NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Gatorade Duel 2
Topics: Gatorade Duel 2
February 14, 2008
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
KERRY THARP: We'll roll into our post Gatorade Duel press conference, Duel No. 2. We're pleased to be joined by Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 44 UPS Toyota, who raced his way into the 50th running of the Daytona 500 today.
Congratulations. Your thoughts.
DALE JARRETT: Yes, my thoughts are that I'm really happy that I got UPS and Michael Waltrip racing's third car in this thing. That, to me, I know that everybody kept talking about Dale Jarrett getting into the 50th running, and it certainly is important. I'm just kind of piggybacking on UPS. That's what I wanted more than anything.
Gave me a great race car. The first part of the race was just to kind of hang out and see what was gonna transpire. I saw a lot of cars looked a little out of shape up in front of me. Found myself what I thought was a reasonably comfortable spot. Then after we made our pit stop and went back to racing and Michael got back there, my car was good, especially through the corners.
Needed just a little push to make that extra pass. Michael came back and gave me that whenever I needed it, and it really meant a lot. Car drove well. Engine ran good. Now we'll just work on a few things for Sunday.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions now for Dale Jarrett.
Q. Dale, after the first duel we heard a lot of drivers talk about how much the car was sliding and slipping. Was that your experience? If so, are there obvious reasons to you? Does that make it more fun, more frustrating?
DALE JARRETT: Yeah, "fun" is a good word (smiling). Yeah, I think we're gonna see that, especially as the weekend goes on. I think we're expecting to see a lot more sun, higher temperatures. As more races happen, more oil and grease gets on the racetrack, it's not going to get any better.
If you walk out there and look at that racing surface it's pretty worn. We don't want it to be any different. That's the character of the racetrack. That's what we want. But it certainly makes it exciting, especially when you get long runs like we had there. I don't know how many laps that was, 30 some I guess that we ran. The tires start to get pretty worn at that time.
These cars just have a tendency to do that anyway. You need more racetrack to drive these cars in. When you get side by side, the air affects these cars quite a bit more than the cars we've had here in the past. And so you have to really be careful in some of the moves that you make and calculating in those moves.
Q. Could you get in the Daytona 500 without Michael Waltrip's help? If the answer is no, does that take away from it a little bit? Is that the nature of the beast at this place? If your car isn't quite up to speed you need help to get up there?
DALE JARRETT: No, it made my job easier knowing that I had someone there at my back. But, no, my car was good enough to drive up there and do what I needed to do. I told the guys early on when they asked about my car. I knew my car was really good. I was just free enough that I knew I shouldn't be hurt in the right front tire, and that I could run around the top when I needed to do that.
But to have the luxury of knowing you have a gap. But he got lost there a couple of times from me and I was still okay. But, no, my car was good enough to do what I needed to do. Kind of like an insurance policy basically, and we all have that. So it was nice to have that there.
Again, we were good enough to make it even without that.
Q. You had all this planned out, and then the Penske guys did what they did. I guess that's within the rules. You can't change that. As you were sitting through this off-season waiting for this day, you had your plans lined up, somebody else threw a monkey wrench in them, you had to do something different. Is this immensely personally gratifying for you? This is probably the biggest race you've run here in a long time.
DALE JARRETT: Yeah, it is very gratifying personally. I mean, to know that you have to go out there and you know what you have to do, to be able to take the car and put it up in the top five and run there, you know, right around that for the majority of the race, especially the latter part of the race, that was very gratifying that we were able to work on the car.
Personally, hey, when it comes time to get this done, yeah, I enjoy that challenge, feel very good about what we were able to accomplish.
Q. Could you tell us at what point in the race did you feel like you had it, that you were going to qualify? Was there a lap or a certain point?
DALE JARRETT: When the checkered flag fell and I saw that. I saw those guys coming hard there at the end. I was trying to be still aggressive enough. I was wide open. I never lifted those last two laps. But those guys were just coming.
We kind of got fanned out two-wide up there. That was allowing them to come at a fast pace. I knew it was Biffle, but I didn't know who else it was coming. I knew the other guys had gotten tires.
Really before that I thought that I had myself in a position, before that caution flag came out, that I can drive this thing home from right here. If I don't run over something or something like that.
But you can't take anything for granted. I mean, I was trying -- I tried to move up a little bit, and Biffle jumped on the outside of me there. That automatically slows your car down just like that.
But I felt like I had a good enough cushion. But not until I saw that checkered flag and I crossed the stripe.
Q. Your three Waltrip cars looked very good, but the Hendrick and Gibbs cars looked great. Are you going to have anything for them on Sunday? What are your expectations for finishing in the 500?
DALE JARRETT: Yeah, I mean, you make a great point there. You know, I think there still is that separation. There's no doubt. I mean, our race team is a lot better than it was last year. It's tons better than it was at this time last year and a lot better than it was at the end of the season.
But those are still the two premiere teams. Doesn't make any difference what bodies and engines you put in 'em, they have things figured out better. It's the two largest organizations out there. I think that shows you that that manpower works.
Not taking anything away from those drivers, because they obviously have seven very talented race drivers there, and That helps the matter too.
We're going to need to work on our cars a little bit, but we can compete. I think Michael showed he can compete up there. But can we do it at the end when it's really going to make that difference? I think we're going to have to work on them just a little bit, but those are still the ones that you're going to have to outrun.
Q. Dale, were your parents here? Was your dad here?
DALE JARRETT: Yeah, my dad's here somewhere, yeah. My mom wasn't sure I was going to make the race so she said she'd wait and come down if I did (laughter). No.
I'm not sure if she's coming or not. Kelly and the kids are coming now. They weren't waiting. They have school. They got to stay in school. When you have a former school teacher for a mother you go to school every single day. That's what they do.
They'll be down tomorrow night after basketball games and everything. Hopefully my mom will come, too.
Q. Dale, given how frustrating last year was for you, the entire bunch over at Waltrip, how much thought did you give to just not even coming back for these first five races?
DALE JARRETT: My thoughts didn't really go in that direction, because what I told UPS was, I'll do whatever you want me to do. If they would have said, Okay, we're going to be finished. We're ready to put David in at the beginning of the year. I'd have been cool with that.
This whole thing, the idea of that, was sponsor driven. I wanted to do what UPS needed for me to do at that time. The whole thing wasn't driven by the frustration of last year. It was just a lot of signs there to say, you know, all of this, you could do something different at this point in time.
You can still be of great value to Michael Waltrip racing outside of the race car, so I think all of that's working just as we planned so far.
KERRY THARP: Dale, thank you. Good luck on Sunday.
DALE JARRETT: Thank you.
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