DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Ned Jarrett's face was red, and if a person can glow, Ned Jarrett glowed. His son, Dale, just had won the Daytona 500. The Daytona 500, for Pete's sake. The biggest race on the Winston Cup schedule.
Dale Jarrett had won it with his father calling the finish on CBS-TV. Ned Jarrett was telling his audience that race leader Dale Earnhardt was loose and that Dale should close in to make him looser -- and Dale Jarrett, as if hearing the instructions, closed in.
Ned Jarrett was telling his listeners that Dale should go low, and, moments later, Dale Jarrett did go low. It was a move that put him in victory lane for the 35th Daytona 500.
"I know I shouldn't be saying this, but I've dreamed every night this week that Dale passed Earnhardt on the last lap for victory," said Jarrett the father. "It wasn't the kind of dream where you're full asleep. It's the kind that you're lying there and you're somewhere in between and you know you're dreaming. But the same thing kept going through my mind. Dale would pass Earnhardt and win the Daytona 500."
Ned Jarrett knows how hard it is to win this race, because he never did.
The former race driver won Winston Cup championships in 1961 and 1965 and piled up 50 victories, but couldn't win this one.
He almost won it once. It was 1963. Dale Jarrett was 6 years old and standing on the family car in the infield with his mom, as his father led the field into the final lap.
"I thought I had it made," said Ned Jarrett, who would finish with six top five finishes in seven 500 tries. "But I ran out of gas and Tiny Lund went on to win."
When Dale Jarrett crossed the finish line yesterday, he said the first thing he thought about was his father.
"I remember 1963," he said. "I remember that it hurt my dad when he ran out of gas that day, and I think, really, that I've thought about that ever since I started racing. It's special for me to win this race. It's special for me because I took the Jarrett name into victory lane."
Ned Jarrett's eyes were glistening as his son walked into the press room. He said, laughing: "I once tried to encourage him to be a pro golfer. I'm glad he didn't listen."
The father said this victory by his son means more to him than his two titles and 50 victories combined.
"It's the greatest feeling I've ever had," he said. "It's . . . I'm not a real emotional guy, you know, not like Dick Vitale, but nothing comes close to this. It's your kid doing it, doing something wonderful, and it's more special than anything I could have imagined."
And then Ned Jarrett put his professional face back on. He turned back into the radio/television reporter he is now. Got out his microphone and headset and started asking questions of race winner Dale Jarrett.
"This is weird," said the son, who then laughed and hugged his father.
Rooting in press box
Ned Jarrett's call on CBS as his son, Dale, raced to victory in the Daytona 500:
"Come on, Dale. Go, baby, go. All right, come on. . . . I know he's gone to the floorboard. . . . He can't do any more. . . . Come on, take her to the inside, don't let him [Earnhardt] get on the inside of you coming around the turn. . . . Here he comes.
"Earnhardt's. . . . It's Dale and Dale as they come off Turn 4. . . . You know who I'm pulling for is Dale Jarrett. . . . Bring her to the inside Dale, don't let him get down there. . . . He's gonna make it, Dale's gonna win the Daytona 500. All right!. . . Look at Martha [Ned's wife]. . . . Oh, can you believe it!"