NASCAR Media Conference
July 19, 2005
DANIEL PASSE: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to the NASCAR NEXTEL teleconference for this week. Thanks for joining us at this later time, as our special guest is currently testing in Indianapolis. Some housekeeping notes as we head back to Pocono. This week's NEXTEL Wake-Up Call will take place on Friday, July 22nd, at 10 a.m. in the media center. The guest will be Kyle Petty. Today we're joined by Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Ford Taurus. After last weekend's New England 300, Dale is 10th in the 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup points standings. Inside the top 10 requirement to get into the chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. Dale has one pole, three top fives, and five top-ten finishes in the 19 races so far this season. Now, you all know Dale has a long and storied history in NASCAR competition, starting full-time in the NEXTEL Cup Series in 1987. As you also no doubt know, Dale was the 1999 NEXTEL Cup Series champion and has won 31 races, including three Daytona 500s. Today Dale is testing in Indianapolis where he's won the prestigious Brickyard 400 twice, in 1996 and 1999. Also at Pocono, Dale has three wins, the 2002 Pocono 500, and the 1995 and 1997 Pennsylvania 500s. Dale, you've had some pretty good success at Pocono, but the last time you were there, there were some handling problems, so I've read. How do you feel yourself and the team are doing at this point in the season for what's becoming a very tight Race to the Chase?
DALE JARRETT: Well, the season has been, I would call it average at best. We haven't obviously performed the way that we would like. If we had been, we would be further up into the top 10. But, you know, we've had good weekends and then a lot of just what I call, again, average weekends to where we found ourself racing from 12th to 16th a lot, getting a lot of finishes in there.I think that's been the key so far, is that we have finished, though we haven't a lot of problems as far as mechanical problems go or getting involved in accidents. We've made the most of what we've done so far. We realize in these next seven races that we have to step our program up. Hopefully looking at Pocono this weekend, one of the two cars that I have here at Indianapolis, we've decided take it to Pocono this weekend. That wasn't the original plan, but the way it's performed here, a lot of times we have seen things that we learn here in cars that run good at Indianapolis perform well at Pocono and vice versa. We're going to do that with hopes that things that we have learned here in the last two days will help us be a lot more competitive this weekend.
DANIEL PASSE: On that note, let's open it up for questions to the media.
Q. Pocono is so close together to the other Pocono race. Do you like that or does it matter?
DALE JARRETT: Doesn't really make that much difference. You know, I think there's a positive side to it, it would be that the racetrack doesn't see a significant amount of change in it. I think if we spread that out, if one were earlier and one were later, then you get a lot of change in the racetrack like that. It probably doesn't make much difference. If you ran well, then you can go back with something you think is reasonably close. It's not going to be a lot different. Although, you know, we've had a pretty warm summer. I would expect the track to be a little bit slicker this time. You know, as long as the fans enjoy us being back there within a six-week period, that's what counts.
Q. Since you left the last Pocono race, two of your top five finishes have come, at that point you were 14 points in arrears, in the standings, 398 back, now you're 10th, 418 back. Has the series kind of evened itself out at this point of the championship or do you feel as though your team is gaining?
DALE JARRETT: Well, we've made some gains in some areas. I mean, we had two good weeks there that helped us. But we still then had two weeks, one in Chicago and then last week at New Hampshire, where, again, we found ourself in that 12th, 16th to 18th place, and that's not what we want to do. We worked extremely hard to try to make ourselves better, and I think we're learning some things. But it's been a slow process for us and one we really have to be careful with. We don't want to get too far out on a limb and really knock ourselves completely out of this. As much as we would like to make wholesale changes as far as our setups go to see what may work, we can't really do that within the races. So we're just kind of inching our way there. You know, I think everything is still wide open. If you look at where I'm at in 10th, I haven't looked at the standings that close this week, but I'm sure there's barely a hundred points up to about 6th or something. There's probably not a hundred points back to 15th either. It's going to be a wild seven weeks.
Q. Like you're sitting on the edge of a cliff.
DALE JARRETT: Pretty much it, yeah. You got to make sure that you have your balance right here for the next seven.
Q. Can you just kind of describe the different management styles between your former crew chief and your current crew chief? How are things working since the transition?
DALE JARRETT: Well, what's been asked of Bill Wilburn is totally different than what's been asked of Mike Ford previously. Mike was put in charge of everything, ran things how he saw fit. There basically really weren't questions asked, even though that was the direction that was kind of separating the two teams quite a bit, and to be quite honest, not what we were really looking to do. That was kind of the downfall of everything. Bill has been asked to come in and not necessarily be a crew chief so to speak, because you got to have someone in that position, but his job was to kind of orchestrate and organize things between Elliott's team with Todd and his engineers and with our team, with our engineer and with our car chief. It's two totally different roles. Bill has done a good job in that respect, in making all of that work, carrying the information between the two teams. We still have work to do. We still have cars to build to get things more alike so that we can compare apples to apples. You know, he's done a good job of that and a good job of calling the races. But it's hard to make comparisons of the two because it's two totally different roles really, even though they may have the same title.
Q. It's been about a year since NASCAR instituted the green/white checker rule. How has that worked and how has that kind of impacted races, finishes of races?
DALE JARRETT: You know, it seems to have worked okay. You know, it made for a few exciting finishes. I don't know that there's really been a big change in the running order or certainly for the lead that I can remember in the green/white checker. But it's created some excitement. It certainly makes you look at your strategy just a little bit different. You know, any time that you're looking at your fuel mileage situation, you have to take that into account because, you know, we know that it's NASCAR's intent, if we have that late race caution, not to run a lot of caution laps there, but that still is a possibility, that you may get in some. It might only take a few to put you in that bad situation there. It happened to me last year at Homestead. I was running in the top five. Because of the green/white checker, I ran out of fuel. You know, you're going to have pluses and minuses. But I can't really see to where it's affected anything a whole lot.
Q. Ray Evernham recently announced he's going to a three-car team next year. What is your thought about the possibility of Robert Yates Racing to do that and is it necessary for that to happen to keep you in championship mode?
DALE JARRETT: Yeah, we've had a lot of discussions, some this week even. As we traveled from New Hampshire on my airplane to here, Robert and I had discussions about that. Yeah, I mean, we feel like the time is kind of right for that to possibly happen, trying to weigh the options of what sponsors might be available. Robert has had ongoing talks with a number of them over basically the last 18 months. Then who would it be that we put in that car that we feel would be a benefit to Robert Yates Racing. But the things it would allow us to do, I think, with the additional dollars to go out and get the additional people that we feel like are needed to really make a full-fledged effort at this. We do everything we can with the people that we have now. You know, there's a sign that there is strength in numbers here. To get like those teams that seem to be the most dominant, each of those have at least three teams. I think there's a big benefit there. So we see that and we're working hard to see if we can make that happen for next year.
Q. Both you guys are in the top 10, you and Elliott. What does that say for the strength of your team right now in that you are in the top 10 and you're only a two-car team?
DALE JARRETT: Yeah, it says a lot. But the other side of it, we probably haven't either one performed as well as we'd like to. We realize there's a little something there that we're missing. A lot of the things that we have incorporated into our organization this year are probably just now starting to take place and show some benefit. We realize we're going to be a stronger team or stronger organization when we do add that third team, if that's in 2006 or 2007. That will only benefit us more. But it says a lot about the people that we have right now, the organization that we have, the teams working together for both of us to be in that position.
Q. I wanted to get your thoughts on the last Pocono race, about the tire situation and also the rear gear ratio. What did you think coming out of that? We had so many tire problems and a lot of drivers complained about the inability to pass.
DALE JARRETT: Well, I mean, yeah, racing there was totally different because it had been so long since we had not shifted. You know, it certainly -- when you put all the cars at basically the same horsepower, it's going to come down to something else to make you better than that person in front of you. Then you have to work in other areas. I think that people will see this time as we go back that, you know, they'll make their cars handle a little bit better. That in turn will make it a little bit more of a racy race, to see if we can. It's a difficult racetrack to pass on anyways, it always was. That always just brought the field a little closer together.
With the level of competition this day and time, when you do something to level the playing field even more, then it's going to make it a little more difficult to pass at a place like Pocono. I think there was a pass for the lead, for the win. If I remember correctly, Carl Edwards had to pass the 25 car to win the race. So it is possible if you have a good enough race car to make that happen. Tire situation? Yeah, I wish I had an answer that we all had answers for exactly what was happening. We didn't have any tire problems at Robert Yates Racing. I know a lot of people did. You know, it would be nice to have that answer. I don't know exactly what's been done to the track. I understand the curbing has been put over at the tunnel turn. I wish that somehow that the two bumps over there could have been smoothed out a little bit. I don't know if that contributed, but it certainly couldn't have helped the situation. Hopefully when we get back, it will be much better.
Q. Expanding on the tire question a little bit. Was it the result of the tires being under-inflated a little bit, do you think?
DALE JARRETT: Well, you have to think that -- Goodyear really doesn't make a bad tire, so you can't put it at that. They're not going to do that. They're going to bring their very best to the racetrack for us. You know, tire problems happen because we abuse them. We do things to them that they weren't built to do. You would have to think that that was a major problem, major contributor to the problem. I think the possibility of that low air, going out, if you didn't hit the bumps over in turn two at the tunnel turn, then you had to go across the ripple strips. I would say that that was probably damaging the tires to start with. We don't have anything else really concrete to show us anything different. I think Goodyear has gone up on the recommended pressure for the left side. You know, it will be up to us to adhere to that.
Q. I want to ask you about luck. Racers always say you make your own luck. A guy like Jeff Gordon all of a sudden has seemed to run into the worst luck in the world. Do you look at that and do you kind of commiserate with that in a sense?
DALE JARRETT: Yeah, you know, it's difficult. I mean, it seems that there are times that you just -- no matter how hard you try, it doesn't seem you can do anything right. I'm sure that he thought the other day he'd gotten within, what, 10 or 15 laps of the end of the race, that maybe they had kind of come out of that slump. Here something else happened to them. Yeah, it's not a lot of fun. I certainly feel for Jeff. He's a great competitor. You know, it's not like he's put himself in a position to wreck a lot or create wrecks or anything happening. It's just, you know, you just go through these things. It's like a batter getting in a slump. You know, sometimes he doesn't really understand why he is. It just takes time to go through that or those hits that he was getting to where he was hitting the ball solid that were falling in the gap all of a sudden were being hit right at someone. That's kind of where Jeff and them are. They may run well, but they just right now don't have that racing luck to help them finish. I'm sure they'll come out of it and start winning races shortly. But, yeah, it's not a fun time, I know.
Q. The brake problem they discovered was just him using his brakes too much, the position he was on in the racetrack, maybe he just didn't conserve them enough. Can you talk a little bit about that concept?
DALE JARRETT: That's obviously coming from someone else. I don't know. I know Jeff Gordon is a very talented driver. He's never been one that I've seen to abuse the brakes. If he was, he certainly is smart enough to know when he's doing that. I would look at another problem there possibly. But, you know, that's not for me to say. You know, Jeff is a very talented driver. He's never been one to abuse his equipment. I think that's what was surprising about the whole thing.
Q. On a fun note, can you talk about Tony climbing the fence at the end of the race. Would you ever try anything like that yourself?
DALE JARRETT: No, I'm not going to do that. I'm afraid I would embarrass myself. Tony's done a good job of climbing up there, though. I'm pretty impressed with what he's done. And I heard him say he was going to have to get in better shape or something and I actually saw Tony eating an apple this morning. Maybe that's part of his routine to get in better shape. I don't know. Hopefully he's going to let someone else have a chance to celebrate in whatever fashion shortly. But he's certainly the man to beat now.
Q. You talked about how maybe some of the finishes, you'd like to get some better finishes, but you haven't run into that. Maybe the most impressive number you have going for you right now is the zero in the DNF column, yet you're 10th in the points standings. Because it's so tight now, is this mentality you're racing with now or you have to race with now in the current situation, is it different than in past years because you know if you finish, and finish maybe not No. 1 or No. 2 but in the top 10, top 15, you're going to be in this Chase for the Championship?
DALE JARRETT: Yeah, it's not really any different from my perspective. I'm not racing any different. I've just tried to be smarter on the racetrack and keep myself out of positions that might create a problem for us, realizing that, you know, right now we aren't the team to go lead laps and run in the top five every week, so we have to make the most of it in some ways. It's not that I'm going with a conscious thought of, "Okay, I'm just going to ride around here and try to finish in the top 10," because you can't do that any more. You go out to ride around, you're not going to finish in the top 25. You have to be aggressive. So you still do the same things. You want to run as well as you possibly can, but I try to keep myself out of positions that could create a problem and cost us points on that day. But we still know that in these last seven races, if we're going to make the top 10, then we're going to have to finish somewhere around that top 10 every week. If not, we've got guys that are coming hard from behind us and there are guys in front of us that are running in that top 10 every week unless they have a problem. We've got to do our job. It is of utmost importance in these last seven that we keep that streak going of finishing every race and doing our very best to finish on the lead lap. That will be key to giving us a chance.
Q. Is the competition right now as tight as it's ever been?
DALE JARRETT: I think it is. You know, it has always been -- to win races, you've always had to outrun everybody, so it's always been tough competition. Now you have so many teams that run well, that have the resources to run well. They have good pit crews. Everything is there. So if you're off just the slightest bit, it's not a five- or six-spot different, it's literally 15 to 20 positions that you finish back. With all the rules that we have now, with whatever you want to call it, Lucky Dog Rule, giving a lap back during the cautions, that just creates the situation of more cars on the lead lap. As guys go through the day, they're going to work on their cars and make them better. You better not have any problems or you're going to find yourself finishing well down the list.
Q. Going to the Glen here in a few weeks. I was wondering if you could give your impressions of the Glen, I think '87 was your first race there, and your impressions of the place now.
DALE JARRETT: Oh, wow. All I'd seen before I went there to race was kind of remembering when my dad raced, and then obviously watching it on TV. Of course, the first few times I did race there, we didn't have the chicane on the backstretch. That was a pretty wild ride at the backstretch. Then making turn five there. It was a lot of fun. Now it's a lot different than that. They've changed that quite a bit, added a new challenge with the chicane back there. I love to race there. Had a lot of fun. Probably the closest thing for a road course for stock cars that's ever been built. I know when it was built, it wasn't built with stock cars in mind. But it's probably the best place that we've ever raced that stock cars could really race. It's fun. Very challenging. Look forward to going back in a few weeks.
Q. They eliminated the sand trap in turn one to accommodate the IndyCars. Pretty much knocked all the curbing down. I was wondering how that is going to affect your cars.
DALE JARRETT: I don't know. They should have done that a few years ago for me when I got stuck in that sand trap when I was leading the race. It will be interesting to see. I'm going there to test my Busch car in a few weeks, like August the 1st. It will be interesting to see what it has and what may take place now. Yeah, that's going to be interesting. I would assume -- is there grass there or is it paved?
Q. It's paved and it's leveled off. You don't have that hill there that the cars launched off of before.
DALE JARRETT: Okay, all right. I don't know. That's going to be interesting to see. I might have to talk to you after I see what that's like.
Q. With Pocono, it's such a weird place. Is it the most unique track on the circuit?
DALE JARRETT: I think by all means it's the most unique track that we race on. I'm here at Indianapolis where there's four distinct corners. You know, each one of them are pretty similar. Pocono, there's nothing similar about anything there. Even though I said earlier you can take a car from here at Indy and run well at Pocono, take a car from Pocono and run well at Indy, why that relates I'm not sure because it's so totally different. We were talking yesterday. I think the only thing I can come close to comparing with Indianapolis and Pocono would be turn two at Pocono. It is similar to how you drive the corners here at Indianapolis. But the other two are just so totally different than anything else that we do. You know, you have a big banked corner down in turn one that is very fast. You know, the longest straightaway that we race on leading to that. Then the flat corner over the tunnel. In turn three, it's just a big wide sweeping corner that is obviously one of the most important that you race on because it leads to your longest straightaway. It's a great challenge and just a lot of fun to race on. I look forward to it every time the race comes up.
Q. Are you looking forward to the week off coming up? How are you going to spend the free time.
DALE JARRETT: Yeah, I'm really looking forward to it. As far as free time, yeah, it won't be at the racetrack. My 15-year-old daughter Carson, her AAU Nationals start in Roanoke, Virginia. They actually start this Saturday. I'll be there on Monday as soon as I can get there after Pocono, spend probably Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at those. Then on Thursday my 10-year-old son Zach, his team won their district in baseball for the All-Star team, so they're playing in the North Carolina State finals or tournament starting Thursday night just outside of Raleigh, North Carolina. I'll be there Thursday, Friday and Saturday at least, spending time with the kids, it will be a lot of fun.
Q. Can you identify a few reasons for your steady popularity during your distinguished NASCAR NEXTEL Cup racing career
DALE JARRETT: I think having good sponsors helps a lot. I feel like I have the best sponsor in UPS in the garage area here. So I'm very fortunate in that respect. They do a lot of neat things at the track and away from the track, so I think that helps a lot. Being associated with other companies like Ford Motor Company, and Coca-Cola, City Financial, you have opportunities like that, you get to meet a lot of people, a lot of my sponsors understand that I like to play golf, so a lot of my appearances are based around a golf course or playing golf or something like that. I think I get the opportunity to get to know people a little bit better than maybe a lot of other people do. You know, I don't know. The fans have been great to me over my career. I'm sure a lot of it has to do with my dad, and people just kind of following me from that point on. So, I appreciate the support I've gotten. But NASCAR has been very good to myself and my family.
DANIEL PASSE: Thank you very much, Dale, for joining us today. Good luck this weekend in Pocono. Of course, best of luck at the test in Indianapolis.
DALE JARRETT: Thanks.
DANIEL PASSE: Thanks, everybody, for your participation. We'll speak to you all next week.
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