Interview with Dale Jarrett and Doug Yates

July 2, 2003

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Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, has four NASCAR Winston Cup victories at Daytona, including a win in the 1999 Pepsi 400. Jarrett was this week's guest on the weekly teleconference, along with general manager Doug Yates.


DALE JARRETT - No. 88 UPS Taurus - THE FIRST HALF HAS BEEN KIND OF A STRUGGLE, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS? "To say it's been a struggle is probably putting it mildly. It definitely has been that with personnel changes and problems on the race track as far as getting our cars to handle. We found a lot of things aerodynamically in our chassis that seem to make us feel that we're starting to right this ship. We've done a lot of work over the last few weeks. Putting Shawn Parker and Jason Burdett in place as the crew chief and car chief, I think, has been very good for us and I look for these last 20 races to be much improved over what we did the first part. We know that we're a team capable of running up front week in and week out and that's what we have to get back to is that consistency. Hopefully, we're heading in that direction."

HOW DO YOU AS A DRIVER AND AS A TEAM DEAL WITH KNOWING YOU'RE CAPABLE OF BETTER? "I think what we have to do is just realize first and foremost is that this isn't something that's gonna change overnight. It's gonna be a process. We didn't get in this hole overnight and we're not gonna get out of it overnight. The problem that we have, the biggest thing, to get back is that we run so many different types of tracks. What we think we're doing to make things better for us may work at some tracks and then we get to a different type of track - whether we find the flatter tracks work best at first and then try to relay that information to the tracks that have more banking - could take a while. We know it's gonna be difficult but we have talked with our people. I've been to the race shop trying to keep our guys pumped up and that doesn't take a lot to do. Obviously, it's been difficult and morale can get down. Whenever you're sitting there and every time you look at practice you're on the right side of that sheet or board, that's not very fun. Then you get into the race and on days where we could have made some good gains, we've had mechanical problems. Then on other days we were chasing this chassis and aero problem that we've had, so you just keep working. You know you have all the pieces of the puzzle and you can be successful, but there are a lot of teams out there like that and a lot of them are very good. We just have to keep our heads up and keep digging. There's no substitute for determination and hard work and effort. It doesn't matter what resources you have, you have to put those to use and that's what we'll do."

ARE THE PROBLEMS YOU'RE ENCOUNTERING THIS YEAR MORE A PRODUCT OF A TEAM HITTING A SLUMP OR HAS THE CHALLENGE CHANGED THE LAST FEW YEARS? "Probably a little combination of both. I think that the challenge has certainly changed. I've always said that as you race for a championship you kind of get focused on one thing and we got focused on that in '99 and that carried over into 2000. Then we started trying to do some things different knowing that this has changed - the tires have changed, the chassis have changed - things that brought us success have changed tremendously. What we started doing - and I say that as a team, but it was being done by the person that was in charge - was changing a lot of things on our chassis and the way that we build our chassis, since we do our own. This was one thing that we tried to caution each other about when we started doing this in 1997 was basically trying to re-invent the wheel and that's what we've found - that none of our chassis are alike. There are little changes in each of them, so we're getting back to the basics and I think that's where you have to start when you get in a situation like this. Again, it's something that has been building on us. We had so much confidence in that person that was leading us, we let him take care of that but now we're seeing that with those changes we've gotten far away from the basics. That's the direction we're headed back in and we have to be there and get that back within reason before we can continue to move forward and making other changes."

IS IT REALLY DIFFICULT TO REGAIN WHAT YOU HAD? "It makes it difficult. It's certainly not something that's impossible because if you look back over the history of this sport, I think every single race team - no matter how good they were - has been through this type of situation and you just have to fight back and work through it. But it does make it difficult because you're searching so much and you're trying so many things. The good thing about our race team is that we have some very good leadership with Robert and Doug Yates. They're doing a terrific job in a lot of different areas there and, I think, bringing in Shawn and Jason Burdett in, they have listened to different guys within our organization and that has been very helpful to getting this corrected. I think everybody is probably working together more than I've ever seen before and, hopefully, that will speed the process up a little. We just have to be patient."

WHAT DO YOU SEE IN SHAWN PARKER? "What I see in Shawn is a young man that has worked his way up and paid attention as he's been working his way up. He wasn't just doing the job that he was required to do at that time. I know Shawn, like a lot of others, started just helping out doing what he could with the race team and then became a tire specialist and just moved from there. He wasn't just doing the tires, he was looking and paying attention to other things about the race car and what affected it and made it better. He's just a young man that pays attention to detail and he has a lot of enthusiasm. More than anything he wants to succeed. I think that he looked at this challenge of coming in with this race team realizing that we at one time were on top, but now the challenge is getting this back to a top-10 effort to begin with and then we'll work ourselves back into that top-five and then, hopefully, back into a championship type of race team again. He's put the people around him and he works very good with those people. He has control of the race team right now and that's what you have to have in this business. I see a lot of good qualities about him. Again, probably first and foremost, is his determination to do whatever it's gonna take to win. Whether that means testing constantly or getting our race cars changed and our chassis to what he feels are gonna be best for us, so, again, that determination is gonna bring us back to the front."

CAN YOU PUT THE RACE TEAM PROBLEMS IN THE BACK OF YOUR MIND ON THE GOLF COURSE? "Yeah, you know I used to say that the golf course was a good place to get away, but, right now, there's not any getting away. There's nowhere. I mean, I'm here on vacation for a few days with my family. Kelley and I went away for a few days last week after Sears Point, so I haven't done a whole lot. I think every time we have a conversation or as I'm sitting and thinking it's totally about this race team and what I can do as a driver to do my job better and to give better information and how we're gonna pull this out. This is what I do. This is what I love to do. I love to play golf, but right now, no, I can't. I can't go to the golf course even for four hours and take my mind totally away from the race car and the race team. Until I'm happy doing that again -- it's not that I'm unhappy, it's just that I'm a little frustrated because I haven't helped us get out of this slump any sooner. But we're gonna continue to work hard. No, the golf, subsequently, is not very good. I probably have been spending more time thinking about the race car and the race team than what I have anything else."

WHERE DO YOU SEE THIS SERIES HEADING THE NEXT COUPLE OF YEARS? IS THERE ANYTHING ABOUT THE PACE OF CHANGE THAT GIVES YOU PAUSE OR DOES IT ALL FEEL RIGHT AND POSITIVE TO YOU? "From my perspective, certainly of being someone who has been around the sport for a long time, change is difficult for me also. I think knowing what the people at Winston and R.J. Reynolds have done for this sport, that change is difficult, but we've always known that nothing is forever so we were expecting that at some point in time. We'll have to deal with the new title sponsor beginning next year and I'm looking forward to that. I that it says a lot about our sport that someone would come in like Nextel and make a 10-year commitment as they have, so that part of it is very exciting - that we won't have to be going looking for another sponsor for quite a while. They're gonna be very good for our sport and, conversely, we'll be good for their business. As far as changes in the schedule, that goes back to a couple of things. I guess the selfish side of me says, 'Man, I wish it would stay that way. They're taking away races that are close to my home and that's gonna take me away from my family more.' But something I always remember in the back of my mind was a conversation Dale Earnhardt and I had a number of years ago and we were saying that we can't always look at what's best for us. We have to look at what's best for our sport and I think these changes we're making in our schedule - in the long run - will be best for our sport. We're always been quick to criticize what the people at NASCAR do sometimes, but if we look back over the years and the many decisions - and many times difficult decisions - they've had to make, they've been right more times than they've been wrong, by far. So I applaud them for making these changes and looking to the future of this sport. That's what we have to do. Is it easier for us to go to Darlington on Labor Day than California? Certainly it is for most of us that live in the Carolinas. That's a lot easier. But is it better for our sport over the long haul to be in California again? Probably so and I look forward to doing that. I know there are other changes coming that will be upsetting to some people, especially to fans that have been around for a long time, but, again, if we sit back and look at what's best for our sport . FOX and NBC have done such a tremendous job in helping grow this sport over the last couple of years and that's only gonna continue. We have to pay back on some of the chances or little bit of a gamble that they took on their part, so getting into these bigger market areas is what's gonna make this package successful to them and for them. I think we have to be willing to go with that change."

SO ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO SATURDAY'S RACE OR DREADING IT? "(Laughing) No, I'm looking forward to it. I've had a week off and I'm really looking forward to it. I know there are some cars there - especially when you look at Junior and Michael Waltrip - those are the guys that we're gonna have to beat. Kevin Harvick is gonna be strong and obviously Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. I could go on down the list with Tony and Bobby and a number of others, but I feel like we're bringing a very good car here and I love the challenge that restrictor-plate racing brings. It's difficult. It's nerve-wracking and all of that stuff, but it's still a very fun race. It's a great time to be a part of our sport and it's a great race track. As much as we talk about places that you enjoy racing the other tracks and how much a lot of people dislike restrictor-plate racing, it's been very good to me. Even though the last few races for us haven't been that good restrictor plate-wise, I think our guys have worked hard at giving me a car that I can compete with and have a chance to win with on Saturday night."

IS YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF DRAFTING A PLUS FOR YOU? CAN YOU TAKE A CAR THAT MAY NOT BE JUST RIGHT AND DO SOMETHING WITH IT? "I think my experience does play in somewhat, but the drafting part of it has changed so much now. What used to be forbidden and a place nobody wanted to be in was the middle of a three-wide situation, but now people drive right up the middle and I find myself doing it too. So I've had to adjust my thinking a little bit, but I still think that my experience does benefit me at times, especially whenever we get into the last part of the race. That's obviously the most important - getting yourself positioned and knowing where you want to be is very important - and I think that I've been there a number of times. Knowing that and finding out throughout the race is something that's gonna help me, so experience does weigh in and does count."

DO YOU SEE ANY SIMILARITY BETWEEN THE SUCCESS DEI IS HAVING NOW AND THE SUCCESS YOU HAD AT DAYTONA A FEW YEARS AGO? "I think there are some similarities there. When Dale Earnhardt built his team he knew how important these races were and that was one thing he told his people - that they were gonna be strong at those four races and they were gonna put a program in place that would allow them to do that. As others - maybe because it is only four races and there are 32 other races out there - others concentrate on using their time and effort and resources for those other races, they have built a very strong program that allows them to be up front consistently at these tracks. We did that. It's not that we've backed off any, I think they have just taken it to another level from what we did in the past. They do it very well. I remember those days very well and it was a lot of fun. I know those guys driving cars like that and they know when they come here they have to be the favorites. We were in that position at one point in time and I think we're working very hard to get ourselves back in that position, but a lot of things have changed. They spend a lot of time and money on these four races and we're realizing that's an effort we're gonna have to make if we're gonna compete with them."

DO YOU WONDER WHAT THEY'RE DOING OR DO YOU KNOW WHAT THEY'RE DOING AND YOU JUST CAN'T REPLICATE IT? "I think there are some things. They have a total package really right now. Their car is very good and they use the resources that they have there. They've worked and got a very good car-engine combination. I think that's something that makes it difficult to duplicate because you try to figure out where they're beating you. Is it partly in the engine department? Not that maybe they produce anymore horsepower or anything, but they're getting that horsepower at the right part of the race track and utilizing that. There are a number of things that they probably do that a lot of people don't know about and that keeps us searching and trying to find what can help us compete with them a little bit better. Again, they've done their homework and their effort is very good, and they still have a lot of people searching trying to catch up with them."

HOW DO YOU THINK THE FIRST HALF OF THE SEASON HAS GONE FOR WINSTON CUP? "I think it's been tremendous. I think, certainly, for the sport and looking at what's good for our sport - having Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., battling for the championship is gonna make for tremendous press for the second half of the season. Matt Kenseth has done just a remarkable job and as I look at Matt and his team, it reminds me so much of watching in years past teams that won championships and how they've been able to, at times, take days that weren't gonna look so good and make good days out of them. They've been very consistent. On those days when their car is good, they've taken advantage of that. And when it's not so good, they've made some very good calls in the pits and Matt's done a tremendous job of driving. It's been an entertaining first half of the season. We had some really good races - side-by-side close finishes at the beginning - and I look for more of that in the second half. Kurt Busch has certainly shown that he can win at any type of race track, so I think we're gonna see more of that and probably even more winners in these next 20."

HOW TOUGH IS KENSETH GOING TO BE TO BEAT? "If they can continue this, it's gonna be very difficult. You always like to be the guy in front setting the pace. I think if he has to look at anything, certainly the experience of Jeff Gordon and his team is starting to show now. Even though they're not really dominating races, they're finding themselves up competing for victories and finishing in the top five quite a bit. I think Matt and his team seem to be ready for that challenge. Even though Matt hasn't really raced for a championship in Winston Cup, he has done that in the Busch Series and he knows what that's all about. I think they're gonna be difficult to deal with, but I would look for at least those three teams, and I'd add Bobby Labonte in that mix. He's got his work cut out trying to fend off three Chevrolet teams that are very good, but I would say that Matt and Robbie have the upper hand right now. I would look for them to continue this pace."

HOW CLEAR ARE YOU ON THE YELLOW LINE RULE HEADING TO DAYTONA? DID THE SITUATION AT TALLADEGA MUDDY THAT ISSUE A LITTLE BIT? "I think there are always gonna be questions about it because there is that gray area. As black and white as we try to make it, there always seems to be a little bit of a question there. Whenever you have a situation where it's up to somebody watching to make that call, then you're always gonna have some questions and, at times, some controversy. I think as a driver you go and do your best and, if you go to make that move, you need to be sure in your mind that you're doing the right thing and hope that's what the sanctioning body sees as they watch. It's no different than a batter going up knowing that the umpire is gonna make those ball and strike calls. That's what we have to go by, but I definitely think it's a better situation than what we've had in the past. Mike Helton and his group of people do as good a job as they can possibly do. They're trying to be as fair as they possibly can to everyone and make the right call."

CONSPIRACY THEORIES SEEM TO BE THE RAGE THESE DAYS WITH NASCAR. HOW REASONABLE OR UNREASONABLE IS IT TO THINK THAT WHO THE DRIVER IS PLAYS A FACTOR WHEN PEOPLE MAKE A DECISION? "That's always the easy thing to say, but there's none of that. NASCAR's job is to make sure that these cars are put out as equally as they possibly can and whenever it's time for them to make a call, it doesn't make a difference what number, what color of car it is or who the driver may be. Their job is to make sure that they've looked at a situation and do the best they can possibly do. That's all we can ask of them. They're not trying to ensure who is gonna win these races or what would be good for the sport. What's good for the sport is that we as drivers put on an entertaining show and do our jobs and we're allowed to do our jobs - and they do their job as good as they possibly can. I'm very confident and comfortable with what they do. I know it brings up a lot of questions at times from people outside, but you have to understand that all of this is very difficult. It's not as easy as what it looks at times, just like when people wonder why we did what we did in the car - it's not quite as easy as it seems."

DOUG YATES, General Manager - No. 88 UPS Taurus - HAVE THINGS SETTLED DOWN FOR YOU? "I never thought it would be this challenging to start off with, but I think we've settled down here. We've got a good man in a good position with Shawn Parker to take the reins of the 88 team now. I think that he and Dale have a good relationship and, in time, it's gonna produce some good results."

WHAT ARE THE DUTIES OF A GENERAL MANAGER? "I think every team is set up a little differently. My background is on the engine side of things. I've been working with that for quite a while now, so I still pay attention to the engine department quite a bit. But, basically, my job is getting the right people in the right spot - making sure we get the right crew chief and right car chief and that everybody has what they need to get their job done and put us in a position to win races. My job basically is trying to set the organization in place and supporting those guys with the right resources to get the job done."

WHAT'S BEEN THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT OF THE SEASON FOR YOU? "Anytime you start out the season, you want to go into it thinking that you've got the right mix of people and equipment to go out and get the results that you need. We started off real strong. We started off and finished 10th at Daytona and went to Rockingham and won. I said, 'Boy, this is going pretty well.' Then it seems like everything has gone flat and we haven't been able to get a break. It's been a little frustrating because when we've run good, something happens and when we've run bad, we've just run bad. Sitting back and being patient has probably been the biggest challenge - just trying to give it time to work itself out. Especially with Shawn Parker in charge now, and the guys under him, we just need to give them time to get the right equipment that they need as far as cars and give them time to go test and, hopefully, see the results that we've been looking for and expect."

HAVE YOU BEEN OFF FROM A SETUP STANDPOINT? "I think whenever you're struggling you question every area and the chassis is part of it. The aero is part of it and the engine is part of it. I think we've got a better handle on the aero now and now we're trying to get back to some basics as far as the chassis go. We're buying basically stock Hopkins cars and trying to get back to square one so we can start building on something. It just seems like we've had kind of a mixed bag of equipment and whenever you have that, it's kind of hard to be consistent from week to week. We're trying to get back to that standard base."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT DALE'S MINDSET THE LAST FOUR MONTHS? "We've had such a good run since 1995 with Dale coming on and you don't want to think you're gonna have to rebuild or have a down season, but it happens to the best of teams. I tell you what, Dale has been a rock. He has faith in us and we have faith in him and we know that together we'll get this thing fixed. It's just that it kind of hit us by surprise. We're trying to give each other what we need and we know that we've got too many things in place not to come out of this. It's nothing we want to get used to. I wouldn't expect him to be very happy about it, nor are we very happy about it, but together we've got to work through it and we'll get it straightened out."

HAS HE SHOWN PATIENCE WHEN NEEDED? "There's a fine line. You don't want a driver to be happy with running bad, but, then again, you don't want him to wear you out with every little thing, too. I think he's starting to step up and say, 'Hey, together we're gonna get this thing fixed and what do I need to do to get this straightened out?' I think he's taking a bigger role in our race team than he ever has before and that's the leadership we need from him. I think that's gonna be key to help us get over this hump."

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