NASCAR Media Conference
March 11, 2008
THE MODERATOR: First a quick thanks to all of you guys and gals for hanging on so far this afternoon. Our first guest, Kyle Busch, who is the driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota has been unable to join us yet. We are looking for him a little bit later.
But our second guest has joined us, Dale Jarrett, the 1999 Sprint Cup champion who is also retiring following Sunday's event at Bristol.
DALE JARRETT: Thank you. Glad to be here. This thing is a lot more formal than the last time I did this. Nothing wrong with that.
THE MODERATOR: As I mentioned, he'll don his uniform for one more event in May, and that will be the NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star Race at Lowe's Motor Speedway, but Sunday is it for Dale and it will be his 668th and final start in the No. 44 UPS Toyota. He has 32 career victories thus far that includes three Daytona 500 wins in a 24-year career to savor.
So I imagine as you approach this weekend, you have a lot of sadness and a little bit of excitement
DALE JARRETT: Yeah, kind of both. It's certainly a day that I knew was going to come at some point in time. I've had time to reflect a little bit over the last couple of weeks on everything that's taken place and all of the many positive things and certainly the look back at some of the things I wish I would have done a little bit differently.
It's been a terrific career. Certainly I'm very appreciative of the opportunities that I was given by a number of car owners; the opportunity that NASCAR has provided for all of us. I've looked at it as a privilege and an honor to drive these cars to make a living driving a race car, to be a part of the NASCAR world as it is today, and be a part of the sport whenever it was at a big part of its growth.
So it's been fun and I'm looking forward to Sunday's race and moving forward from there, and then obviously the All-Star Race being the final event, but it's been a great ride and looking forward to the ESPN booth after that.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
Q. You have had the unique opportunity to actually start your future job before quitting your last job, and I just wanted to know if you're having fun with the ESPN job so far.
DALE JARRETT: Yeah, I really am having a good time. I wasn't ever sure how, if I would look in that direction, but once ESPN gave me the opportunity last year to do a number of the Nationwide races, I felt that it was something that I was interested in.
And then this year starting out right from the beginning in the booth with Jerry and Andy Petrie has really been a lot of fun. I think that each week we've seen progress. I know that I've seen some progress in myself and it's interesting to go back and watch the telecast and see areas that I really need to make some improvements in.
So, it's another challenge, but I really appreciate the opportunity that ESPN has given me. It's really fun to sit up and be able to look at the races in a totally different atmosphere and get a different perspective of really what's happening and how these guys go about doing what they do; and I've always looked at it just from the driver's seat and now I get to look at it a little bit from the driver's side and a little bit from when the crew chief is looking at and what the fan is looking at.
I've really enjoyed it and I've looked forward to it even more so as we get through the Nationwide part in the first half and doing both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide in the second half of the year.
Q. Is it hard to think of this is really pretty much the last race for you? I know you have the All-Star Race, but is it hard to know this is, the last Bristol race, and the last time you'll be in a points race?
DALE JARRETT: Yeah, it is and I'm really looking at this, even though the All-Star event will be my last one, I look at it as more of my last competitive event. That's difficult.
I've thought about it, especially a good bit yesterday as I was watching my kids play. My son plays baseball and my daughter plays soccer, and realize that I still get to play golf and compete at that, but as far as actually being a competitor, which I've been all my life, it's going to be a difficult day I think, even more so now as I've gotten closer to it.
When we were talking about this earlier in the year, it didn't seem like it was that bad, but now the time is arriving and more meaningful events that really means something to myself and to Michael Waltrip Racing, Sunday is going to be it.
There is no better place than Bristol because it's the most special motorsports venue in the world as far as I'm concerned. I hopefully can go out on a good note on Sunday, but when I climb from the car, I'm sure it's going to be pretty emotional.
Q. From your view, from what you've seen in the driver's seat and also from the broadcast booth, is Kyle Busch the sport's next great driver?
DALE JARRETT: Yeah, I don't know if he's the next one; I think he is it right now. He is an amazing young man, talent-wise. Pretty incredible what he can do with a race car, a truck, just different types.
Atlanta this past weekend, he drove a truck and a Nationwide car and the Sprint Cup car, which are all three totally different animals so to speak, and he was the fastest in each one of them and very easily could have won all three; if not for I think they said it was a shock failure on the front on his Nationwide car.
It's just amazing. He has seemed to adapt to all of this in a way that nobody has in a long time. I mean, there are plenty of guys out there with a lot of talent. His teammate that finished right behind him, Tony Stewart, obviously Dale Junior, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, all of these guys have a tremendous amount of talent. He's fearless and has that youth about him and does -- just by what I see, he doesn't think that race car can ever get out from under him, and he drives it to that limit every single time.
You know, that's a quality that not everyone has and is able to do that and I think that he is not already, and obviously he has to win some more races and race for that Championship that he's leading right now in the Cup Series to consider him and say he is our next superstar; he's right there on the verge of it.
He is fun to watch. It's entertaining, and I think that it's going to really be good for our sport to have someone like that that gets out there and goes, and to watch him is quite impressive.
Q. I'm wondering with all of the talk about the current car and the tires and whatnot and you moving on after this weekend, what your favorite era was to simply be a racer in a race car?
DALE JARRETT: Gosh, the early 90s were fun. Even though I wasn't as competitive as far as the driving side of it at that time, I think those cars were fun. I think that we really got hooked into some things, starting to me in around 1995, it seemed that aerodynamically we paid a lot more attention and making a lot of changes there that can could really make the difference of how a car felt.
And from '95 through I would say about 2000, maybe even I'll go through 2001, that that was really an era, and that was easy for me to say because I was having a lot of success at that time. But it just seemed that we made a lot of different changes in how we viewed things during that time.
And I really enjoyed what you could do as far as changes you could make with the car, changes that my crew chief could work on with the guys in the body shop, and so we were learning just a lot more about aerodynamics and we still had that bit that we didn't know everything that we know now; and that we got the cars so dependent on that aero, but we still had to really work on the chassis. You could do a lot of things that you could make a lot of difference, and I think they are in such a small box now, it's just not quite as much fun and quite as entertaining from the driver's seat as what it was during that time.
Q. You said there might have been a few things you would have done differently during your career, do you mind sharing what one of those might have been?
DALE JARRETT: Oh, gosh, there are just a couple instances. I probably -- going back to the place we are going this weekend, Bristol, 1993, I had won the 500 and I was running second to Earnhardt, I believe at Bristol and I got clipped by a car that was probably 20 laps down or something like that, because I think they had already been in an accident.
I decided to get out of my car after it backed into the wall and we took it to the pit area and had to make extensive repairs, and I walked out and threw my helmet at that car. I might have taken that back. But again then, I think, why not? Fans like to see emotion and that's basically what that was, raw emotion, being disappointment because I felt like we had had a really good start to the season.
There's probably other just decisions during races that if I could have done something a little different, it might have led to another victory. There's not much looking back, but just a few small things.
Q. Do you have any problem when a driver like Tony Stewart comes out and criticizes a manufacturer like Goodyear for the tire? Where do you stand on this tire?
DALE JARRETT: I have no problem with what Tony Stewart said. I'm a huge supporter of Goodyear and all that they have done over the years, but somebody needs to wake up right now and listen to these guys that are talking. We're talking about race drivers that have a huge amount of talent and very seldom complain about things like that.
The combination that we have right now between this car and a lot of the tires, somebody needs to wake up and understand and listen to these guys. They are not just hollering this. Tony finished second and he was complaining about that. Junior finished, I guess maybe third the other day, and he had some words, too.
I know that a lot of people say, well, don't take it in the press and let the media have it first; go to them, but we've been doing that I believe. I've tried to tell the people at NASCAR with this particular car, Goodyear needed to develop a different tire. We can't race the same tire on the Nationwide cars that is going to be any good for the Cup cars. That's just plain and simple.
If they make a tire that's going to withstand the amount of downforce and the things that they can do with the coal binding and everything in the Nationwide Series, if they make a tire that's going to withstand that, which I know that's their job to make a tire that's not going to fail; then that tire is going to be way, way too hard for the Sprint Cup cars that have approximately 400 pound less downforce, if not closer to 500 pounds less downforce, and we run on bump stops versus the coal binding that they are doing over there.
That tire is not going to work; and therefore you're not going to be able to put on a good show, which is what it's all about. And I don't mean to call it a show for the reason that we're out there just putting that on or it's something that's contrived; that's not it at all. I'm saying, these guys cannot drive these cars to the point of putting on a good race for the fans, which is what our sport was built on.
So somebody is going to have to swallow their pride right now and we are going to have to have two separate tires done there. And that's not just on Goodyear's side. That would be a first improvement we could make for the Sprint Cup cars is getting a tire that's more conducive to working with that particular car
But there's a few changes that NASCAR could look at with that with the splitter or with the bump stops, just a couple of small changes that would help these teams and these drivers out tremendously to help make that much better racing
So I don't have a problem at all with these guys because I'm pretty sure that the majority of them have already expressed their opinion behind closed doors. So whenever we have something like that the other day that you felt like, for, literally 325 laps from the guy that won the race to the guy that finished 43rd, they felt like they were pretty much out of control, you can't put on a good race like that.
So I applaud Tony and Dale Junior for standing up and staying what they really felt.
Q. Thought I would get a comment from you. You're going to leave the car in the top 35 position, just some comment on how good it feels to do that, or if it feels good to do that and what it was like last year having to qualify for most of the races.
DALE JARRETT: Yeah, I wouldn't wish that part on anybody having to go through that, and I know that somebody has to every week. That was a stressful time, no doubt, and still is, and I don't solidly have it in there.
I made a couple of mistakes at California and Las Vegas that I feel really bad about that someone that's been racing as long as I have should have done a better job there, because my job was to get this car in the top 35. And even though we have it there right now, I need a good, a solid day on Sunday for Michael McDowell or David or whoever needs those points whenever Sunday is over.
You know, I feel good. We have raced a lot better. We've been a lot more competitive, and you know, if we can get that to where we've got all three cars when they show up at Martinsville that are in the top 35, that will just accelerate the opportunities for Michael Waltrip Racing to become even more successful
A lot of hard work and effort, and it's been nice to see that and certainly everyone at Toyota has worked extremely hard to make this a lot more successful this year, too. So hopefully again we can have a good day on Sunday and all of that will work out and all three cars will be in good shape when they go to Martinsville.
Q. What would a tire war do to NASCAR in terms of economics?
DALE JARRETT: Last time we did that, a tire war with another company, I don't know that it was a good thing and I don't know that any series anywhere around the world has ever benefitted something like that.
I just think that we have a good company in Goodyear and they have done a really good job the majority of the time over all of these years. I think that would create problems if we did that, and we don't need to get back into that. We went through that back in the early 90s, and it wasn't a good situation. We need to stay away from that if possible.
We just need for everyone to, again, put their heads together and realize that we do have a problem here and that we need to address, and the drivers are not just complaining for no reason, and again, is it going to be a little more costly to go to the racetrack with two different tires? Yeah, it is. But the drivers and the team owners are not the ones that created this problem. This problem was created because NASCAR decided to go to this COT car, and there's nothing wrong with that, either. But you have to understand that you are going to have to do something different when it comes to these tire compounds and tire construction, because these are two totally different cars now.
And so it's going to be a little more costly to Goodyear or NASCAR or a combination of the two, so we don't need the tire war. We just need them to get the proper tires on each of those vehicles
Q. A little bit on the lighter side, about 17 or 18 years ago, you played golf with the media people here in Michigan, and I remember when you teed off at the first hole, all of the media people were in awe, and they said, "Wait a minute, this can't be, what is this guy, a pro?" Does leaving NASCAR give you more time to go on the golf course more than you already do or will you more broadcasting work?
DALE JARRETT: Yeah, it will leave me some more time to get back to the golf course. And I was saying that yesterday at my son's baseball game. Someone was asking me that and my wife looked at me like, "How can you possibly play more, anyway"; other than the weekends that I'm going to have off now.
Yeah, it's going to give me that opportunity, because once we get through these next couple of months, I will have some time until we get into the ESPN schedule. And that's pretty much as much demanding on my time as what driving the car was for those 17 weeks that we have the Sprint Cup races in and obviously the Nationwide races on Saturday. I think there's 12 weekends we do both.
So during that time, there's not going to be quite as much time, other than during the week when I don't have to go to the race shop or those type of things or go testing, then I'll have a little more time there. So that's my plan. That was one of the reasons, getting to more time to do the type of things that I enjoy doing, and I do love playing golf and plan on make something golf trips and doing some things that I've kind of been looking forward to for years
Q. Can you name some changes in NASCAR over your long and great career that you enjoyed most, and what changes, if any, upset you?
DALE JARRETT: Changes that upset me, I'm not sure that I could, you know, look at that. I think at first, you know, I didn't like the idea of not racing back to the flag of -- and it wasn't as much not racing back, but the idea of giving laps back. But now that it's become a part of it, I'm okay with that.
I think that, you know, it is entertaining at times, and it's probably a little safer situation than what we used to do in the past. So I think it was one of those things that it just took some time to set in.
I wasn't totally in favor of the green-and-white checkered. I think once we all saw that it was just going to be a one-time deal, that it's worked out to be extremely good, and it's obviously the best thing for the fans. So that is a good deal for us, also.
So a lot of the things that I would come up that I would say that I didn't necessarily agree with at first have turned out to be good things for the sport, and you just have to learn to accept some change.
The good really good things that we've done, we've made racing a lot safer. There's always going to be an element of danger when you drive cars at 190 miles an hour, but the things that we've done inside the race cars, the seats are much better. The HANS device being mandatory is probably one of the best things that came along in our sport. And unfortunately some of these changes came at the expense of others, but we have learned from those. And then the SAFER barriers have certainly lessened the impact when you do have those accidents
So those have been good things. I think that, you know, watching the sport evolve aerodynamically, it was interesting to watch how the different teams and manufacturers were able to work in an area for a long time there in changing their cars and making them even better on the racetrack and making drivers feel like that you could really just hustle the car anywhere that you wanted to. A lot of that's been taken away now with the COT, but we'll learn more about that as we move forward.
A lot of good things have happened. You know, the money's gone up. TV's a lot more involved now, and I think that's probably been the biggest thing that I've seen during my time is just how the networks and ESPN have taken our sport and helped move it near the top as far as sports go.
Q. I'm wondering, Toyota, their second year in NASCAR, what's your sense on Toyota now being received or not received by the fans?
DALE JARRETT: Well, I don't know that it's a lot different. I think that there are probably -- you're going to have those fans out there that just really have that passion about them that they don't want Toyota involved in, and you're not going to change that regardless of anything, and that's okay, because that's their option and they can have that opinion. There's nothing wrong with that.
I think that a lot of the other fans that look at that it's just another car and another manufacturer out there, and if it can make the racing better and give the sport something else that's a little bit different, then that's okay, too.
So I think that it's probably been accepted a little bit more than what it was last year, and that's really why Toyota is involved is for that acceptance by the American public and that's why they want to be involved in this.
Again, it's probably a situation that, you know, it's never going to be 100% accepted by any stretch of the imagination. But I don't know that anyone of the manufacturers is totally accepted by everyone, because everybody has their favorites and that's going to continue.
But there will be a lot of good that comes out of Toyota being involved. You know, they have helped make our sport even more recognizable in a lot of different areas. They have put a lot of money into the sport in a lot of different ways, and that can only benefit our sport in the long run.
Q. You started your career back in '84 at Martinsville. Did you ever think about making Martinsville your last race?
DALE JARRETT: Yeah, I thought about that, that that would be pretty cool to do. It's just the way this worked out. Basically my schedule was pretty much set by UPS. I wanted to let them decide what it would be, what would work best for them.
So, yeah, that was something that I certainly looked at and could have worked out pretty easily, but they felt like this was what's best for their program, Bristol being it, and then we have the week off for Easter and whenever the series comes back from there, you know, everything will be in place for David to take over with the UPS sponsorship.
So that pretty much drove the decision as far as that went
Q. How did you come to the decision to retire from racing? Did you start thinking about it a year ago or two years ago or how did you come to the conclusion that this was the year to step out of the car?
DALE JARRETT: I think that whenever I was looking at the opportunity with Michael Waltrip Racing, and I signed a two-year deal, I felt like at that time that two years was going to be probably as far as I wanted to go for sure. And then the deal, Michael and Morris (ph) and everyone was willing to do one year at a time if that's what I wanted to do. And I said, well, look, let's just go ahead and do the two years to begin with.
And as I got into last year, just a lot of things that started coming around to help kind of make that decision, and as I started looking at it, I fell like that I could be just as beneficial to the race team from outside the car as what I was being inside the car, and if that worked for everyone including, and mostly UPS, then that's what I would like to do is going and make that decision.
So I just felt like that you know, this car had something to do with that decision and driving it, I could tell that it was going to take some time to really develop that, and so I just felt like there were a number of things that came along and showed me, hey, you are always looking for what's going to be that sign to tell you is the right time because as competitors and athletes, it's hard to know exactly when that is, but I think I had enough signs to be showing me that, hey, this is the right time and I feel really good with the decision that I made.
Q. Just talk again about Kyle. Is he a guy that very well at the end of this week could be leading all series? Is that good for the sport having one guy being the leader in all three?
DALE JARRETT: I don't know how good it is, but it's certainly not bad. There's nothing wrong with that whatsoever. I think what it does is shows the tremendous amount of talent that he has and the drive and the passion that he has for our sport.
So if we want to look at good things, yeah. In that sense it is good that he can go out and show that he can drive whatever vehicle he decides to get in, and in particular on a weekend where he's racing all three of the series, that he has a good enough feel and enough talent that he can differentiate between the three because again, all three drive so totally different, and he's able it get in them, get them set up and take them to the front. He's pretty amazing.
Hopefully fans will look at that. I don't know exactly what he's done that he's getting some of the boos that he's getting right now, and they have that opportunity to cheer or not cheer for whoever they want, but I hope they realize he has a lot of talent and passion and loves to race; and I think as long as he's racing, to be assured that there's going to be a show. The things that he was doing in that truck on Friday night was incredible to sit there and watch that
Again, I can't say that there's anything negative about it, because it's obviously going to change. He can't race all three series and win the championship in all three. He could -- well, I don't know that he's made that decision as far as the Nationwide Series goes yet, but I think a lot of good can come from this.
It gives him a lot of press and it is obviously good for his sponsors but it has the media, just like yourself, talking about this and any time they are talking about him or whether it's anyone else doing those things, it's good for our sport.
Q. This weekend at Bristol is the first that the COT makes a return from the previous year. Do you think teams are going to be able to bring their setups from last year's Bristol race into this weekend?
DALE JARRETT: Yeah, I think they will some.
Once again, not to get back and harp on the tires, but I know that if I am in correct in saying, this is a tire that has not been tested there, and a lot will depend, again, on if that tire was developed for the Nationwide cars or was it developed for the COTs, and I don't think that it was exactly developed for that.
And so I know that a lot of people went away from the fall race last year at Bristol not really liking the changes that were made in the racetrack. And in defense of the racetrack, the changes that were made there should only enhance the racing competition, and I know that's what everybody goes to see, especially at Bristol, is that excitement. But it wasn't the racetrack's fault that that race wasn't as exciting as a lot of the previous races there. It again, goes back to that combination of car and tire, and just didn't allow itself for that to happen.
So hopefully because of what we did learn last year of racing twice there, that the competition will be even better. It just is hard to believe that whatever happens that it's not going to be an extremely exciting race at Bristol. I just believe in my heart that that is going to happen and that the teams know more about the cars and the drivers know more what to expect and it should be a very entertaining weekend.
Q. To follow up on tires again, Goodyear informed Texas Motor Speedway today that they are going to come to the race there in April with basically the same compound they used last year for both Cup races; same compound, but slightly different mold and construction for the COT. Do you think that will be a remedy, or will that take away some of the concerns you might have, or should these guys still be concerned?
DALE JARRETT: Without knowing exactly what those changes are, it's a little bit difficult to say. Just off the top of my head I would still say that that tire for the Cup cars is going to be too hard, once again. I think that there is some room, and even if it's just that we kind of creep up on that, I think that they could soften that.
We have to understand, again, that I know they don't want any failure problems and we don't want that either, but I think that you have to understand just how much of a difference it is in these cars downforce-wise versus what was raced there last year. There's a huge difference, and when you have that much less downforce to deal with, you can afford to put a softer compound there.
Hopefully the construction will get into that with the sidewall and that will help give a little bit better feel, and maybe we can get closer to what the drivers are looking for. So at least they are making some change, and it's not exactly the same tire, because I think that would have -- could have led to be not very good for the drivers and the teams. Hopefully we can strike a balance.
Q. Have you seen enough of Michael McDowell before, or had you seen him race or do you know much about him; what kind of career he might have or how he might do?
DALE JARRETT: Yeah, I've had the opportunity to be around Michael for I guess the better part of the last eight or nine months. Very impressed with him as a person, young man. Watched him in the ARCA series a number of times last year, was very impressed, especially knowing that that was his first venture into stock cars, and on the bigger tracks I thought he did an excellent job.
I think he has a tremendous amount of talent. I've been to test sessions with him. He has a really good -- seems to have a really good feel for the race car and what he's looking for out of it. I think that that will change as time goes and he gets into these cars and is able to run, you know, 400 and 500 miles, or in the case of a race like Phoenix where he is going to run 300 laps there. I think that field may have to be tweaked a little bit as you get into seeing what that's like and what your car does over that time.
Again, I think he does have a very bright future in this sport, and that's one of the reasons that it was kind of accelerated for him to step into the Cup car was because we do believe that he has that much talent and can handle this.
Q. I know you would love to win the race this weekend, and of course all the drivers do, but how do you look at going out of it and what would be satisfactory to you to be a gentleman: To have a clean race, to say good-bye to your fellow drivers, to have a good race; is it all about that last race has to be spectacular to have a good performance?
DALE JARRETT: It's the same as what I started off at the beginning of this year; that we want to be as competitive as we possibly can, and the object is to come out of Bristol with that race car in the top 35 in the points. So that is going to be what is successful is we can go and have a good day and allow us to do that.
Yeah, would it be a perfect scenario to win the race? Yeah, that would be great, but that's asking a whole lot when I don't think any of the three cars this year in Michael Waltrip Racing have finished in Top 15. So we have to be realistic about this, too
Just going there and having a good, solid weekend and a good, solid race is all that I'm looking for. I feel like that we can and are capable of doing that; and again, it doesn't have to be a victory and it doesn't have to be a Top-10. I think we are capable at a place like Bristol of going and running not Top-10 and so that would be excellent for that to happen.
But the main goal was obviously to go there and get ourselves qualified and whenever that 500 laps is over on Sunday, that all three of our cars be in the top 35 of the points. And certainly that's what I have had to do with my race car and this particular race team is to look at it as these races, these first five races, were a successful venture.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much for spending a little extra time this afternoon. We appreciate it and good luck this weekend.
|Connect with The Crittenden Automotive Library|