Jason Jarrett, driver of the No. 98 CHI Overhead Doors Taurus, will be making his NASCAR Winston Cup Series debut after qualifying 25th for Sunday's EA Sports 500. This will mark the second time he and his father, Dale, have raced against...
Jason Jarrett, driver of the No. 98 CHI Overhead Doors Taurus, will be making his NASCAR Winston Cup Series debut after qualifying 25th for Sunday's EA Sports 500. This will mark the second time he and his father, Dale, have raced against each other competitively in a NASCAR event with the first coming at Lowe's Motor Speedway in a 1998 Busch Series event.
JASON JARRETT - No. 98 CHI Overhead Doors Taurus
SO, HOW DID YOU SLEEP LAST NIGHT? "Actually, I was really relieved. Once I knew I was in the race I went back and took a shower and had something to eat. I was in bed by probably 10:15 or 10:30 and I was just worn out from thinking about it throughout the week. When I finally made the race part of it, I realized that was over and I was more relieved than the previous night."
WHAT EMOTIONS DO YOU HAVE TODAY? "I'm a little bit nervous this morning. It's obviously not because I haven't been out there before, I think it's just the whole excitement of knowing I usually watch these guys on Sunday and now I'm gonna be out there with them. I think once I step on the gas off of pit road all of that will go out the window. The hardest part is sitting in here waiting for the car to be ready, but once you strap in I think everything will change."
SO THERE IS AN AWE FACTOR? "Yeah, a little bit. There has to be. I don't think any of these guys could tell the truth and say the first time they did it, especially at Talladega, that they weren't a little bit in awe."
DALE GAVE YOU SOME ADVICE BEFORE QUALIFYING. HAS HE TALKED TO YOU SINCE ABOUT WHAT TO DO IN PRACTICE AND THE RACE? "Yeah, it was pretty much like racers do every week. Right after he knew I was gonna be in the field, he came over and we started chatting about what changes to make to the car that would make it drive good in traffic. He said that I need to get myself in some situations that are gonna be realistic - like three-wide situations being in the middle. You almost have to get yourself in those uncomfortable situations so you can make the car comfortable for the whole 500 miles."
WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS AND CONCERNS TOMORROW? "I don't really have any concerns because I know the rest of the field has been doing it a lot longer than I have, so I don't really have any concerns about that. I guess my biggest concern, and probably every rookie says the same thing, is I don't want to be the one that causes the big wreck. But at the same time, for me to get better and for the team to get better I have to be right there with everybody mixing it up to be able to learn how they get to the front or how they get shuffled to the back. I need to learn what to do and what not to do, but I'm not really concerned about anything else. I think the laps I'm gonna get in today in practice and today in the ARCA race are gonna help me for tomorrow also."
AS A ROOKIE MAKING YOUR FIRST START TOMORROW, DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU PRETTY MUCH HAVE TO STAY IN LINE - THAT IF YOU PULL OUT THE VETERANS PROBABLY WON'T GO WITH YOU? "I think so. Everybody I've talked to has said that - from my dad to a couple of spotters - just stay in line because at the first of the race nobody is gonna even think about working with me. I spoke to Frank Kimmel about when he ran the Cup race here last year and took some pointers from him. He was probably in the same situation I'm in where he was just trying to get some laps, but we're starting 25th and I would like to at least finish 25th or better."
YOU'VE SAID YOU'RE HAVING A LOT OF FUN IN THE ARCA SERIES, BUT IS A FULL-TIME WINSTON CUP SITUATION STILL THE DESIRED GOAL? "Oh yeah, I think it's still where my heart would like to be. I've never had an opportunity like this before this weekend, so I always kind of downplayed it as far as making it to Winston Cup. I'm happy with where I am, but, at the same time, I always want to be better and always want to be in a better situation, so I have to treat this weekend in Winston Cup like an audition."
HAS IT SUNK IN YET THAT YOU'RE GOING TO BE IN THIS RACE? "I don't think it's sunk in yet because I really haven't had time to slow down and really think about it. I have some family and friends here and they've just kind of made me feel good about it. It was also good to hear all of the support from the ARCA garage this morning when I walked in there, too. I really feel like I've put enough years in to get an opportunity. At a place like Talladega, you have to have good equipment and I was glad to get that opportunity."
IT'S NOT ONLY A BIG DAY FOR YOU TOMORROW BUT THE JARRETT FAMILY. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? "It's pretty neat. I don't know when the last time a father and son raced for the same team owner, but it had to be a good while ago. I think that's gonna be neat. My dad and I haven't had a chance to race against one another except for other time and this is gonna be in the highest stock car series it can be in, so it's gonna be exciting from that standpoint. My grandmother will probably be a little bit nervous and my mother will probably be a little bit nervous, but as far as my dad and myself and my grandfather, we're probably more excited than we're showing."
WILL NED BE HERE TOMORROW? "No, he's not gonna be able to be here, but I know how he is at home. He's gonna be listening to the in-car radio and he'll be paying attention."
WHAT BUSCH RACE DID YOU AND YOUR DAD RACE IN AT CHARLOTTE? "It was May of 1998. We actually started 11th and 12th, but, unfortunately, he finished eighth and I finished 34th."
BUT DALE SAID YOU DID PASS HIM ONCE ON THE TRACK. "It was right at the very start of the race. I was in the high lane and a lot of times at Charlotte the high lane will go, so I got by him for about two laps but that was the last time I ever saw him behind me. That was a lot of fun."
Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, spoke about Jason attempting to qualify for this weekend's race earlier in the week.
DALE JARRETT - No. 88 UPS Taurus
YOUR THOUGHTS ON JASON QUALIFYING THIS WEEKEND? "The race will be a different experience for him. I know he's run there in the ARCA Series and he's run a couple of Busch races there, but he hasn't seen anything quite like what he's gonna get in to. He knows that and he's extremely excited and I'm excited for him. I'm just glad that it looks like we're gonna have that opportunity to race with each other. It'll be pretty cool. It's always a nerve-wracking race, but now I've got double nerves because there's two of us out there. Still, it should be fun."
IS THIS A PLEASANT SURPRISE? "I think we always hoped it would happen. We ran a Busch race together. I don't know the year, but it was at Charlotte. We decided to give him the opportunity, so we built a car for him there and he almost out-qualified me as a matter of fact. We qualified 11th and 12th, which was pretty good. I beat him by one-thousandth of a second, but he actually passed me on the race track that day. I eventually passed him back (laughing) and beat him that day, but we talked about how cool it would be to be able to race against each other. It's something that as much as my dad and I have experienced - he won 50 races and I've won over 30 and we've both been fortunate to win championships, but we never had the chance to race against each other. It's something where you always wonder what that would have been like, so now Jason and I are gonna get that chance in the elite division of NASCAR racing. It should be pretty cool."