ESPN analysts Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree, lap-by-lap announcer Allen Bestwick, and Rich Feinberg, ESPN vice president, motorsports, production, participated in a media conference call today to discuss ESPN’s coverage of the final 17 races of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, starting with the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 29. A transcript of the conference call follows:
RICH FEINBERG: Good afternoon, everybody, thank you for calling in, we appreciate it.
On the production side, our entire team is excited now that we’re making the turn halfway through our season to continuing our Nationwide coverage but adding to it the privilege of covering the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
We come off a very strong year in 2011 where our Chase ratings were up 14%. We put forth some new initiatives like our ESPN side-by-side, we actually call it NASCAR NonStop, approach during the Chase, offering fans the ability during the second half of our races to see continuing coverage during our commercial breaks.
We have momentum on the Nationwide side. Last week’s Chicago race ended up 57% higher than last year’s prime time June Chicago race.
We look forward to debuting several new technologies during our run the second half of 2012 on both Nationwide and Sprint Cup, including adding our dual in-car camera path coverage system to Nationwide and experimenting with ultra slow-mo cameras on pit road.
I was on a call earlier today that Andy and D.J. and Allen all participated in. I can tell you on behalf of those three gentlemen, who can speak to it themselves, but in addition our entire team, we’re excited to get going this week at Indianapolis, which is a special place for our company.
ALLEN BESTWICK: We ended last season when we left off our Sprint Cup Series coverage with a virtual tie for the championship and a race decided by one driver winning the final race of the year and another driver finishing second and losing out on the championship in a tiebreaker. You stop and you sit back and think, How do you top that, that’s just outstanding?
Yet as I look ahead to the next seven weeks, I see the situation building for Richmond that could lead up to this incredible night with all of these drivers fighting for a way to get into the Chase and winning never meaning more than it does right now and how will this Chase play out. There’s so much to look forward to.
We’re very excited about having the privilege to bring it to people at home, of course starting out at Indianapolis. What more can you say? A race that’s featured many late-twisted plots in recent years and all ends with someone getting the chance to replicate the tradition that D.J. started of kissing the bricks. What a great place to start off. We can’t wait.
Q. Dale, we’ve seen the last several years the guy who finishes second in points just can’t seem to keep up that momentum. I look back at your record, you were second and third in points leading to the year before you won the title. I’m wondering, is it an emotional letdown they’re having and what can they do to prevent that in the future?
DALE JARRETT: Good question. Don’t really have a good understanding as to why because you hope that you keep that championship team together.
I think that some of it is a mental thing because you put so much effort into trying to win that championship, and obviously Carl and Bob and that team did that. There can be somewhat of a letdown.
We came out strong the next year in 2000. We won the 500 and had a lot of good things going. But we ran out of gas. I think you put so much into that, so many commitments there, that you have to be careful with that. Sometimes it’s easy to lose that focus and that determination that got you in that position.
I really think – nothing against Bob Osborne – but this is something that should have taken place before now. Literally, even Carl did such an incredible job of keeping that team in a position to win last year, I mean, he had a lot of people that helped him, but he did a great job of driving. They didn’t win after Las Vegas and they didn’t start this season off. You had to know that something had to be done there. Carl is an incredible driver. Bob has a great place in their organization.
These life expectancies of these driver/crew chiefs, they were at the end of that.
It will be interesting to see if they made this soon enough to get them in position. It is difficult to come off of something like that and rebound and be right there for it.
Q. Do you think the Nationwide winner should kiss the bricks or come up with a different tradition?
DALE JARRETT: Well, I don’t know. It will be interesting to see do they come up with something different.
I think the IndyCar guys have adopted it, so I don’t see any reason that the Nationwide winner on Saturday shouldn’t go do the same thing.
It’s a pretty special feeling. If they come up with something else, fine, but I think they should go do that because it’s a pretty special place.
Q. Were you mad the IndyCar guys started doing it?
DALE JARRETT: No. Took it as a compliment, to be honest, yeah.
Q. Dale, this is in the context of Jeff Gordon going to Indy where he’s had great success. You won a title at age 42. What does he have to do or does he have to do anything to adjust or remain competitive in his 40s?
DALE JARRETT: I don’t really know there’s anything that Jeff has to do. They had a tremendous run of unfortunate luck. To win any title or be competitive, you have to have some good fortune on your side.
In racing terms, I can’t say they had a lot of good fortune. I think Jeff has done a pretty good job of driving the car the majority of the years. He’s still as talented as he ever was.
They’re going to have to dig a little deeper here. I know he’s driving every lap as hard as he can. This weekend would be a great place for him to kind of turn things around. If they saved up that good fortune for these next seven, then that would be good.
I don’t think it’s not anything that Jeff is not on top of his game or paying less attention to what is going on within that race team or anything. I think he’s working as hard or harder than he ever has. They just need to have some good fortune.
He could have more than that, but I think in looking and knowing Jeff, he could go at this hard another three or four years and still be very competitive with an opportunity to still win a championship again.
Q. Dale, it’s still a crown jewel for drivers, the Brickyard 400 is a big deal for ESPN, but it’s in its fourth year of declining attendance. Has it lost its luster? Do you think bringing in GRAND-AM and Nationwide, do you think that might inject some excitement?
DALE JARRETT: It will be interesting to see. Hopefully it will generate some excitement, give a full weekend’s worth of things going on. It’s going to be a full weekend’s worth. Hopefully fans will rally and come back.
It is a great event, great venue. I promise you, it has lost nothing from the driver’s perspective. It is a great honor and a great place to go race, obviously a tremendous place to get a victory and visit that Victory Lane.
Q. Dale and Andy, this Brickyard marks 10 years since the SAFER barrier made its debut in the Sprint Cup Series. Now it’s at every racetrack. It’s become second nature to think of it as part of racing. Can you discuss, as you were both involved with the series around that time or just prior to it, the impact that the SAFER barriers have had on the sport?
ANDY PETREE: I was involved in it from an owner’s standpoint, did some testing. I thought they were testing the car, turned out they were testing the wall. Destroyed my car. But it was part of the process.
Really I think it’s changed the attitudes of the drivers the way they race. I think they race a lot harder, they race a lot more aggressive.
Dale can speak to this, but I think with the SAFER barriers and all the other things, it wasn’t just that that made the cars and the series so much safer, it was all of it put together.
That SAFER barrier thing, they really did their homework on it. They worked I guess probably a couple years on it before they really got it right, enough to install it everywhere.
They’re putting it in more and more places at more tracks. It just made the sport so much safer. You don’t have that in the back of your mind worry about a driver getting seriously hurt or worse in the series anymore.
DALE JARRETT: I have to agree with all that Andy said there. I look at it to me the one thing that everyone within the sport, from car owners to manufacturers to sponsors to NASCAR, that everyone agreed on. There’s not many things that everybody agrees on. Obviously the drivers agreed, too. They worked hard together to make all of this happen.
It’s been a wonderful thing. We’ve seen some horrific crashes to where you don’t know what would have happened before, but you can only imagine. These SAFER barriers have literally been lifesavers. It’s tremendous.
As Andy said, we see them in more and more places around these racetracks. As we’ve seen, these accidents can happen about everywhere. It’s nice these drivers are protected.
The owners and sponsors put a lot into them. Not only is it saving lives, but keeping them from getting injured where they can be in there next weekend.
Q. D.J. and Allen, can you address what has been the most surprising element for you so far this season? It could be anything involved with drivers or some other issue. What has been something that you can literally say, I didn’t see that one coming?
ALLEN BESTWICK: Carl Edwards. Didn’t see that one coming. Ran so well last fall. The other Roush Fenway cars have been up front. Matt Kenseth leading the championship, so on. I just didn’t see Carl Edwards and company having the drop-off in performance that they’ve had this year. I’m very surprised by it.
Obviously there are things going on there that have resulted in some changes. We’ll see if it’s enough, if there’s enough time for them to find a way to win and have a chance to make the Chase again.
DALE JARRETT: I’m going to stay on that side a little bit. A driver that’s in the top 10, but I expected more, Kevin Harvick. He’s kept himself there by being consistent, but hasn’t seemed to really have all of that that he’s going to need to try to win a championship. I think he’s in a real battle for trying to stay in the top 10 there and make all of this work.
On the other side of that, I don’t know that I was expecting as much out of Clint Bowyer and that race team. Obviously getting a victory, being inside the top 10, that’s a nice surprise to see. They’ve really done well.
In general, the entire Michael Waltrip organization showing the strength they’ve shown. Even though they have that one victory with Clint Bowyer, Mark Martin, then when Brian Vickers has been in that car, and then Martin Truex, Jr. has done extremely well and challenged for some victories. So they’ve been a really good surprise.
Q. Andy, we’ve seen a couple of crew chief changes heading into this race. What are these guys up against coming in cold and trying to win the confidence of teams and drivers coming in midyear like this?
ANDY PETREE: I think on the Carl Edwards side of it, he has a big challenge. It’s not like, okay, we have a few races to get to know each other, we’ll start building something. He’s sitting on the brink of not making the Chase after almost winning it last year. They’re under a tremendous amount of pressure to go out and win races because that’s the only way they’re going to make the Chase.
I’d hate to have that job. If they don’t go out and win, it’s going to be tough on that crew chief, whoever it is. I wouldn’t want that position. It’s going to be a challenge for them.
For Chad to have an opportunity to work with the driver of the caliber of Carl Edwards is a great opportunity you relish. It’s a double-edged sword for sure. I see where Bobby Labonte lost his crew chief. Todd Berrier, he’s going over to Furniture Row. They have a new one over there with Dave. He really is very competitive. I like his style. Everywhere he goes, especially in the beginning of the relationship, they seem to do well. That might spark that team to do something here at this point.
They’re not near under the pressure of the Carl Edwards team is under to start getting it done right now.
Q. Does the new crew chief almost have to prove himself when he comes in in the middle of the year?
ANDY PETREE: Absolutely. When I went over to Childress in ’93, I went over there, the same thing, I thought what a great opportunity to work with Dale Earnhardt. I also thought, If we don’t perform, don’t do well, I might be gone, gone from the scene. I felt that pressure.
Early on, we weren’t bad, we just weren’t putting up good numbers. Finally turned it around. I think we won at Darlington in the spring. That relieved a little pressure.
The crew chiefs feel it just as much as the drivers do when they make a change.
Q. D.J., what is it like from the driver’s side? Are you waiting for a guy to show you something when he comes in?
DALE JARRETT: You have an idea going into that. You know it could take a little bit of time. You’re hoping he has some magic in his pocket or pen or skills that will help there. It is a difficult situation, as Andy said, to walk in and make a big change and a big difference in the way that things are going.
I think bringing in someone like Chad where he’s been a part of that organization should be a little bit of help. It’s not like that they haven’t known one another and Chad not knowing how things go at Roush Fenway. That could help them to kind of jump-start this thing a little bit sooner.
Q. Dale, you raced many 500 milers at Pocono. If we could look ahead a week, how do you think these races are going to be now that they’ve reduced the length?
DALE JARRETT: In talking to the drivers after the first race, they were all very pleased. That was a long, long afternoon of 500 miles. It’s generally extremely hot. You factor in the fatigue, the carbon monoxide factors. There were a lot of things that went into that extra hundred miles. Certainly how much that racetrack beats up equipment, in particular the engines because of the rpm’s.
I think everyone appreciated it. I would have to think that the fans really enjoyed what they saw there back in June. So I think it was a positive step in the right direction there for everyone involved.
Q. Andy, we can’t have a conference call without asking you about Danica. From an analyst’s perspective, what kind of progress do you see her making? Do you think she’ll be ready to race full-time in the Cup Series next year?
ANDY PETREE: I think she’s doing a great job in the Nationwide Series. I think she’s going to struggle big-time in the Cup Series regardless.
I’m sure they’ve had good cars. I’m not sure they’ve got the best cars to be comparing Danica to Stenhouse or Sadler. I’m not sure where that team is performance-wise. We did a side-by-side comparison in Chicago. Stenhouse leading the race. She was talking about how loose her car was. We took an in-car shot. She is absolutely wheeling that car. She’s doing things that impress me every week, she is getting better and better. Nationwide Series, very competitive, a lot of great drivers in it. When you make that next step, it’s going to be a big one. I’m very skeptical about how she’ll do when she makes that step full-time.
Q. Rich, you mentioned the new ultraslow-mo camera. How do you plan on deploying that and what do you think it’s going to bring to the broadcast?
RICH FEINBERG: It’s going to be a RF hand-held on pit road. We’ve seen a lot of ultra-mo’s find their way into the sports broadcasting landscape in many, many forms. I believe this is the first time an RF hand-held ultra-mo will be placed in pit road in NASCAR.
Our goal is to offer unique looks, whether it’s for our audience, for Andy and D.J. to break down. So many times we say the words, Races are won and lost on pit road. If we can take certain moments in time of what happens on pit road and really break them down and analyze them and offer viewers a new look, this camera will do close to one thousand frames per second. Typical HD signal is 60. Hopefully it’s an enhancement that our fans will like.
I think one of the things we’ve done a lot this year is taking existing technology and trying to push its limits, and we’ll try to do so.
Q. Last year you introduced dual path transmission for onboard cameras. Any changes from last year or plans to ramp that up for this year?
RICH FEINBERG: We’re going to continue to feature it in every Sprint Cup race starting at the Brickyard. All the races at Sprint Cup weekends, I believe that number is 12 or 13 the second half of the year, we’re going to use it on the Nationwide Series. We used them in Daytona and in Talladega, now we’ll use them on Nationwide side through the end of the year at all the Cup races they’re co-located at.
They’ve been a great tool. Again, in analysis, they allow us the ability to not only see what the driver is seeing in certain circumstances on the racetrack, but also give the fans a sense of what the driver himself is doing by offering those dual paths.
Q. D.J. and Andy, I want to ask you about the idea of sportsmanship in the series. The reason I ask that is, watching the Tour de France a week or two ago, there was a circumstance where a guy competing for the yellow jersey had a flat, the rest of the field slowed down and waited. Are there certain elements that sportsmanship is portrayed or takes place on the track that people don’t see or is there less of that nowadays than years ago?
ANDY PETREE: I think I see our sport is very much being filled with that. Down on pit road you see guys a lot of times helping each other. I’m trying to remember, there was an incident not too long ago, a jackman got hurt, it wasn’t a teammate, it was actually from another manufacturer, loaned out their jackman. You see that.
You want to beat everybody. I mean, it’s a very competitive arena. You’re going to do everything, look for every advantage, but you want to do it on a level playing field. You see somebody like that, that needs some help, you’ll help them out. You’ll still see if you can beat them heads up.
I can’t speak from the driver’s side. From where I see it, there’s a lot of clean driving going on. When they kind of basically took the gloves off a couple years ago and said they could ‘have at it,’ they did for a while, but I don’t see it as much now as I did before. I think when guys started taking advantage of each other on the track, it kind of came back to them later. I think that’s why we’ve seen a little bit of an adjustment there.
You definitely still have the sportsmanship on pit road and the garage area.
Q. Do you see the same thing in regards to that, Dale, kind of the ‘drivers have at it’ correcting itself in a way?
DALE JARRETT: Seems to have. More abiding now to what we might consider the Mark Martin standards, which is a good thing in a lot of ways. I just see more give-and-take. A lot of times it goes unnoticed.
There are times and situations that drivers could push the issue. They’re giving their fellow competitor a little more of a break there. So we’re seeing quite a bit of that.
As I talk to the drivers, you know, a lot of it has to do with not putting themselves in too bad of a position to lose so many points because they have seen it as we’ve restructured the points, that it is more difficult if you, you know, finish 40th or worse, it takes so much time to try to catch up.
Ultimately, at the end of the day, I know it is about winning, but it is about crowning a champion in our sport, too, just like others.
I think that things have calmed down a little bit from that. It got pretty furious there for a while. But I see that drivers are willing to give each other a little more of a break.
Will that change here as we wind down to getting to who’s going to make the Chase and who won’t? I think we’ll pay close attention to that and see if that’s ramped up a little bit.
Q. Dale, on that point, I think when people hear that, what you and Andy talk about, they’ll almost think of it as when guys are giving each other breaks, they’re not racing each other as hard. There’s always that complaint that the fan wants to see drivers race hard for every lap. In some ways that’s not the way it’s done or the right way to do it. How do you get that point across to fans who will listen and see what you say, look at that as further validation that these guys aren’t trying, that the points system has impacted the type of racing to where guys aren’t going for it all the time?
DALE JARRETT: This is not something that just took place. I used Mark Martin’s name. He’s obviously been around a long time. It goes back to the ’70s and ’80s, too. It’s not a matter that they’re not racing hard and trying to get positions or just letting someone have a position; it’s just keeping yourself out of unnecessary trouble.
I think guys are more aware of that now. Has the points situation created some of that? Maybe so. I had a talk with Robin Pemberton a few races ago, I sat around for some weeks off traveling with my son, I was thinking of different ways, hearing and seeing things that fans were saying. Hey, should we make it 30th on back is the same number of points where you don’t lose so many. There’s so many things out there.
As there’s a positive there, there can be a negative there, too, for that type of situation.
I promise you, these drivers are giving it their all. They want to win. Some of them are driving for their careers to stay involved, others are driving to get sponsorship. Others are driving to get a win and get sponsorship.
They’re giving it a lot. It’s just that it’s, for some reason, not creating accidents which people sometimes equate with driving aggressively. So I think they’re pretty aggressive. I just think they’re really good and the cars and the tires are probably the best that they’ve ever had in the series.
Used to be able to count on some of those things, the lack of some downforce, tires giving up, blowing out, things like that. Goodyear has gotten so good at it, you don’t see that. It’s creating a sense of that somewhat.
I promise you, these drivers are giving it everything they have.
Q. Looking to Pocono, there’s always that rumor going around that they may take a race away from Pocono. Do you think the changes that have been made, the repaving of the track, shortening the race, has changed the image of Pocono and it has become a more popular spot amongst the guys?
DALE JARRETT: I’ll speak from a driver’s standpoint. I loved the racetrack. The fans are fantastic there, always have been. Deserving of two races? Yes, sure. I think a step in the right direction, as I said earlier, cutting back to 400 miles. The repaving has made for exciting racing. I think when we get there next week, the racing will be even more exciting if people find out more about what it’s going to take.
I know a lot of the drivers enjoy racing there.
ANDY PETREE: I hope they keep two races there. That’s one of my favorite tracks. Love the area. The racetrack has always been great racing to me, even when it was rough, pavement wasn’t so good. Now it’s good and fast. Now it’s only 400 miles. That’s one of the best things they’ve done up there, is shorten that race. Makes it a lot better show, better race for everybody.
I can only speak for myself and hope they keep two of them.
Q. What are you most looking forward to? When ESPN gets the package, we’re kind of heading toward the stretch run here. What excites you guys about the remainder of this season? What are some of the story lines that have you most excited?
ALLEN BESTWICK: I was going to add on the Pocono thing, people talk about cookie cutter tracks. There’s nothing cookie cutter about Pocono. That’s one of the things that makes it a favorite of mine, the different corners, the different action you see, just makes for fun racing.
As far as the story lines, unpredictability. It’s hard to know who is going to win these races week-to-week. 12 different winners so far this season, such a deep, competitive field, hard to know how it’s going to play out.
We were talking about Jeff Gordon earlier. Martinsville, where he led so many laps, who thought Jeff Gordon wasn’t going to win that race? He led three-quarters of the race. Who would have thought that Jeff Gordon hasn’t won yet this year?
Carl Edwards, just how important wins are, the unpredictability of this season, how it’s all going to play out, is something I’m very excited about. I really do enjoy, as my old buddy Benny Parsons says, I really want to see who is going to win. Truly this year, I really want to see who is going to win, because you just don’t know.
DALE JARRETT: No hyping it. We don’t have to do that. Just the uncertainty there this year. Who is going to be the Tony Stewart this year. He came out of nowhere last year. I’m a good friend of Tony’s. I was talking to him. He had no idea what was coming, what they were going to be able to accomplish.
Is Carl going to be able to fight his way in and then make a run like that? Brad Keselowski jumped into the scene last year. He’s right there, a lot of wins this year, inside the top 10. Is he going to be this young champion? Or is it going to make a lot of people really happy with our most popular driver and a lot of people love, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., is this his best chance and is he going to take this championship? A lot of unknowns and it’s going to be fun to cover.
ANDY PETREE: The first thing I’m looking forward to, or one of the first things, is that wild card. I’ve not seen it be this competitive for that spot to come up with this. This can shape up to be one whale of a race, probably as much for that spot as it would be for the winner.
As Allen said, I want to see who is going to win, am excited to see, and have no idea who it’s going to be.
Q. Rich, why not more side-by-side for just the Chase races?
RICH FEINBERG: The main reason for us is we need to offer variety for to our sponsors. While we’ve been very successful at getting a lot of support in the Madison Avenue advertising community, not everybody is onboard. So by offering the package the way we do pre-Chase and during the Chase, then during the Chase the first half and second half, we’re able to work with all our sponsors and make sure that we’re delivering what they’re looking for.
Hopefully someday we can expand the breadth of NASCAR NonStop, but right now after doing it for the first year ever last year, we’re tracking in the same direction and we continue to get a lot of positive feedback both from the advertising community as well as our fans.
Q. During the recent Sonoma telecast, a full 73% of respondents stated there should be a road course in the Chase. I talked with Watkins Glen president, he’s in agreement. My question is, should there be a road course race in the Chase, and if so, which road course?
ANDY PETREE: I think absolutely, yes, there should be one. I’m a big fan of road course racing. I think it showcases diverse talent. You see the most talented drivers in the series. They’re good everywhere, including road courses. I think they should be.
I’ll serve up one place they ought to go, Elkhart Lake, Road America. It’s a great, great venue. I would love to see a road course there and it be in the Chase. That’s how I’ll weigh in. I’m sure there’s a whole lot more complicated issues on how to do that. If I had my wish, it would be to have one in the Chase.
ALLEN BESTWICK: Then you get down to what do you take out, which race that’s in the Chase are you going to label as doesn’t belong there. You know, the weather, the scheduling, the whole thing, I don’t have a problem with there not being road course in the Chase. I love going to Watkins Glen in August, the weather around the Finger Lakes is perfect.
Would I object to a road course being in the Chase, no, not at all. Which one and what are you going to take out, those are two questions I don’t have an answer for.
DALE JARRETT: As a driver, I wouldn’t mind it. You run on them. It wouldn’t matter if I wasn’t part of it. I wasn’t the best on a road course, but I appreciated the challenge that was presented there.
I kind of agree with that, what do you take out, where do you go, a lot of things there. It’s not easy for the fans to say, We want one in there. There’s a lot of other things that go into there.
But it does, it showcases all the talents. That’s what you expect your champion to have. Actually with the way it’s structured now, the champion has to perform well at the two that we have now and they’re not part of the Chase because you have to really do well to get yourself in that position.
If they decided to do that, I’m sure the ones that do better would certainly want that, but it would be a nice addition. Going about it may be a little more difficult.
Q. Dale, what are some of the things that have surprised you most about making the transition from being part of the show from a racing standpoint to being part of the show from the broadcast booth, maybe some of the things you do to improve things you might improve on before you get into this position where you’re part of the broadcast for the next couple of months?
DALE JARRETT: I think one of the things is the number of very talented people that it takes to make all of this happen. Now that I’m on this side, and my dad had told me a lot about it during the years, everything that kind of went into it. I’ve been even more surprised at all the preparation, again, the very talented people in so many areas that it takes to make this happen.
I would encourage every single driver that is in the Sprint Cup Series to sometime take one of their days on the weekend – I know they’re very busy – but if it is a Saturday that they’re not running the Nationwide race, go ask to look at what all it may take. Look in the truck, see how things are done there. Come in the booth, see how things happen. You’d gain a greater appreciation of what everybody goes through to make all of this happen and to try to help our sport and make it look good.
I’ll assure them it’s nowhere as easy as what it may seem from the outside. There is a lot of preparation in getting ready. I think maybe 12 of our 17 weeks coming up, we have back-to-back with Nationwide and Cup. Some of the times we have a lot of those other weekends the Nationwide races at another place, so we need to have more talented people there. It’s just a lot of people that it takes to make it happen.
When you’re preparing for two races in a weekend, like this weekend, there’s a lot that goes into it. Even though it’s just talking, you have to go up there and have a sense of direction to what the day is going to be about and the participants. It’s a lot more involved. I’ll make a little bit of a joke, an inside joke of ours, that we do have plenty of meetings, I will say that much (laughter).
ANDY PETREE: From my side of it, the preparation for the two are still kind of similar, believe it or not. I like staying involved on the technical side of the sport. I’ve always been very involved on that. I have a passion for it. So to stay up to date, connected with the latest things going on, networking with people that I know in the sport, every week I get down there, talk to guys, What is going on this weekend, what is new, what are you learning. I talk to some of the engineers, crew chiefs.
What makes a good crew chief is to be out there and well-connected. You cannot do it by yourself. The sport moves along at a pace. The cars are always getting better and better. It’s a collective thing. If you’re getting behind, it might be because you’re not networking enough with what’s going on in the sport. Teammates are obviously very important, but keeping up with what other people are doing.
My preparation is still kind of similar to when I was a crew chief. Staying out there, staying in the garage, talking to the guys that are making it happen.
Q. Dale, I don’t recall back in the ’80s or ’90s this Allmendinger thing. Were you drug tested back then? Did you have any concerns that you were racing against guys that may not be altogether there?
DALE JARRETT: I don’t know exactly when the policy was put into place. But, yes, before I retired, certainly it was a part of that.
When you’re talking about the ’80s and ’90s, it was a little more self-policed. If you had concerns over something or thoughts of it, you went to the people at NASCAR and had a discussion there. But that was very rare that that ever happened for anyone that I know of.
But it’s because of the world that we live in today, this has become necessary. Obviously there’s a reason that NASCAR went to this procedure. We’ve seen it be implemented and put into place, used and implemented, a number of times.
There was a reason behind it. I applaud NASCAR for doing it.
ANDY PETREE: From my side of that, we have to go back a few years, when I was getting started in racing, we didn’t have any people. We only had a handful, a dozen maybe, on a Cup team. You worked all the time, daylight to dark seven days a week. You didn’t have any time for nonsense. You didn’t have any time to think about who was doing any kind of drug because we were working too much to even think like that. There wasn’t any room for it on the crew side because you demanded so much of the people.
I think, like Dale said, it was self-policed. It almost took care of it. If somebody had a problem, they didn’t last long in the sport. Every person, you had to get a lot out of everybody back then.
ALLEN BESTWICK: It’s also a reflection of where society has gone. How many jobs in the ’80s and ’90s is drug testing required for now that wasn’t required for then? Not that different than many jobs around the United States.
Q. Dale, does it matter what he tests positive for? He said a stimulant. Brad Keselowski says it matters to him. Do you think it matters as far as a death sentence for his career?
DALE JARRETT: You’d have to think that whatever it is, that would make a difference, yeah, certainly to the drivers wants to know, but certainly to owners out there also. So, yeah, it could make a difference there.
Q. Andy was pretty outspoken about Danica Patrick’s chances next year in the Cup Series, what is your assessment of Danica this year in Nationwide? Do you think she’s ready to make the full-time leap to Cup next season?
DALE JARRETT: We’ve seen a lot of improvement from when she started. She continues to improve each and every week. I agree with Andy with the evaluation of the team, with what we have to look at there. She seems to be improving quite nicely.
The jump to Cup is going to be tough. The cars are different, the horsepower’s different. The number of people there on a weekly basis that run really, really good is going to be different.
Results are going to be hard to come by. To say is she ready, that’s something that she and Tony have to decide and make sure on. They’re obviously committed to do that. She is very focused on becoming better.
Would it benefit her to stay in the Nationwide Series another year? I’m not sure it would. If she’s going to make that move, I would say she has an understanding of what it’s about, going and get there, learn there, because it is a lot different driving with the horsepower and some of the different tracks that you go to and the level of competition certainly.
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ESPN produces comprehensive, multi-platform coverage featuring telecasts of the final 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup races, including the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Additionally, ESPN is the television home of the NASCAR Nationwide Series. ESPN’s NASCAR coverage extends to ESPN.com, SportsCenter, ESPN the Magazine, WatchESPN, ESPN Classic, ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes, ESPN on Xbox LIVE, ESPN Radio and ESPN International, among other ESPN platforms. ESPN aired 262 NASCAR Cup Races over a 20-year period starting in 1981 and returned to NASCAR coverage in 2007. The network’s award-winning, live flag-to-flag coverage on ESPN has been honored with 19 Sports Emmy Awards, as well as many industry honors. It is widely credited for helping to popularize the sport nationwide.