you know as soon as we do, but probably within the next 10 days I think that decision will be made. There's probably no one that knows. Probably the only thing is I sat down with my dog the other day and discussed it with her because I was pretty sure she didn't have many people she could go to, so we had a good conversation and bounced it off of her. Whenever she liked one of the options that I gave her, she would like me on the face and that was pretty much it, so I kind of knew what that meant. She's really the only one that has any idea of really what's going on. I confided in her more than anyone else."
HOW IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH MICHAEL IF IT WERE TO WORK OUT THAT WAY AND YOU RACED FOR HIM? "Obviously if that comes to be we'll get more into that, but, yeah, Michael and I have always been friends and I think that's probably where a lot of it came from in him coming to me to begin with. Yeah, I can see us working together. I said before I'd heard rumors even before I had talked to him or anyone else about his deal possibly. I thought it was pretty cool the way he had pulled everything off. I actually told my wife, Kelley, that Michael Waltrip is getting ready to pull off the biggest thing that's happened in NASCAR in quite a while. I was very impressed that he kept it quiet as long as he did and went about it and seeing everything that's going on around it is pretty interesting. Michael is an interesting individual. He'd be an interesting car owner for sure, if that were to happen, but we have a good enough friendship and relationship, I think, that it would be fun looking at the opportunity to build something there, but we'll see what happens here shortly."
WHAT IS YOUR DOG'S NAME? "Zoie, she's a yellow lab. Make sure you get it -- Z-O-I-E -- just so she doesn't get mad when she goes through the paper before I do."
WOULD YOU BE INTERESTED IN BEING AN OWNER ONE DAY? "I looked at the ownership side many years ago because when I started my Busch Grand National team in 1982 and progressed with that team to the point of winning races and running very well with it, that was pretty much my idea of what I wanted to do at some point in time, was to convert that over to a Cup team. I think the years that I had with Joe Gibbs and watching him start up his organization and get it up and running, and then moving over to Robert Yates Racing and watching Robert and how involved he is and has to be to make this work on a week-to-week basis, day-to-day really and year-to-year, it showed me just how difficult that life is too. There's not much difference and to be quite honest, if I still wanted to put 36 or 38 weekends a year into it, I would stay in the race car because that's what I love to do the most. That's the factor that keeps me from doing that is just having to be there day-to-day. I've put in a lot of time since I was 20 years old and started driving and working on these cars, and I hope that when I get to that point -- and it looks like '08 will be that -- then I can step back and kind of pick and choose when I want to go and how involved I want to be. So some of the opportunities that I've been given, and that's what's making this process be so difficult and take a long time, are opportunities to maybe be involved there and it would kind of be on my terms. That's kind of what I'm looking for and that, again, is why the decision is taking so long."
HOW MANY OPTIONS ARE YOU LOOKING AT RIGHT NOW? "It's been multiple deals that are out there. Have I parred that down? Yes, that has been at this point. The most it probably was at one time was six and we're down to, let's use the term a few."
DARLINGTON IS NEXT WEEK. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE DARLINGTON STRIPE? WERE YOU AWARE OF IT? "Yeah, I was well aware of it. The Darlington stripe actually, I guess, came whenever the track (was built) and the frontstretch is now the backstretch and turns three and four were one and two. But over in three and four there was a guard rail there and people like my dad and Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough and these people, they literally used that guard rail to go through turns three and four and that's actually where the stripe came from. They would do it intentionally, though. It was just like if you had a rail on your car that you could bounce off of, so they could go through there faster like that. But now the stripe is totally different. It didn't take me long to get mine. I think it was in qualifying. I'm not sure if it was my first or my second Busch Grand National race at Darlington. I'm thinking it was my first on my second qualifying lap that I got indoctrinated to that. I had to go back, take my car away from the track, and take it to a guy's garage there and fixed it. So it didn't take me long to learn about it. I've had a few since then, but it's also been a very good track to me and for me. I love to race there. I know we've already had one race taken away from there, but surely they won't take another because it's just a great race track for great racing. It's just a lot of fun. It's so unique. There's just nothing like it. I usually mark that on my calendar well in advance knowing and anticipating when we're going to Darlington."
WHY ARE MORE DRIVERS LOOKING INTO OWNERSHIP NOW? IS IT A CASE WHERE THEY'VE GOT SO MUCH MONEY THEY DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH IT? "I don't know about having so much money that they don't know what to do with it. I'm sure there are people out there that would help relieve them of that problem if they wanted to. I think it's kind of a cycle it seems. You have it happening and you have a group -- like over the last six or seven years we've really had an influx of young drivers that have come in. Their thoughts aren't on ownership. They're just thinking about driving the race car. I think that's the way a lot of us were when we were young. That's all we wanted to do, but as you started to get older and realize you want to stay involved, then you start thinking in those terms. Opportunities are coming along with that. When Dodge got involved that gave some drivers some opportunities to look at and now Toyota is coming in and that seems to be an opportunity. There are some drivers that don't want that challenge of working for and with someone else. They would rather have things their way.
"I know whenever I was looking at doing my own team before Robert started the second team, that was my idea. That way I couldn't turn and point the finger at anybody else that, 'hey, we're not buying this or we're not doing that.' I think that's what some of these guys are thinking and they're looking at the future. They see this sport continuing to grow and the opportunities are so great to stay in this sport. If you can align yourself with sponsors and do a good job for them away from the race track and on the race track, then you have great opportunities there for a long time. So I think that because they see the money that's available, yeah, that's enticing to some of these guys to do that now and I think you're gonna see a little bit more of that, but I wouldn't plan on seeing a lot of it happen because, again, this sport is driven by these young drivers coming in and starting to get their time. Their interest in that, so it'll come in waves, I think. You'll see it happen, then you're gonna go for a few years and you're not gonna see any of that. I just think it's very enticing to some to stay involved in this sport because of how successful it is."
YOU HAVE GUYS LIKE BILL ELLIOTT THAT HAD TEAMS AND THEN GOT OUT. "I think you have to be careful because it's very time consuming. You hear drivers talk about not having any time. If you throw ownership into that, you have to be committed full time. There's no time for many of your other hobbies and certainly it takes away anything else that you may be looking at, so I think you have to be extremely careful there. I know those guys aligned themselves with good sponsors too, so you have to be really careful. It's a difficult business. We as drivers sometimes think that maybe our car owners aren't doing everything they can possibly do to give us the best equipment, then you find yourself in that position and wonder, 'Maybe they were doing everything.' So you have to be extremely careful there because there is only so much that you can do. Regardless of how much money you have and how good you think you may be, it's still about all the people you surround yourself with and you have to be careful in that respect of knowing who those right people are at the right time. I think that's the whole key is getting the right people around you."
ARE TEAMS MORE LIKELY TO SHUFFLE PERSONNEL IN TERMS OF CREW CHIEFS THAN THEY USED TO BE AND, IF SO, WHY? "I don't know that it's any more than what they used to be. I think that you see team members shuffling and crew chiefs looking in other directions more myself because the opportunities are there. We have so many teams out here now between the Cup Series, the Busch Series and the Truck Series there are just a lot of opportunities there. If things aren't going well, then guys don't mind making that move because a majority of the teams out here are quality teams that anybody would like to work for and the resources are there. That goes probably the same with what you were saying that teams aren't afraid to make those moves either because of the amount of quality people that are out there. If things aren't clicking, then there's no reason to just continue in that same mode sometimes. They would rather make that change and see if something else could work to find that old adage and word that we all look for -- chemistry."
WHICH OPTION GOT ZOIE MOST EXCITED? "I told her I wouldn't tell if she wouldn't, so we have that agreement that we would just keep this to ourselves for right now."
I HAD TO ASK. "And well you should. I should ask you all. You all seem to know more about what I'm doing than what I do, I think, by what I read on the internet and in the papers."
YOUR DAD DID COMMENTATING. IS THAT SOMETHING THAT INTERESTS YOU? "I think that it is. As a matter of fact, my dad and I had the opportunity to talk a lot about that. He was at Talladega last week and he came Saturday and Sunday as we sat and watched the Busch race together and Sunday after we were rained out we sat and watched the golf tournament together. We talked about that very thing. Obviously the sport had grown tremendously after he quit driving and went into broadcasting, but he felt like broadcasting did more for him than even what his racing career did. The doors that opened and opportunities he had were much greater after he got into broadcasting, so I think that it's something that I'm intrigued by. The idea of maybe only 17 or 18 weekends a year and still be connected with the sport is something that I would definitely look at, so I think that would be fun.
"I think that it's always good -- and this isn't taking anything away from anybody that is broadcasting now -- but certainly when you have someone like Rusty, who just got out of the race car, he has to have a better idea of what the drivers are going through and what their challenges are inside the car because the concepts and everything we do with these cars now is so much different than even five or six years ago. A current driver is up on all of that. It's not that the other people can't go talk about it, but Rusty felt that just last year so he understands it. When he sees maybe what a guy is doing inside the car from the in-car camera, he can relate to that and talk intelligently about that, so I like that idea and the opportunity that it may present. That's definitely something we've already started talks with."
SO DARRELL SHOULD WATCH OUT? "No. To be quite honest, I'm talking with the other network. I've had talks with ESPN."
DID YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF HOW LONG YOU WANTED TO DRIVE WHEN YOU STARTED AND WHAT HAS THE APPEAL BEEN FOR STAYING SO LONG? "When I started full time with this in '87, I didn't have any idea how long I may look at doing it. As a matter of fact, I wasn't even sure in '87 that I would have a job in '88, so it was kind of year to year for quite a while. As I've gone on it hasn't been something I've given a lot of thought to and to get to why I enjoy it and why I stay around as much is because I just love to compete. There's no better place to do that than on the race track week in and week out. You don't see the same race track. We race twice a year at some, but when you go back for the second race at some of these places, you're at a totally different place because you race one in cool weather and one in hot weather, or one in the daytime and one at night, so it's like you're at different places. So the challenge that presents to me is just a thrill. That's the thrill of it to me. Certainly the quality of life it provides is great, other than the fact that you're gone all the time, but it certainly provides my family with a wonderful quality of life so to speak that we enjoy, but if I decided to quit tomorrow, I would still be in very good shape. I don't do it for the money. I never have. I do it for the trophies and the thrill of the competition. There's just nothing like it. I've said many times that I was fortunate enough growing up to play a lot of sports and to either have enough athletic ability or good enough teammates that we did very well, but there's nothing that's ever given me the thrill like I have of being in a race car and, in particular, having a good race car and being able to compete and have fun that way. It's just the thrill of the competition that keeps me going. That's not probably gonna die out in '08, it's just getting to the time that things just kind of lined up as far as with my family and time for me to step aside then. Why can we continue on at the age of 50? I think the skills that this takes are a little bit different than what you have in some of the other sports. I think if you really take good care of yourself physically, I don't think there's anything that's really holding you back that you can't do in a race car because of your age. I'm sure that maybe by the time that you're 60 that some of those skills, you might lose a little bit to slow down and keep you from making that quick decision a little before that, but I don't see that happening here if you keep yourself in good shape and keep a good frame of mind and, obviously, have good equipment. It can keep you around here for a while."
SO THE GUYS ON THE SENIOR PGA TOUR HAVE NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT? "No, they never have had anything to worry about on the Senior PGA Tour with me, other than the fact that they'll probably see more of me at their Pro-Ams and things like that. Hopefully I'll be able to do that a little bit more, but as far as taking enough time, I probably don't have enough time to get to that point. They've been doing that all their life just like I've been doing this all of my life. They couldn't step in here and try to do this at a late age, just like I couldn't do that. But I will play a lot more golf I assure you."