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Jarrett looking for some old magic at Talladega

Jarrett looking for some old magic at Talladega

There's seven races left in Dale Jarrett's storied NASCAR career with Robert Yates Racing, and with each passing week he loses another opportunity to go out a winner.
In fact, it's been an entire year since Jarrett found his way to Victory Lane, passing Tony Stewart on the backstretch at Talladega Superspeedway to end a 98-race winless streak.
The drought is back up to 36, and Jarrett wants nothing more than one final glorious run in the No. 88 Ford before he heads to a new team next season.
"That's very important to me _ that's been my goal from the time I knew I was leaving, wherever I was going," Jarrett said on Friday. "I wanted to leave them in good shape, where they felt like they could plug someone right in and move forward and don't have to wonder what direction they are going in."
Unless something changes very soon, that's not going to happen.
RYR has been in a free-fall since Jarrett said in May he was leaving to drive a Toyota for Michael Waltrip next season. UPS, his primary sponsor, then decided to follow him. Finally, teammate Elliott Sadler opted out of his contract and jumped over to Evernham Motorsports.
It has left Robert and Doug Yates without a driver or a sponsor for their flagship No. 88, and with a rookie in Sadler's old ride. If a corporation doesn't pledge some serious money in the next few weeks, the Yates' could be forced to fold the team and field just one car next year for David Gilliland.
One scenario floating through the garage on Friday had former Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve taking over the ride and bringing his own sponsorship money with him. The Canadian has been snooping around for an opportunity for a few months, and Yates has the open Cup seat Villeneuve is looking for.
Either way, Jarrett is hoping the car owners can salvage something soon.
"I'd like to see them find sponsorship and find a driver and win races again," he said. "This means a lot to me. I was here when we started this thing. Robert and Doug Yates mean a lot to me. The opportunities that they gave me and treated me and my family.
"It was a perfect scenario, other than the very ending right now."
Indeed, everything seemed like a fairy tale when the two sides joined together in 1995. They won two Daytona 500s, 29 races and the 1999 Cup championship.
But the success faded over the past three or four seasons, and the bottom fell out this year. Jarrett's fourth-place run in Kansas last week was just the fourth top 10 of the season and he's currently 24th in the points.
"You wonder how it can change that quickly, but I think this is a perfect example for people to see and understand how much this sport has changed," he said. "The way we did things before, you can literally throw all of that stuff away because none of that makes any difference anymore. People outside who don't understand just have to take a look at this organization, because that's how quickly you can find yourself way behind in a hurry."
Jarrett and Sadler are both adamant that the Yates' let time pass them by in the engineering department, and are still a long way away from catching up to the competition.
"The days you can just sit around and come up with new ideas on sways and shocks and springs are all gone," he said. "When you get as far behind as we did, then it becomes more of a guessing game and looking at what other people have and what they are trying to do and how do you achieve what they have, and there are 100 different ideas you can come up with but you can't prove any of them out.
"That's only recently become somewhat better. But they are still short on engineering staff. When we are at the race track, our entire engineering staff is here with us instead of back being wherever they need to be to be proving this stuff out as to how we get better."
Jarrett will give it one last go at Talladega, where he has two victories and 16 top-10 finishes in 39 starts.
If his car is capable, Jarrett promised to take it to the front and mix it up with the leader.
"That's why I race, to be up front. I am not here just to draw a check," he said. "I am here to collect trophies and memories. We haven't been able to do much of that lately, and I'd like very much to see it happen here."


Updated : 2021-08-01 19:43 GMT+08:00