MRN Announcer Spotlight: Glenn Jarrett
By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin Twitter and Instagram | MRN.com on July 30, 2014 | 12:15 P.M. EST
Glenn Jarrett talks with Elliott Sadler prior to the start of a NASCAR Nationwide Series race. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
Get to know Glenn Jarrett - Pit Road Reporter - in this week's edition of MRN Announcer Spotlight. A former driver and long-time radio and TV commentator, Jarrett is the oldest son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Ned Jarrett and the brother of NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett.
Q: What was it like growing up with your father racing?
Jarrett: As far as dad racing, it was just his job. That's the way we looked at it as kids. Everybody else's dad worked and had weekends off. My dad worked on weekends and had the week off, other than working on the racecar. It was fun. NASCAR racing was not quite as big, not quite as popular as it is now. But still, it was neat to go to the races every weekend. Before he started running in what is now the Cup Series, he ran in the Late Model Sportsman Series - which was the predecessor to the Nationwide Series we have today. Sometimes he raced three or four times a week. I didn’t get to go to all of those, but I went to a lot of short tracks over the years. It was unique and my dad did something for a living that was totally different than any of my friends.
Q: When was the first time you knew you wanted to drive a racecar?
Jarrett: Oddly enough, all through high school and even through college, all I ever wanted to do was play baseball. I had no interest in driving a stock car or any kind of racecar, for that matter. But when I got out of college and came home to work for my dad, he was managing Hickory Motor Speedway. So I was there every week for the races. I helped distribute tickets, collect money. I was playing in a golf championship at a Country Club one weekend and I went there on a Saturday morning to play the third round. Dale (his brother) was in the tournament with me. In fact, he was leading. When I got there, these two guys came running down the hill and wanted to know if I would drive their Rookie Division car that night. The guy that was supposed to drive it had to go out of town on a family emergency. I'd never driven a racecar but said, "Heck yeah, I'll do that!" I was fourth in the golf tournament before they asked me that question. I had shot 72-74, so I was in contention. I went out that day and shot 88. I ran the Rookie race that night and finished seventh out of 14 cars. I was like, "Wow! This is fun! I need to do this some more."
Q: Tell me about your first win.
Jarrett: My first win was at Hickory when I graduated to the Late Model Sportsman Division. One night in April 1976, I had a pretty good shootout with Tommy Houston, Harry Gant and Dale Earnhardt. We were all pretty competitive. I think I qualified third and I had finished third the week before. I was driving the only Ford in the field and it came down to the end. Harry had a transmission problem right in front of me, waved his hand, I backed off and saw a little puff of smoke come out of the car so I got by him. He fell out with about 20 (laps) to go. The track was really slick and you couldn’t get any traction. When you came up on lapped cars, it was all you could do to get by them. I was resigned to the fact that I was going to finish second that night. I looked in the mirror - we had a new scoreboard in Turns 1 and 2 - and I could see that Earnhardt was leading and I was second, and I was looking at who was running third and it was Houston. I couldn’t see him in the mirror and all at once, I saw another number come up on the board and it was '39.' There was a local guy by the name of John Settlemyre, who had brought a new car to the track that night. I saw that John had moved up to third a couple laps later. I’m checking my mirror and I could see the nose of that car creeping into my rear view mirror. I was like, "Oh my gosh, that guy might catch me." As I said, we couldn’t pass lapped traffic on the outside so I started running a lower line. I noticed Settlemyre was running the bottom, so I did and picked up some speed. The next thing I know I’m on Earnhardt's bumper. I caught him with four or five laps to go, tried to pass him one time, he blocked me a little bit and there was nothing wrong with that. Then I got a good run going into Turn 1, got by him, and he came down to try and cut me off. But I was already there. We touched just a little. After that, for the last three laps I was focused on hitting my line. So the only race I won at Hickory I can say I beat Dale Earnhardt.
Q: Do you remember anything from Victory Lane that night? Was your dad there?
Jarrett: Actually, dad was the promoter. But at the time, he also worked for Motor Racing Network so he was off somewhere to call a race the next day. The biggest thing I remember about it is coming off the fourth turn to take the checkered flag. Dale had climbed about halfway up the fence on the front straightway and was cheering me on. I remember thinking, "Man, you better get down from there. If dad sees you, he’s going to kick your butt.
Q: Do you still have the trophy?
Jarrett: It’s in my office in the house. There are not many short-track drivers that have a trophy from beating Dale Earnhardt, so it’s special. Dale is the standard by which we all are measured. That was a very special night and one I'll always remember.
Q: After your driving career, you transitioned into broadcasting. How did that come about?
Jarrett: On TV, I started with TNN. But my career actually began in radio, then went to TV and then came back to radio - now with MRN. We had run the fall Busch Grand National race at Charlotte in early October. I had a great day, finishing fourth I believe. I'd been talking to a few people about moving up to the Cup Series the next year. We only lived about an hour from the racetrack so I went home that night and we had made some money - won about $10,000. I was like, "wow! This is cool. We're rich." I didn’t get all of that, but my share was decent. I came back to the track the next morning to go through the garage area on the Cup side. I can’t remember the radio group that was announcing that race, but I do remember that Ken Squier was the play-by-play man. One of the guys at the network came up to me and asked if I would like to work on the radio broadcast that day. I was thinking that I had spotted for some guys on pit road. I believe it paid $50 and I thought that I would not do that. I just won $10,000 so I asked, "What do you want me to do?" They wanted me to work in the booth with Ken and do color. I replied, "In the booth with Ken Squier?!?" Donnie Allison was supposed to do color that day, but he had a family emergency and had to go back to Alabama. I decided to do it. I had never worked on the radio before, never worked in TV. I went up, talked to Ken and he said we'd be fine. I remember him telling me, "If you have something to say, don’t be afraid to say it. You've been on the racetrack. None of the rest of us have." One of the things that I think gave me some credibility came about 30 or 40 percent of the way through the race. Back then, we had bias-ply tires. We didn’t have radials like we have now. If you got up into the marbles, into the loose stuff, they were pretty easy to cut because the wall of the tire was so thin and the heat built up so much in them. We started having a rash of cut tires from the leaders all the way back through the field. Some of the guys on the broadcast were speculating about what was going on. I had noticed that the track had gotten slick and they started moving up the racetrack. What you have to do when the track gets slick is avoid putting all four tires up into the marbles. You have to start with your right sides and keep your left sides where the track has been run on, so you can get some grip. Everybody on the broadcast was wondering and I said, "I think the track is slick and they're having to move up. All the tires we're seeing getting cut down are right sides, so I’m pretty sure they're getting up into the marbles and cutting those tires." Immediately after that, one of the leaders cut a tire and came in. Hill Overton was on the broadcast working in the pits. He talked to the crew chief, came back on and said, "Glenn Jarrett ... you are exactly right! They're cutting these tires until they get a new groove built in." I can still remember to this day Ken Squier turning and looking at me as if to say, "Maybe he does know what he’s talking about." I worked a few more races on radio with Ken and he put me on TV at Atlanta later that same year, with TBS.
Q: How did you get involved with the Motor Racing Network?
Jarrett: When TNN lost its contract when the new TV packages came out in the early 2000s. I had some other business ventures going and didn’t interview with any of the networks. I thought that maybe I had enough credibility, enough standing in that community, that maybe FOX or one of the other networks would come to me. But they didn’t, so I went on with my other business interests. For a couple years I didn’t do anything (in broadcasting). And then David Hyatt, president of MRN, got with me at Kansas. I was there doing stuff with UPS. In fact, I still do to this day - working with their customers, VIPs and giving tours. David asked if I would meet with him. I had no idea what he was going to talk to me about. He wanted to know if I would be interested in doing some races because a lot of times, MRN is at two or three different venues in one weekend. They needed more people with experience to work pit road.
Q: Looking back and seeing you dad get inducted into the second NASCAR Hall of Fame class was a special night for the Jarrett family. What was that night like and what are some of things you remember from the ceremony?
Jarrett: It was a special night, obviously...the pride that I had in my dad and also the fact that it was recognition for all the things that he had done for the sport over the years. He, himself, went on record that he was surprised he got inducted in the second year of eligibility. He thought he would be a few more years, but none of the rest of us thought that. We were pretty sure he would go in that year. It was neat to see how proud he was of that accomplishment. My dad is one of those people that always includes the family in whatever he does. We've always been really close that way. From that standpoint, it was an extremely emotional and gratifying night. Another thing that stood out was the seating. They had all the families on the front row. There was an aisle break, and Dale and I were seated across the aisle from my parents and family. Dale was sitting at the aisle and I was sitting next to Dale, and next to me was David Pearson. I had never laughed with one human being so much for so long as I did David Pearson that night. He absolutely kept us in stitches. His sons - Larry, David and Ricky - were all sitting on the other side of David and his girlfriend was with him, too. She was just sitting there with her hands over her eyes, shaking her head at all the stuff David was saying.
Q: Your brother Dale is in the Hall of Fame also, what was it like growing up with him?
Jarrett: I’m six years older than Dale and we've been best friends since the first day I can remember. We've never had a serious argument or fight, even as kids. I took the role of big brother seriously. I've always been close to Dale and we're still best friends to this day. Growing up with him, the thing I remember most is that I was six years older but still, we spent a lot of time together playing sports. He was six and I was 12, and he was just as good as I was ... and I was a good baseball player. I knew he was going to be a tremendous athlete. I didn’t know what sport it would be in, but I knew he was going to find success somewhere.
Q: Speaking of sports, Dale and you are big into golf. What's your handicap and where are some of your favorite courses to play?
Jarrett: There are two types of handicaps in golf. One is the statistical handicap that everybody knows about and mine is about a five, right now. It bounces from four to six. Dale is a couple shots better than me, probably a two or three. But my main handicap is mental. It's stupidity. I do so many stupid things on the golf course and sometimes, I just stand there and ask, "What were you thinking?" - trying to do that or missing easy shots. I can hit behind a tree and make this unbelievable shot, knock it up on the green and make the shot for birdie. And then, I hit right down the middle, can’t hit the green and I'm like, "What's the problem here?" It seems like the easier it is, the less I concentrate. Golf has been something Dale and I have been able to play ever since we were kids. The first time Dale ever played golf, I took him out to play. As for some of my favorite places, Dale belongs to a course right outside of Bristol, Va., called the Olde Farm. It's world-class. We've also been to Ireland and played the year he retired in 2008. There are a couple favorite courses over there. One is called Tralee. It's an Arnold Palmer course. And another is called Old Head.
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