Jarrett pursues second night win

By Jeff Birchfield
STAR Staff
jbirchfield@starhq.com

   Dale Jarrett has had success at Bristol Motor Speedway, winning the Winston Cup night race there in 1997 and scoring a Busch Series win on the high banks in 1991.
   He's had his share of heartaches on the high banks as well, so it's not surprising he has mixed feelings about coming here to race in Saturday night's Sharpie 500.
   "Bristol is a lot of fun, but it can also be frustrating," said the driver of the No. 88 UPS Ford. "I don't think you can put a large enough emphasis on track position there. At a fast half-mile track like Bristol it doesn't take long to go a lap down unless you're running up front. I don't thing there's a track where you have a larger premium on track position than at Bristol."
   When Jarrett talks of frustration, he could have been talking about his 2003 season. After scoring an early win at Rockingham in a thrilling duel with Kurt Busch, the team fell on hard times quickly.
   The team has slipped as low as 27th in the NASCAR point standings and Jarrett was eliminated from title contention long before the season hit the halfway point. That forced the team to replace crew chief Brad Parrott with Shawn Parker by the time the series reached Martinsville in April.
   Parker has brought some unconventional ideas to the team including racing a car this week that previously ran on the 2-mile California Speedway.
   "We're actually going to use the car we raced at Fontana," Parker explained. "It's a more common car that we think will help us out in the corners. We know going in that the biggest thing is getting a car with good ground clearance so that it doesn't bottom out in the turns."
   Formerly the car chief for Mark Martin's No. 6 team, Parker knows the common obstacles all of the NASCAR crews face when tackling the 36 degree banking.
   "A lot of times when teams have a problem with a car bottoming out, they raise the car higher and that can cause balance problems," said Parker. "We hope to be able to run our springs soft enough that the car doesn't bottom out, but we want the car to be mechanically sound enough to maintain grip for 500 miles."
   Parker is looking for his first win as a crew chief for Jarrett. The Hickory, NC driver could point the promising wrench the right way, as Jarrett has 31 career Winston Cup victories and is a two-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association driver of the Year award.
   Jarrett has plenty of other big prizes on his resume including the 1999 Winston Cup title, three Daytona 500's and two Brickyard 400 trophies. He realizes that means nothing when it comes to beating and banging at BMS.
   "Obviously the most important thing to finishing a race at Bristol is keeping the fenders on the car," said the son of two-time NASCAR champ Ned Jarrett. "That's something we haven't done in our last three starts here. We've been caught up in accidents that weren't necessarily of our own doing. That's what you run into when you don't qualify near the front at a small track like Bristol."
   The team does put a lot of emphasis on winning NASCAR's Most Popular Race. They go as far as having a special program for running the high banked facility.
   "We've made some changes to our Bristol program," revealed Jarrett. "Hopefully that will help us out in qualifying. But, if something happens and you have to start toward the back of the pack, we know we are still capable of a good finish.
   "You just have to put together a good race package and get a little luck on your side when it comes time to race Saturday night."