Jarrett Looks Ahead

As an avid golfer, Dale Jarrett knows a thing or two about "mulligans." And the veteran driver would no doubt like to throw out the 2005 NEXTEL Cup Series season.

"You can't be pleased with how the season went," Jarrett said. "We won a race and that was good, but we have to get this part of our program a little bit better. It's been our bread and butter over the years, but it is what hurt us this year."

Jarrett was able to drive his Robert Yates UPS Ford to victory in the UAW-Ford 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in October. But that was one of the lone bright spots in a season that saw the veteran finish 15th in the final point standings.

He captured a Bud Pole along with four Top 5 and seven Top 10 finishes, but was plagued by a variety of mechanical problems, bad luck and saddled with uncompetitive cars much of the year.

The Talladega success finally snapped a 98 race drought for the two-time NEXTEL Cup Series champion. The win was Ford's first at the 2.66-mile superspeedway in more than seven years.

"Considering they (Ford) were sponsoring the race, that's pretty bold of them to come here and sponsor the race and they hadn't won in 12 or 13 races," Jarrett said of the win. "I guess they're going to have to do that every year now. But that's big. I think in maybe 1996 I had a chance or two to win the race here and that Earnhardt guy beat me a time or so."

"He was pretty good at Talladega and then maybe in 2000 that seemed to be an OK year. We ran well then, but from that point on it seemed aerodynamically our Fords couldn't get out front and lead a lot of laps. I don't know that we led a lot of laps the day we won, but I think we showed that we have a lot better opportunity."

Talladega seemed to give Jarrett and the No. 88 team a much-needed shot in the arm, which they hope will carry into the 2006 campaign.

"I think the important thing for us was that we were able to get our cars running better," Jarrett said. "We've kind of stepped it up a little bit more each race during the last eight or nine races. From Charlotte, we thought we were pretty good but we made some changes to go to Atlanta and we were a little better. Then at Texas we were even a little better than we had been in Atlanta. We made some more aero changes for Homestead and it allowed us to do the things that we know we want to do with the chassis, so our program is much better than it was this past summer."

"We still have plenty of work to do so, hopefully we'll just continue that direction and that'll help us get off to a good start next year," Jarrett added.

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