Late Start Doesn’t Detour Jarrett From HoF
Jarrett spent the next three seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing where he was paired with brother-in-law Jimmy Makar. Their Daytona 500 victory in 1993 was JGR’s first in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
“I remember just being amazed that as a young organization trying to become established in a competitive sport like NASCAR, we were fortunate enough to land Jimmy Makar as our crew chief and Dale Jarrett as our driver,” Gibbs said. “Over the course of those first couple of seasons, we were really hoping for something special to help validate the work we were doing, especially to our sponsors. The win by Dale Jarrett in the Daytona 500 was so special to us because it was our first win as an organization. I remember how excited we were, not only for JGR, but for Norm Miller and Interstate Batteries too, because like Jarrett, they took a big chance on us. The win really established us in the sport and we owe a lot to Dale Jarrett.”
Jarrett finished fourth in the championship, but left the team a year later.
He took the wheel of Robert Yates’ No. 28 Ford in 1995 as the replacement for the injured Ernie Irvan. Things did not immediately go well. In fact, Jarrett expected to be fired after what the owner termed a lackluster season with only one win and a 13th-place points showing.
But Yates added a second team and put Jarrett in the No. 88 car with crew chief Todd Parrott and the North Carolinian hit his stride winning 18 times over the next four seasons and never finishing outside the top three in the standings.
In his championship season, Jarrett took the points lead with a victory in the 11th race at Richmond and never gave it up. Four wins overall, including the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis Motor Speedway, along with top-10 finishes in the season’s final eight races secured the championship.
“It’s one of the smartest decisions I’ve ever made,” said Yates of retaining Jarrett.
Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart won rookie of the year honors in Jarrett’s championship season. He remembers Jarrett as a tough but fair competitor.
“He was one of those guys that would race you hard when it was time to race hard and when it was early in the race and it didn’t mean much, then he knew how to be patient,” said Stewart. “He raced you the way your raced him. If you learned to be patient and race him with respect, he would do the same.
“He was a great champion; he was a great winner and a great ambassador for this sport. He was one of the first guys (to congratulate me) when I won my first race at Richmond. He made you feel welcomed and you appreciated his friendship.”
Jarrett retired from competition in 2008 at the age of 51. He shares his father’s passion for broadcasting and currently is a NASCAR commentator for ESPN and ABC.
The Jarretts are the third father and son duo to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame joining Lee and Richard Petty and NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. and Bill France Jr., the organization’s late chairman.
“This is very, very meaningful to be written about in the same paragraph as the Pettys and the Frances,” said Ned Jarrett. “I felt Dale had the credentials to make it one day but I didn’t think it would be this early and I wasn’t sure I’d be here when it happened.”