This Week in Ford Racing May 11, 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, has two NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series victories at Richmond International Raceway, site of Saturday's Chevy American ...
This Week in Ford Racing
May 11, 2004
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series
Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, has two NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series victories at Richmond International Raceway, site of Saturday's Chevy American Revolution 400. Jarrett spoke about his hopes for this weekend during a break in testing at Lowe's Motor Speedway Monday night.
DALE JARRETT - No. 88 UPS Taurus
WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH IN YOUR TEST AT CHARLOTTE THIS WEEK? "For us it's to get our race cars faster, basically. We're just trying things that you don't have time during a weekend to try. You might do things that you think are outrageous here and see what they do and how they affect the car. We've got all kinds of computer equipment on the car and we can see from that how it really affects things, instead of me trying to tell them what I think is happening. The speeds have gotten so fast now that it's almost hard for a driver to tell you exactly what the car is doing and where you need help. With all the stuff we have equipped on this car, it can tell us a lot more than what I can. Again, we're just trying to learn how to go fast again."
IS CHARLOTTE STILL A SPECIAL TRIP IN MAY? "Yeah, it's nice. It's an excellent race track. The people here are great and they do a tremendous job of drawing the crowds here. It would be hard for us to find a two-week stint anywhere that is more successful than this. The guys get to stay at home most of the time and get to sleep in their own bed and that's worth a whole lot considering they're on the road for another 34 weekends a year."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON RICHMOND THIS WEEK? "The track is gonna be totally different this time because it has just been repaved. My concern right now is that we're gonna have a one-groove race track. I understand it's extremely fast and that's not necessarily the best recipe for good racing - fast. That's not where we put on our best shows at the places that are the fastest, but hopefully throughout the weekend it'll get to where we've got some grooves. It's always been a great race track. You can't argue with the success that they've had there with having fantastic finishes, so we'll look forward to going there in hopes that we get two or three grooves worked in."
IS IT STILL BEST TO GO OUT LATE FOR QUALIFYING FOR THE 600? "Yeah. Anytime you can get a cooler race track to run on there's gonna be a little more grip there. It's not necessarily the fairest thing, but hopefully over the years, if you're here long enough, it'll work to your advantage sometimes and you'll get that late draw."
IS IT ONE OF THE MORE PHYSICALLY DEMANDING RACES? "I think, by far, it's probably the most demanding physically on a driver. Even though we're gonna start at 5:30 in the afternoon or something like that, temperatures at that time are probably gonna be in the eighties and by the time you run for four-and-a-half hours, it's gonna cool off a little bit but you have to work so hard here. You're running so fast through the corners that you don't get any time to relax at all and the competition is so close. So I think definitely it's the most physically demanding race that we have."
DO YOU LIKE THE CHANGE IN WHICH DRIVERS WILL NOT BE ELIMINATED FROM THE ALL-STAR RACE THIS YEAR? "I think that's a good thing, and I think it's fair that everybody is around for the whole thing. Seldom do you know exactly what's gonna happen, but I'm sure the crashes we've had the last couple of years have helped decide that issue - that we needed to make sure we had enough cars running at the end. When you put up a million dollars a lot of things can happen, but it's always a great race and it's a race for winners. You can't get a more competitive race than that."
DID YOU HAVE A GOOD WEEKEND OFF? ARE YOU READY TO GO BACK AT IT? "Yeah, I'm ready to go back at it. I didn't do anything on my weekend off, so I guess that's nice. I watched the kids play some sports and went on the lake and sat by the pool, but I also caught a little bit of the golf tournament when I could sneak inside, so it was a good time. But I'm ready to get back to racing and this is a good way to start. I'm hoping we can find some things here at Charlotte that are gonna help us to be more competitive."
DID YOU WELCOME THE WEEK OFF OR, WITH YOUR POSITION IN POINTS, WOULD YOU HAVE RATHER RACED? "No, I think we really needed the time to get caught up a little bit. I think it's good for our whole race team because they've been working extremely hard. We haven't had the success that we would have liked to have had at this point in time. We've had some decent runs, but we've also had some moments that we didn't run so good, so I think we needed the time to evaluate everything and come here with a good game plan. Hopefully, we'll get through these two days and get our minds set on Richmond and we can get started off on the right foot."
COMPARED TO LAST YEAR, ARE YOU SATISFIED THAT YOU'VE MADE GOOD PROGRESS ON RIGHTING SOME THINGS THAT WEREN'T RIGHT LAST YEAR? "There's no doubt that we're better than we were, but I think that you have to look at where we were. Mike Ford and I just had this conversation last week when I went by the race shop. I think he was a little surprised to find it in the shape that it was in because, as he said to me, 'I left here and this was a championship caliber team and didn't think it had gotten to this point.' Unfortunately, it had so he had a bigger job ahead of him than what he anticipated, I think. We have made gains, but we still have a ways to go, which is obvious. It seems we're in that 15th spot a lot and we've got to get ourselves solidified in that top-10 area to where then we can make small changes to get ourselves situated in the top five. Then that gives you chances to win."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON RACES MOVING FROM THE SOUTHEAST TO THE WEST COAST? "It's just time for change, I guess. You can't argue with the fact of how successful the people at NASCAR have been over the years in making the right decisions. We might not agree with all of them and the fans might not agree with all of them, but I would have to say that, for the most part, they've made the decisions that have been best for our sport and that's what they're looking for and what they're after. We hate to leave races that are close to our home, which a majority of us live in the North Carolina, South Carolina or Virginia area. If you take away races from North and South Carolina, then that means we have to travel more and be away more, but that's part of it. I'm not complaining about that. You knew it was gonna come eventually. Whenever you have places like Texas that are drawing over 200,000 people and a place in California that draws the crowds that they do, and there are a lot of others. You can look at Las Vegas and Phoenix and these tracks continue to put people in the stands and that's what it's all about. As much as we hate to leave home sometimes, we have to go to where it's benefiting our sport and our sponsors the most."
DOES THE TRACK LOOK ANY DIFFERENT WITH THE SAFER BARRIER INSTALLED? IS THAT A GOOD THING? "That's a good thing. I tried not to get close enough to it to find out exactly what it's like, but it's a good thing. This is a fast race track and we tend to run close together. We have our share of accidents here, so I commend Humpy Wheeler and his staff for realizing that there was something that needed to be done and taking the initiative to get it done in a hurry. I see all the tracks doing that and it's really comforting to the drivers and their families, and to the car owners and sponsors, to know that we have these SAFER barriers put up at the majority of places we race now."
IS IT TOO EARLY TO TALK ABOUT POINTS RIGHT NOW? "You're looking at it every week, certainly. You just have to go race. This part of the season hasn't really changed. You've always raced as hard as you could for 26 races to get yourself in a position to try to win the championship. Now, you still have to be good but you don't have to find yourself in that top five to feel like you have a chance. You have to get yourself in the top 10 or within 400 points, which we barely are right now, so we've got to step things up if we hope to be in that position. To be honest, nothing against anybody on our race team, but we're not a top-10 team right now, so we have to work in that direction to make ourselves that. Then we can hopefully find ourselves with some good finishes and gain on some guys that are in front of us."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE ALL-STAR RACE POSSIBLY MOVING AROUND? "I don't know until we get to that point and see. Obviously, all but one year has been right here at Lowe's Speedway, so I just as soon we keep it here. It's close to home. It draws a big crowd. It's a great place to have a race. I know that there are other tracks that are certainly deserving of having it and fans in other areas would love to see it, but this is a pretty good place to be able to get to from about anywhere in the country, so I'd like to see it stay here. That would be my vote, not that I have one."