Sunday, March 16, 2008

Saying thanks to a champion

BRISTOL, Tenn. - When we walked into Bristol Motor Speedway Sunday morning there were people all over the backstretch grandstand laying out cards to be used in a stunt before the Food City 500.

It has the UPS logo on it, of course, since somebody had to pay the freight. But the message of the display is going to be very simple and very fitting.

It says, "Thanks Dale." Sunday's race is Dale Jarrett's final points race. I haven't written a long story about Jarrett this week because I am saving that for May when he actually drives for the last time in the Sprint All-Star race at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

My paper does a special section for the all-star race and one of my jobs is to figure out what would be a good story to put on the cover of that section.

I wasn't about to fire my Dale Jarrett "farewell" bullet on the same weekend my paper is trying to find room for the Atlantic Coast Conference men's basketball tournament that's being played in Charlotte.

Jarrett deserves a spotlight that's all his own, and that's what I've got planned for May. For now, let's just say that "thanks" is about the only thing the sport really can say to a driver like Jarrett.

Like his father, Ned, Dale has been a champion on and off the track. He has won a Cup championship and 32 races, but he's also won a ton of resepct from fans and fellow drivers as well. He's starred in some of the best sports commercials, let alone NASCAR commercials, you've ever seen. He's been a leader in the garage and he's been a stand-up guy when controversies have flared.

It's going to make it a little easier for him to walk away from the driving side of the sport now that he's got a deal to help ESPN/ABC broadcast races. His father had a tremendous career in that field, too, and nothing about what Dale has done so far indicates to me that he's not going to be just as good at it.

I don't know where Dale Jarrett will finish Sunday in his final points race. I am sure it matters to him, but I don't think it matters to anybody else.

Jarrett deserves every nice thing people have said about him leading up to this race, and every nice think they'll say about him before the all-star race in May as well.

He deserves that great big "Thanks" that's coming in the prerace show, too.

13 comments:

Diane said...

Thanks Dale. You've always been one of my favorite drivers. Look forward to being on the broadcasts.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely Dale Jarrett deserves a ton of respect and acknowledgment for what he has meant not just to NASCAR but to sports in general. In these days of pro athletes being in the news for all the wrong reasons, Dale has been a role model we can point our children to and say "that's a man to admire". Good luck, Dale, in your new career at ESPN and thanks for the great racing memories!

Brian said...

Hey David,

Don't you think that these past 2 years with Dale missing races and floundering at the back of the field has taken some of luster off of his career? Seems to me that he pulled a Darrell Waltrip and retired too late.

nh_nascarfan said...

Brian...

It was indeed sad to see Dale over the last few years, but one has to wonder how frustrating it was for him to drive for a floundering Yates Racing and then a struggling startup Toyota team. It would have been interesting to see how he would have performed had he been driving for a team like HMS, JGR, or RFR. Of course, it would also be interesting to see how Jimmy Johnson would have done driving the same equipment as Dale did the past few years.

Either way, he still goes out a champion and a class act in my book... Thanks Dale!

http://jetdryer.blogspot.com/

Diane said...

David,

I found it odd that Fox found time to have a whole segment for DW when they gave him his old car, but they didn't have time to cover much of Jarrett's pre-race tribute. For DW fans I'm sure it was a touching scene with the old car. But the day should have been for Dale.

I'm sure they had to make sure DW was there for the gifting but I guess they couldn't pry him out of his broadcast seat even though he couldn't talk. It was really annoying listening to him.

Lynn said...

I wonder,,,,If DJ were just fading away into the sunset, would he have gotten more air time from FOX? Could the fact that he is working for ESPN have something to do with the fact that there was more time spent hawking Digger T-Shirts and DW's old ride than a tribute to a very classy former champion? Thanks DJ for being a voice to reason and a true diplomat of the sport.

Diane said...

Lynn,

Good point about DJ going to ESPN. But that seems childish to me. Thumbs up for DJ and thumbs down to Fox and DW.

Anonymous said...

CLASS ACT...
Thats all I can say. I first time met Dale was @ Hickory Motor Speedway in the late 70's and he treated me like a old friend instead of a competitor when needed a part for our racecar. Dale helped us get that part knowing we ran good and could challenge for the win.
THANKS Dale... You and Ned are the TRUE RARITYS in Nascar...

John - Harrisburg, NC said...

Brian, and nh_nascarfan,

I wonder where Toyota would be this season without Dale Jarrett's efforts for them last year?

I suspect, he contributed a great deal whether he made the races or not.

God Bless Dale, even if you did deny my favorite Dale at least two Daytona 500 wins! ;-)

nh_nascarfan said...

John...

You are of course correct, his contributions to Mikeys team may never be able to be quantified. If I were to start a team, I would want a guy like Dale there as part of it. But for a guy used to performing well and winning, it had to be frustrating missing races and finishing near the back of the pack.

http://jetdryer.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

How 'bout some pie?

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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