Jarrett makes move, without benefit of win

Consistent runner-up eyes Richmond `leap'

May 15, 1999|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

RICHMOND, Va. -- Buddy Parrott is the team manager for Winston Cup points leader Jeff Burton. His son, Todd, is crew chief for Dale Jarrett, Burton's closest pursuer.

Yesterday, the elder Parrott leaned on a pile of tires in the garage area at Richmond International Raceway, looked through the rain toward Jarrett's team and shrugged.

"They might not win a race all year," he said, not unhappily.

Later, Jarrett's car owner Robert Yates suggested Parrott and his guys better watch out.

"We're like a bunch of kids playing leapfrog," Yates said. "We're in second. We're in position to make the jump."

Tonight is Jarrett's chance to take a giant step in that direction. As Parrott said, he might not win all season. To this point, even Yates can't argue that.

Jarrett hasn't won a race. But the season is barely a third done and not winning hasn't seemed to bother the second-place runners all that much.

Going into the Pontiac Excitement 400, Jarrett is just 55 points behind Burton in the championship chase. And followers of NASCAR know consistency is what counts.

Terry Labonte is a two-time Winston Cup champion because he mastered the art of high finishes without necessarily celebrating victory. And Buddy Parrott has seen the consistency pay off from the other side.

"When I was with Rusty Wallace, we won 10 races one year, eight the next," Parrott said. "And we didn't win the championship either time.

"I don't care how good your team is running, you can miss winning the title and you can miss winning races. Todd and that team are doing everything right, but it doesn't mean they're going to win."

It's that thought that makes Jarrett a little uncomfortable. Jarrett is used to winning -- 14 of his 18 career victories have come in the past three years. And this season, not only hasn't he won, he said he hasn't once felt he has had the car to beat.

But Jarrett insisted he isn't feeling pressure to win.

"We're not in a slump," he said. "We don't have to win [this race]. But this is a good time for us to be here, because I've always run well here and that gives us added confidence."

Jarrett's dad, Ned, who won two Winston Cup championships and 50 races before retiring at the end of the 1965 season, said his son wants to win bad.

"But, as strange as it seems, this is the best position he's ever been in," said Ned, now an analyst on televised races. "He has more points at this time than he's ever had. That's encouraging."

Yesterday, with rain falling, there was time for contemplation.

Winston Cup qualifying was rescheduled for today. NASCAR used its Busch Series points standings to determine the starting lineup for last night's rain-delayed Hardee's 250, which was won by Mark Martin.

Tonight's Winston Cup race is scheduled to begin at 7: 40 and will be carried live by ESPN.

"The 88 is going to win their races," said Burton, nudging an elbow into his team manager's ribs. "It's early in the season yet. They'll get theirs. But they're showing what you can do with consistency. The difference between running first and second is just five points in the standings.

"Unless someone blows up, you're not going to get a big lead. We're not going to get out front on anybody. I know it's going to be close."

NOTE: The Busch team co-owned by Baltimore's Joe Washington and Julius Erving announced that Jelly Belly, the gourmet jelly bean manufacturer, is on board as an associate sponsor.

Pub Date: 5/15/99

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