After a one-week break for Easter, the NASCAR Winston Cup Series season resumes next Sunday with the Samsung/Radio Shack 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, has fared quite well at the 1.5-mile track; in...
After a one-week break for Easter, the NASCAR Winston Cup Series season resumes next Sunday with the Samsung/Radio Shack 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, has fared quite well at the 1.5-mile track; in five career starts, he has one victory and two second-place finishes. His win in the Harrah's 500 there last year was the second of three victories in a four-race stretch and left him atop the standings. This season, however, the 1999 champion has managed just one top-10 finish overall and is 24th in the points race.
DALE JARRETT -- 88 -- UPS Taurus:
TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY HAS BEEN RE-DONE. TAKE US AROUND A LAP THERE. "It's actually going to be hard to tell you right now because it's totally different, the race track's a different race track, and now we've got new pavement. But from about what I can imagine, and what I'm hearing, the track's extremely smooth so you're going to be almost wide open around this race track, to run fast. And the way that they've re-configured the race track after the first couple of years, they made it to where it's a very easy entrance into turn one, but it's going to be right around the bottom of the track, and the only thing that I am hearing is that with the extra speed that you're carrying now coming off of turn two, it's a lot like coming off of turn four, where it really flattens out in a hurry. They're not sure if, when they re-paved, if it did change that a little bit or if it's just the extra speed that you're carrying there. Into turn three is, once again, out wide and right to the bottom of the track, and you weren't out of the gas much before and with new pavement I think you're going to be the same thing, so there again, it's going to throw you out to the wall coming out of turn four. I know things have to be done, especially in the interest of all the racing that they want to do there, but it's not going to make for a better race with us because you're back to a one-groove race track."
SO, BASICALLY, WE'RE LOOKING AT ONE-GROOVE RACING? "Unless when we show up down there with the Busch cars and everybody, unless they put cones up in the bottom lane and make us run outside of that, which they're not going to do."
YOU'LL JUST RIDE UP THE TRACK? "Well, you're just going to have to take your time. We're not going to have a second groove. Why would you want to go up there whenever the bottom is the fastest way around and there's so much grip? It's going to be wait and wait and wait until somebody makes a mistake before you can pass."
GOING WIDE OPEN AT A TRACK LIKE THAT, IS THE CAR TOTALLY AERO DEPENDENT? "Yes, they are, and that's why the guy out front is going to have the advantage. So qualifying and pit stops and pit strategy are going to be of utmost importance. Having no idea of what may happen as far as the tire situation goes, I know it will be a good tire, but will two tires work? That will be an option possibly even early in the race to get track position."
RIGHT-FRONT TIRES HAVE GENERALLY BEEN A PROBLEM THERE. HAVE YOU FOUND THAT TO BE THE CASE FOR YOU? "No, we've never had a problem, only for people that tried to take things to the extremes. If you try to do that then you're going to get yourself in trouble. That's a chance you take no matter where you're at, if you're at Martinsville or if you're at Texas. It doesn't matter, you have to stay within the guidelines of what the tire is designed to do."
LAST YEAR, YOU WON AT TEXAS BY TAKING FOUR TIRES LATE. SEEING AS THIS IS NOW A ONE-GROOVE RACE TRACK, WILL IT STILL BE THE SAME SCENARIO: TAKE TWO VERSUS TAKE FOUR? "As I said talking earlier this week with somebody, they'd just gotten that race track to where you could go on the right side. The passes that I made, on those guys that had two tires and not four, were on the outside. You're not going to do that this time. We can talk all we want about, 'it may come in, it may come in,' but as much grip as it's going to have, there's going to be no reason to get off the bottom of the race track. It's going to be too fast, the guy on the outside is not going to be able to do anything there anyway, and that groove's not going to come in, so I think that a two-tire situation could work very well there. I'm not even positive if you don't have a lot of laps on your tires that no tires might not be a gamble that you would want to take to be out front. I know that in talking to Goodyear how good a tire it really is and knowing that certainly it's going to change a little bit as we get the Busch race done and then we put more laps on it. But, I think you're going to see some people take some real gambles there, and they could work out, and that could provide maybe somebody winning the race that you were sitting there watching all day and didn't expect to."
AS YOU LOOK TO STEP UP YOUR PROGRAM, WHAT AREAS ARE YOU LOOKING AT? EVERYTHING? WHAT'S THE PROCESS? "There's probably a couple of things that we can eliminate right off and one is our engines because our engines are very good, so we don't have to look at that and say, 'Are we doing something wrong there?' The other, I feel like that aero-wise, about what we know from the wind tunnel, that our cars are adequate there to do what we need to do to be able to run up front. So then we have to start looking at our chassis and our shock and spring combinations, and we do build our own chassis', and as I've seen in the past with some others that attempt to do that, you can start trying to re-invent the wheel and find yourself in trouble. I'm not saying we've totally done that but I think there are a few cases that we might've been fooling ourselves in thinking that we were making something better when actually we weren't. So, we've gotten back to a lot of the basics and not think that's what's going help us to get there quicker, by sticking to that and realizing that there's some things you can do in that area but you have to be extremely careful or you'll fool yourself into thinking you've done something good when actually you're complicating things even more for yourself. Our process is, right now in the handling side of it, in the springs and shocks that we're running in that area to make sure that we get ourselves back baseline really well and then we can start from there."