CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Audio and story by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — ISC Archives photo —
Tuesday’s Joe Gibbs Racing announcement at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, in which the venerable team unveiled a throwback Interstate Batteries paint scheme for Kyle Busch in this September’s Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, was also very special for the team’s charter driver — NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett.
Jarrett joined Coach Gibbs, defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch, Interstate Batteries chairman Norm Miller and JGR’s senior vice president of racing operations Jimmy Makar for the reveal of the car, which is a replica of the ride that carried him to JGR’s first-ever Cup victory in the 1993 Daytona 500.
After having been involved with Darlington’s The Tradition Returns weekend in 2015, when he called a portion of the NBC Sports telecast of the race with Ken Squier and his father Ned, Jarrett says his involvement this year — through his paint scheme returning to the track — evokes a different feel for him.
“It certainly brings up some different emotions from how I was involved with the throwback weekend last year, calling the race with my dad and with Ken (Squier), but they’re all good (emotions),” Jarrett said. “Any time I can think back to the (early) days of Joe Gibbs Racing, how it all started and the opportunity that was given to me at that time in my professional career is tremendous.”
“Certainly looking at that car and remembering that day in February of 1993 — passing Dale Earnhardt on the last lap and winning my first Daytona 500 — is quite special.”
The 35th running of the ‘Great American Race’ was one for the ages, with Kyle Petty sitting on the pole in the first points race since his father’s retirement, rookie upstart Jeff Gordon beginning his full-time Cup career and 38 lead changes between 12 different drivers headlining the day’s storylines at the Daytona International Speedway.
However, it was the final lead change that made all the difference, as Jarrett got a run on Earnhardt entering the tri-oval at the white flag and powered to the point from the inside lane. Though Earnhardt tried every which way to get back around Jarrett, his efforts would fall short after leading 107 of the first 199 laps and Jarrett would ride home to victory, called home by his father on the CBS Sports broadcast.
With it being a day that meant so much to driver and team, Jarrett paused to reflect on the memories of that win and its importance to him in the moment.
“The biggest thing (that sticks out from that day) is that it brought Joe Gibbs his first win,” he smiled. “To do that, in our sport’s biggest race, means as much to me as anything.”
“There are so many things that day encompassed, with my dad calling the race, passing Dale on the last lap, rewarding (brother-in-law) Jimmy Makar — who had come over to run this (at the time) new organization from Roger Penske’s team — with a win after all the hard work and efforts he had put forth, and all the people that it took to make that happen … the trust that Joe and Norm put in me to get the job done and get their organization started up … it was all a part of the emotions of that afternoon.”
“Just thinking back to that and everything that was so special about that day, with ending up in victory lane, really means the world to me.”
And with that moment being such a part of NASCAR’s storied lore, as well as seeing the history of the sport through new Jarrett says that he’s grateful for initiatives like Darlington’s that help to celebrate the history of the sport for new fans that may not have been around to witness it firsthand.
“It’s so special to have opportunities like the one Darlington is now presenting for this sport, because they help people understand the history of the sport even better,” he explained. “It’s especially great for some of the younger fans that don’t know and will look upon this now and be able to see why the sport is where it is today, because of things and sacrifices made by people like Norm Miller and Joe Gibbs that made this happen.”
“Thanks again to Joe Gibbs Racing for helping to put this together, and I’ll tell you this, it’ll certainly be fun to watch someone like Kyle Busch wheel that car in September.”
Listen in to Race Chaser Online’s full interview with Dale Jarrett at the NASCAR Hall of Fame by clicking on the player below:
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 22-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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