After a dismal season for both of his race teams, Robert Yates turned to an old adversary for help in the off-season. So far, the alliance is working. For the first time in eight seasons, Dale Jarrett finished outside of the top-10 in 2003. He...
After a dismal season for both of his race teams, Robert Yates turned to an old adversary for help in the off-season. So far, the alliance is working.
For the first time in eight seasons, Dale Jarrett finished outside of the top-10 in 2003. He was 26th in the championship standings - his worst finish since his rookie season in 1987. Elliott Sadler was also expected to challenge for a top-10 spot after replacing Ricky Rudd. He won the pole at Rockingham five races into the season and had a career-high nine top-10 finishes, but finished a disappointing 22nd in the final standings.
"We've been taking things apart and seeing how they work and just putting the best of both together," says Roush, who claimed his first series championship last year with Matt Kenseth. "That has manifested itself in a bigger gain in our engines than I have had from one year to the next and I think than they've had, so we're way ahead of where we were last year."
The Yates teams of Dale Jarrett and Elliott Sadler already have wins in Daytona Speedweeks and are expected to challenge for the win in Sunday's Daytona 500 (12:00 noon ET on NBC). Roush driver Greg Biffle claimed the pole for the season-opening race and all five Roush teams will start in the first eight rows on Sunday.
"I think we're already seeing benefits," says Jarrett, who has three Daytona 500 wins on his resume along with the 1999 championship. "The teams are even talking and sharing information about chassis setups and what they're feeling in the car, so this may even go further than what I thought it may at the beginning."
Jarrett powered his way to a win in the Budweiser Shootout last Saturday and is happy with the engine program that the teams have developed.
Kenseth's championship overshadowed a lackluster effort by the Ford camp in 2003. Roush drivers Kurt Busch (11th), Jeff Burton (12th), Mark Martin (17th) and Biffle (20th) were the only other Fords among the top-20 in the final standings. In contrast, there were seven Chevrolets in the top-10. The Ford camp committed to sharing resources the way the Chevy and Dodge teams have recently.
"That just goes to show you how much all of this has changed and how much Ford has to do with all of this," Jarrett says. "Here you have two people that are very skilled in their areas and are willing to say, 'OK, we can be better if we join forces and we take and put all of Fords money in one place'. Instead of going in two separate directions, we can make all of our race teams better."
Yates and Roush both entered the sport as team owners in the late 1980's and have combined for 120 wins in the sport's top series. They have always had mutual respect for each other, but competed for manufacturer resources from Ford and were adversaries at the track.
"It was kind of a sibling rivalry thing that Ford saw was a problem," Roush says. "We were struggling and competing for the same bit of support that Ford would give somebody. We wanted to have as much of it as we could and we competed on the racetracks because we had very similar hardware. If they invested money on a development program with Robert, they wouldn't share it with me and if they invested with me, I insisted they wouldn't give it to Robert."
Roush says the one-team effort that Dodge brought with their return to the sport three years ago was an eye-opener for the other manufacturers.
Jarrett had initial concerns about the benefits of the two teams working together but was quickly won over by the benefits of getting two of the brightest mind in the sport working for a common goal.
"I've said this for years that our business is no different than anything else - it's about people," Jarrett says. "You can try to make combinations work as much as you want, but when you get the right people together - when you have confidence in each other, it goes beyond that. The working relationships that we have together are really what makes all of this possible and really makes it click. If you don't have that then you're not going to have much of a chance at winning on a consistent basis."