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NASCAR Winston Cup Preview

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Winston Cup

NASCAR Winston Cup Preview

Dale Jarrett
January 18, 2003


Q. We have Dale Jarrett with us. And DJ at times last year, the 88 team certainly showed the Championship form to win the NASCAR Winston Cup Championship. I think the end of the season, optimism was there that hey, this could be another banner year for you.

DALE JARRETT: Yeah, I think the key thing that you said there was at times that we showed that we could do that last year. In this day and time, you have to show that all the time. You have to be there week in and week out. As I said a number of times, it was inconsistency with our race team that kept us from being able to challenge for that. But I am excited about things that we have done in the off-season that we actually started looking at before last season was over, trying to analyze and look at our program and see where we needed to make changes and we have made quite a few. I think that they are all going to be very beneficial to us, to our entire organization. And I believe that the changes that we have made are going to give us a chance at winning a Winston Cup Championship this year.

Q. How do you think things are going to work with Brad (Parrott)? Will that be a pretty easy transition since he has been around the team before and going to Brad, will that be smoother for you than last year?

DALE JARRETT: We plan on it being a lot smoother. Certainly having Brad come in as the crew chief, being someone that I have worked with in years past - I said this a number of times, it hasn't been just now as Brad has become the crew chief. We always been a better race team when Brad was part of our team. For a number of reasons: He is very thorough in what he does. He is a very excitable person, which is good, too. But he knows a lot about a lot of different things and I look at Brad and I kind of see a young Todd Parrot back in'96 that was eager to show what he could do; that he had paid attention for a number of years. I think that things are going to go very well. I think Todd is very comfortable now in who he has brought in to take over that position. The thing that I like about Brad as much as anything, he hasn't come in and tried to let us know that he knows everything, but what he has come in to let us know he is going to use the people that we have there that he has surrounding him, his supporting cast, and that is very important this day and time that you understand that you can't be a one-man show. This is about a team effort and Brad has brought that type of attitude in. I really believe that things are going to work extremely well for us.

Q. There has been a lot of talking here about car versus driver and has the sport evolved more toward the car because of technology, and questions about the new common templates and body will that make the racing closer and more difficult to compete?

DALE JARRETT: I don't think you are wrong in saying that -- we depend on the technology now as much as anything and aerodynamics is a big part of it. I think certainly what's been done is only going to bring the cars closer together as a group, so then it's going to be up to making decisions from a driver's standpoint on the race track the decisions that you make there, but making decisions in the pits will continue to be very very important. I was asked the question at Daytona, and hopefully this pertains to answering your question, about softer tires that someone has been talking about and cutting the spoiler off, maybe, I didn't realize they were talking about a combination of the two there. Anyway I have thought about it since a couple of days. My dad or someone told me that someone made the statement that the reason the young guys are doing so well is because these cars are so easy to drive. I will assure you the cars aren't easy to drive. But I don't think softer tires are the way to go. I think we will only abuse that privilege if Goodyear will come back with something like that. If you want to make these cars where it is in the driver's then whack that spoiler off. I am not against that. We have become to dependent on that. There is no reason we should be running 6 or 700 pound springs in the right rear of these cars. That's totally to do with aerodynamics and the type of tire we have. Leave the tire hard and take away some of that downforce that we have. Then you will quit hollering about that aero push that you get because you will have more on the front end that you could stand so you got to take some of that spring out of the back. Then it gets back to drivers and crew chiefs having to work on these and the drivers working on the racetrack. We have come to dependent on aerodynamics and downforce. I think that the cars have too much. Maybe at the beginning don't cut any of the air off. I'm talking major -- if an inch is not enough then let's take two inches off. We used to run them with a lot less than this. Everybody thinks that is when the racing was better and it was in the driver's hands. If that's what we want to do let's put it back to that. I am in favor of that. We have to be careful with all of the cars pretty much fitting the same templates now you are going to get it where they are going to run closer. Are we going to be able to pass? Not sure about that. I think it's going to be difficult. Obviously it is going to be a situation later in a run as people have different setups that that is going to change some. But being able to pass with fresh tires and we have a caution with 30 laps to go is anybody going to pass? I don't have that answer right now. But I would like to see them take some spoiler away which would take some downforce off of these cars.

Q. Dale, the last couple years, 19 different winners, last year 18 different winners. What is it about the competition? Is it a case everybody is better or you just you have a bunch of mediocre teams, there isn't one that outclasses -- you don't have a dominant team, but you have a lot of teams playing above average, that is kind of how it works, is that what you see this sport evolving into?

DALE JARRETT: I guess it's 'be careful what you ask for, you might get it.' Wanting more teams to be more competitive; we've gotten that. I don't like using the word that we have more mediocre teams because I think we have a lot of very good race teams. I think that we just have more good teams. I don't think that the level of the competition there has gone down any. I just think that we have made so many things equal. We have -- even though we talk about the economics and things aren't very good, we have a lot of sponsors that spend a lot of money in this. That part of it is probably the best that it's been for our sport. We have a lot of people and a lot of teams that have kept people together. We have more specialized people. We have people coming from other motor sports, from car manufacturers, engineers and things, we have more specialized people. That's made everybody better because you do have that. It's not just that have you mechanics these days. Everybody is specialized. And everybody has the capability of getting those specialized people. I think that's what puts things closer together. Even though we have young guys coming in making a big hit, the reason it was more difficult in my opinion, before was the younger guys, as you came in as a younger driver, you didn't have the opportunity to get in first-class equipment with a group of guys that could make your car as good as anybody else's out there. Those young guys come in with those capabilities now. All they are doing is bringing the talent that they have and making it work. I think we are just at a high level of competition right now. I don't think that we have gotten mediocre. I think we have others that have risen up. It's makes you do things that -- from a driver perspective and from a crew perspective you don't need to do it. I find myself -- one of the things that we analyzed this year and I said in my meetings, I made mistakes that I should not have made last year that hurt our race team. I did things that I tell young guys that come and talk to me about driving at certain race tracks and doing certain things, I found myself doing things I'm telling them not to do because the biggest mistake that we as drivers make is trying to do things that our race cars aren't capable of doing or trying to make up for a mistake in the pits or something and that's how we get ourselves in trouble. And I did that. That's where -- when you have teams that don't make those mistakes and drivers that don't, then they are going to be the ones performing week in and week out and be ready to win the Championship. I don't know if that answered your question.

Q. Older guys like yourself, Martin, Elliott, the year of the young guns --

DALE JARRETT: I think that was more you all talking about the age than me. I'm 46 now, even though I got gray here, there is not a thing in the world that keeps me or my age that's keeping me from winning races and championships. I think there's a lot of capable guys that are over 40 years old doing everything and more than anybody else can do out there. If we have the equipment and we make the effort, I know myself, I'm in the best shape that I have ever been in my life at 46 years old. So I have worked harder in the off-season than I have before. If we are not performing it is not because I'm not capable of doing it. I think I can do this. I think there are a lot of the guys that are over 40 that can certainly make a stand and say we are not ready to give this up. I'm not ready to give it up any time soon. I think you will see a lot of these guys performing very well.

Q. I was just wondering have you been surprised at the lengths that UPS has been willing to go to market their racing program? What has been the public reaction and the fan reaction with you being involved in that campaign?

DALE JARRETT: It's surprising in the way you don't find a lot of sponsors that want to come in -- you hear a lot of them talking about we are going to spend this amount of money on the racing side of it and then we are going to come in and spend basically that same amount in promoting this. A lot of people have that idea coming in but that gets pretty expensive. But UPS has done that. They have done everything they said and probably a little more. We have ended up doing more commercials than what was planned from the beginning, and that's because of their customers, because of their employees and because of the fan reaction that we have had to that. Obviously, I see mostly the positive comments that are about us. I'm sure there are people out there when that commercial comes on they either cut their TV off or that's the time they go to the refrigerator because they are tired of seeing us and talking about driving the truck. If they are tired of that then they might as well plan next year about planning the breaks around the commercials because we got that coming again. It's been a lot of fun for me. If I would have only put my contract that I get a dollar every time I'm asked about driving the truck I'd be in pretty good shape. It's been a great program, marketing idea. We base it off of seeing the reactions of fans from other drivers. We get that. It is not just the fans Robert Yates Racing or Dale Jarrett or UPS employees. We get a lot of response from others so it has been a great product for us.

Q. When Robert Yates Racing was the king of the restrictor plate tracks do you see any similarities between that dominant era on that DEI has now?

DALE JARRETT: Yes, very similar. You find things that work, the rules -- and not saying that anyone put the rules to anyone's advantage, but you find rules work to your advantage, error-wise or engine-wise and Robert was able to capitalize on it for a few years. It's been a struggle, hard for us to take to know that we can't get up there and lead races the last two years. Since I won the Daytona 500 in 2000, we struggled to even be near the front of the pack. We can get to second, but if I get to the front then we get passed shortly after that. But I see that's been -- they got that program and between Michael and Dale, Jr. They have had things pretty much covered. You know going in those have been the guys to beat the last couple of years. I think there is lot of similarity there. I hope the pendulum swings back the other way and come over to the Ford side.

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