Jarrett UPS Team Not Delivering

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Dale Jarrett couldn’t wait for the Easter weekend. Finally, he had a chance to get away with his wife and four kids, recharge his batteries and get ready for the rest of the season.

An added bonus was that he didn’t have to show up at a race track and have something go wrong. No, Jarrett won’t win this weekend. But he won’t blow and engine and finish 40th either.

“I’m ready to get away for a few weeks, to be quite honest,” Jarrett said. “Maybe somebody will come in and work on them and give us a little more knowledge and give me a little more patience during that time off. We’re you’re going like this, it’s good to have some time.”

“Like this” means running terrible. Or it means when you’re running well, something bad happens. That’s Jarrett’s season in a nutshell. He’s having a very un-Jarrett-like season, with only one top-10 finish, a seventh at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. And that came after Jarrett needed a provisional to start 37th.

He’s 24th in the Winston Cup Series points standings, more than 400 points behind leader Sterling Marlin. He hasn’t finished that low in the points since 1990, when he was 25th with the Wood Brothers. Oh, yeah, and he only ran 24 races that year.

No, we’re used to seeing Jarrett running up front, winning races, challenging for the championship. Since joining Robert Yates Racing in 1995, he’s won 25 races, the 1999 Winston Cup title and hasn’t finished outside the Top 5 in points.

How the mighty have fallen. And it’s been a bit of a mystery, given Yates’ wealth of resources and talent, and Jarrett’s obvious ability. Jimmy Elledge was brought in over the winter as crew chief, moving Todd Parrott to team manager.

Yet the struggles continue. They date back to a midseason swoon that dropped Jarrett from a tie to the points lead to also-ran in the championship hunt. He finished 25th or worse in seven of the final 17 races.

“We weren’t very good then – not on a consistent basis,” Jarrett said. “We put ourselves in a position to win a few times, but you can’t expect over the winter that everything is going to be great unless you came out and found something, and I can’t honestly say that we’ve found exactly what we need to do to be more consistent and challenge for wins.

“We have to do that before we can think about it. We’ve got to get ourselves into the Top 5 before we can even think about that. And we’ve done that a couple of times, but we’ve had things happen that don’t show that we were going to even get to that point.”

Yes, he ran well at Rockingham, leading the race before an engine failure knocked him out. And at Darlington, where he was the defending champion, Jarrett moved through the field before another engine failure. The second one may have been caused by debris knocking belts off the engine, but the damage was done.

Other than those two runs, Jarrett doesn’t have much to smile about. Maybe driving the big, brown truck – as is suggested in his sponsor’s commercials – wouldn’t be such a bad idea at this point.

“You can talk and say and do all you want, but you gotta go out and perform, and that’s the bottom line,” Jarrett said. “We’ve got to get our program better. (Teammate) Ricky (Rudd, who is 14th in points) or myself, either one, we’re not running the way we’re capable of running.

“Right now, there’s something that we’re missing. The thing that we’ve all talked about is we’ve gotta be careful when you get in these situations that you don’t start taking a lot of chances. We don’t feel like we’re that far off, we just need to keep making some changes to hopefully make our race teams better and to where we once again are contending.”

One target area Jarrett points to is the team’s in-house chassis program. He knows their engine and aero programs are fine, but the chassis may be off a bit.

“We have to start looking at our chassis and our shock-and-spring combinations,” Jarrett said. “We do build our own chassis, and as I’ve seen in the past with some others that attempt to do that, you can start trying to reinvent the wheel and find yourself in trouble.”

Maybe RYR wasn’t doing that, but in a few cases, “we might have been fooling ourselves and thinking that we were making something better than actually we were.”

So the team has backed up a bit, going back to what they know works. The basic chassis, Jarrett said, will help them get back to the front quicker.

“But, you gotta understand right now that things are very, very tough out here,” Jarrett said. “At Atlanta, we ran fourth, fifth and sixth all day, and we made a slight adjustment at the end and it made my car not very good. We went from having a chance to finish in the Top 5 to not even finishing in the Top 10.

“You’ve got to understand, it’s very, very difficult. There are a lot of good race teams that are performing at a higher level now, and you really have to be on your game to be up there week in and week out. Obviously, Sterling and a few others have got that figured out and they’re doing that, and that’s what’s going to make it difficult to beat them.

“But we’re not going to give up. We’ve got a long way to go.”

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2002, Dale Jarrett

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