Fresh off win, Jarrett ready to tame Bristol

By Jeff Birchfield
STAR Staff
jbirchfield@starhq.com

   Dale Jarrett comes into Saturday's Sharpie 500 as the most recent winner on the Winston Cup tour after scoring a fourth career victory at Michigan International Speedway and the thirtieth of his career.
   The win was a historic one as Jarrett's first career Winston Cup win took place at Michigan 11 years ago to the day he won Sunday's Pepsi 400. Each of Jarrett's three wins in the second Michigan race has taken place on August 18th.
   This one came about in large part by a decision crew chief Todd Parrott made to get four tires near the end of the 200-lap race. "Todd Parrott made that call. We get criticized for getting four sometimes, but I think that's probably won us more races than its lost us.
   "I knew from earlier this year, from the race track today, that four tires meant a lot. I know those guys were trying to get track position to get out front, but my car was too good on four tires to give up that. I knew I had plenty of time to get there if I was just patient and made the right moves, and when you've got a car like this that's easier to do."
   Sunday's win pushed Jarrett to 10th in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver point standings. For a long time, it looked like Jarrett would just be lucky to finish.
   Jarrett brought out the first caution on lap 11 when he spun through the grass coming out of turn four. When green flag racing resumed following the first caution period, he was 43rd in the running order. "We were just so loose, I couldn't get in the corner." said the 1999 NASCAR champ. "I needed the whole race track to try to run. I had gotten on the inside of the 19 (Jeremy Mayfield) and he was actually letting me go. I tried to drive straight up to the wall, but I had to turn to keep from hitting the wall. When I did it spun, that gave us a chance to adjust on the car.
   "We made a slight adjustment then. We ran the next short segment and the car was still too loose for me to try to go fast. We had another caution and came in and took a spring rubber out of the right rear and that really set the car to going. That's when we went from 36th and drove to the top five before we pitted for fuel. I was just hoping I could find myself maybe in the top 15 by halfway and then work my way from there to try to give us a chance, if we got cautions late. But the car was so incredibly good there."
   The car Jarrett raced to victory lane on Sunday is the same car the #88 team won with at Pocono in June. It's also the same car Jarrett won the pole and finished second with at Michigan's June race.
   The UPS Racing team hopes to carry the momentum of their win in Michigan to Bristol Motor Speedway. Jarrett has one win at BMS along with his #88 Robert Yates Racing Team. Jarrett took the #88 Ford Thunderbird to victory lane during the 1997 night race at Bristol after leading 210 laps. Although he has one win at the infamous half-mile track, Jarrett knows winning at Bristol is a tall order.
   "Racing at Bristol requires patience, luck and a good race car," said Jarrett, who drove the No. 32 Nestle Pontiac to a Busch Series win at BMS in 1991. "There is just so much that goes in to winning at Bristol but we've done that before and you need all of those things to happen. It's just an incredible place. You're talking about a half-mile race track where we turn laps in just over 15 seconds. Things happen in a hurry and you're just beating and banging on a Saturday night.
   "The fans are just so pumped up that it's incredible. It's back to where we all started -- Saturday night short track racing and, hopefully, we'll have a lot of good things happen. It's a nice place to go with momentum. We'll go there this weekend feeling like the things we've learned are going to make us competitive there. But you've got to put it all there and have a lot of good fortune to end up in victory lane."
   Jarrett does have some history on his side. In 13 starts together at Bristol, Jarrett and the #88 UPS Racing Team have put together one win, six top fives and 10 top 10s. If that isn't proof enough, that the Hickory, NC driver has a shot to win Saturday under the lights, look at this stat. Since joining Robert Yates Racing in 1995, Jarrett's average finish in the Bristol night race is ninth.