Jarrett spoke to members of the media at Media Appreciation Day at Talladega Superspeedway Wednesday to discuss his experiences at the track in his roles as a professional driver and professional analyst and also talked about the Dale Jarrett Racing Adventure at the track.
“It did change my perspective totally when I went to the TV booth and saw just how amazing that it is,” Jarrett said. “So, I came to figure out early on as a TV analyst that the things that we like as analysts and as fans, the drivers usually don’t like. So, don’t pay attention to them. We know it’s good stuff.”
Jarrett believes Talladega Superspeedway is perceived, or perhaps misperceived, negatively at times because drivers vent their frustrations with the challenges presented by the track. However, he argued the majority of drivers, while they may express frustration with not gaining a win, enjoy the unique challenge of Talladega Superspeedway.
“When you have 43 competitive souls out there doing their job, there’s only going to be one really happy guy at the end of it,” Jarrett explained. “We hear from him, but it seems like everybody else is not happy. But that’s really not the case. You enjoy the challenge, and certainly, there were days that were much better than others. But I always did enjoy what this place brought. I was one that did, even as a competitor, realize that the fans embrace this racing that you see here and what a great event it really is.”
Eight years ago, Jarrett earned what would eventually be his final victory in an October race at Talladega, defeating lap-leader Tony Stewart and the current points leader Matt Kenseth. Still, Jarrett said that the races where he merely finished close to the top are the races he remembers most.
“Those days that do go well, and I had a couple of those here—I think I won here twice and that last victory is very special to me for that day,” he said. “You never know when that last victory is going to come; that happened to be my day. I think more about the couple that I gave away or finished second in. Those eat at you more than anything else here, that I didn’t take advantage and get the job done.”
With the Dale Jarrett Racing Adventure, fans get the opportunity to ride the 2.66 miles of the Talladega Superspeedway course at speeds similar to those of NASCAR drivers.
“Anyone in our driving school, you can take these cars out here,” Jarrett said. “That’s why we enjoy having the driving school here. You can go out and you can run 170 miles an hour here. Anybody can pretty much do it. If you don’t get intimidated by knowing that you’re going that fast, you can go do that. That’s easy. That’s the simple part. I even took my hands off the pace car—off the wheel—going down the back straightaway and it drove itself down through there. A racecar will literally drive itself around here too by yourself.”
Jarrett said driving the course alone and driving with 42 other professional competitors are worlds apart. For Jarrett, nothing compares to the feeling of racing.
“The stress level goes way up,” he said. “You have to tell yourself at times to relax your hands because you’re going to start getting cramps in your forearms and in your shoulders and in your neck if you’re not careful because you’re gripping the steering wheel so tight. I can’t explain it. If I had a great analogy, that would be really good; I don’t have that. It’s just more stress than you can imagine, the most stressful thing you’ve ever done. It’s ramped up because you’re sitting there going 200 miles per hour just knowing that the slightest mistake by someone—hopefully it’s not you—but by someone, could have you in a big wreck. It’s not that you’re thinking about getting injured or something. It’s about the fact that if you get in that wreck, you don’t have a chance to win and that’s what you come here for. It just amps everything up, but it is an incredible feeling.”
Jarrett added that nothing compares to racing at Talladega either.
“Again, that’s why we like to bring the driving school here because you can experience going 170 miles an hour,” he said. “Everybody can, but racing is a different story. That’s what makes this place so special. That’s why the fans come here in droves and get in the infield and have a big time and then see a great race.”
NASCAR returns to Talladega Superspeedway October 18-20 for Camping World RV Sales 500 weekend.