Jarrett looking for second BMS win

By Jeff Birchfield
STAR Staff

   BRISTOL -- Former Winston Cup champion Dale Jarrett was at Bristol Motor Speedway on Wednesday in an appreciation luncheon for construction workers, who are putting the final touches on a $30 million renovation project at the track.
   Jarrett, who owns one Winston Cup win at Bristol -- the August night race back in 1997 -- talked about how having the right attitude can make driving at Bristol more enjoyable.
   "You come in here knowing there's going to be contact," said Jarrett, who also is a former Busch Series winner at BMS. "I don't care if you're the guy that's got the best car here. You may be out front and trying to lap somebody, but you have to come in here with your temper in check.
   "I've thrown my helmet here. So I'm one that realizes you've got to do that. I think that I've learned over the years I'm a lot better coming and knowing that things are going to happen and you just have to put it aside."
   How rough the racing is at Bristol is often in the eyes of the beholder and often only the one doing the bumping truly knows if he is doing something on purpose.
   "Most of the time it's nothing intentional," remarked Jarrett. "Even though this is a place you can really cover up if you are doing something intentional because it is fast and it's easy to get into someone. I think you'll have a much better race if you realize from the beginning that things are going to happen."
   Jarrett has already tasted success this season, outdueling Kurt Busch at North Carolina Speedway last month to win the Subway 400. He says that the win was really good for his team.
   "It helps to do that just simply because it relieves the pressure," said Jarrett about his 31st career Winston Cup victory. "It gives the guys in the shop a reward early for their hard work and effort over the winter. It's nice that you can take that trophy back to them."
   This weekend at Darlington, Jarrett will hit a career milestone when he makes his 500th career Winston Cup start. His resume in racing's top series includes three wins in the Daytona 500, which tops all active drivers, and two wins in the Brickyard 400.
   Despite the credentials as a Hall of Fame race car driver, most press conferences these days don't go without a mention of "Driving the Big Brown Truck" in reference to his popular UPS television commercials.
   "It won't be here, but it could be beneficial here," responded the driver of the No. 88 UPS Ford when asked about driving the truck. "We actually start a new commercial in a couple of weeks after the Bristol race. As far as driving the truck, it ain't happening unless they did something behind my back."
   About the commercials, Jarrett commented: "It's been a lot of fun. It's the most successful thing that I've ever been involved with. It's amazing because it wasn't started for that purpose. It was started as a little tease to everyone on UPS' behalf saying, 'We're involved in NASCAR Winston Cup racing.'
   "We've created a monster. Nobody knows where this thing is going or when it might end. The commercials are fun for me to do and they make it simple for my part. It's gotten more attention than anything I've ever done. It's nice to have a sponsor that's really willing to use the sport in that way."
   Long before he was a television star and a champion driver, Jarrett, 46, was an accomplished high school athlete, an all-conference performer in football and golf at Newton-Conover (NC) High School.
   "I wasn't much of a running quarterback," recalled Jarrett. "I wasn't real fast. We ran the option, but we threw it probably 60 (percent) to 40 (percent). My coach didn't mind throwing it and I was glad about that. I will never forget those days."
   His eldest daughter has also shown to be quite the high school sports star as Jarrett flew in from Atlanta this past weekend to watch her basketball team play in the semifinals of the North Carolina playoffs. Meanwhile, eldest son Jason raced in the ARCA Series at Atlanta, placing third and carrying on a family tradition started by Dale's father Ned, a two-time NASCAR champion.
   Currently riding 12th place in the NASCAR standings, Dale has always shown a personal like for BMS, although he has stated a preference for the raceway's old asphalt surface.
   "I was thinking about this place when it was asphalt and how much fun it was to run up against the wall," said the 1999 Winston Cup champion. "I'm not sure with the cars and the tires we have now it would still work. I think we would be right around the bottom single file. I think the racing here is good now or it wouldn't be the most sought after ticket in sports."
   Evidence of that popularity was revealed with the recent construction project, which raised the overall seating capacity at the track from 147,000 up to 160,000. While all the seats for the upcoming Food City 500 have been sold, tickets still remain for the Channelock 250 Busch Series race and Friday's Pole Day.