IMS Brickyard 400 Preview: Jarrett Ready to Rumble
22 July 1997
DEFENDING CHAMP JARRETT READY TO RUMBLE AGAIN AT BRICKYARD For Immediate Release Countdown to the Brickyard INDIANAPOLIS, July 22, 1997 -- Dale Jarrett's goal is simple for the fourth Brickyard 400 on Aug. 2 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He wants to become the first driver to win back-to-back NASCAR Winston Cup races at the historic 2.5-mile oval. "I'll cherish last year's win the rest of my life," Jarrett said. "It's very gratifying and something I'll always remember. Obviously there's great history and great tradition at Indy, but it's also an incredible amount of money. It's the most money of any race that we run, and that is great motivation. We'd really like to win it again." Jarrett won $564,035 in the 1996 Brickyard 400, and that was his largest purse ever. It provided a healthy portion of his season winnings of more than $2.9 million in a year when he also took checkered flags in the Daytona 500 and Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. The 40-year-old driver of the No. 88 Quality Care Ford Thunderbird owned by Robert Yates had a shot at the Winston Million last season -- a bonus paid for winning three of the circuit's Big Four races in a single season -- but he came up short in the Mountain Dew Southern 500 at Darlington later in the season. "We won four races last season, and they all were big to me," Jarrett said. "To win at Daytona, Charlotte and Indy in the same year was just incredible. Just knowing where I came from to get to that point meant so much to me." Jarrett led twice for 11 of 160 laps in the 1996 Brickyard 400, and he ended up battling his teammate Ernie Irvan for the victory. Irvan led four times for 39 laps, but Jarrett passed Irvan on lap 154 and held on to win under caution after Ken Schrader's spin on the last lap brought out the yellow flag. "I was just looking for that one opportunity (to pass)," Jarrett said. "I didn't care if it was with 15 to go, 10 to go, it was just whenever it came about. When it happened, it was like Ernie got into turn one a little bit hard. He got up and his car wouldn't turn, so I found a groove right down on the bottom and started making my car turn. When I got out front and got the clean air, my car was a lot better and didn't push nearly as much." Jarrett finished third in the 1996 NASCAR Winston Cup standings, 89 points behind champion Terry Labonte. After 17 of 32 races in '97, Jarrett held fourth place and trailed leader Labonte by 165 points. With back-to-back victories at Atlanta and Darlington early in the season, Jarrett sat atop the standings for six races. Through the first half of the season, Jarrett had led the most laps in five of 16 races and led more laps and miles than any other driver on the circuit. He scored 11 top 10 finishes in his first 16 starts and had nine top fives. "We're still chasing the championship, but those three guys ahead of us (Labonte, Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin) are going to be tough," Jarrett said. "Another win at the Brickyard would be great motivation and head us in the right direction-- not to mention that big check you get for winning." First-round qualifying for the Brickyard 400 begins at 1:30 p.m. local time on Thursday, July 31. The race begins at 12:15 p.m. (EST) local time on Saturday, August 2 and will be broadcast live by ABC. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network's live race coverage will begin at 12 p.m. (EST). ..BY97-03..