The Son And Grandson Of Legends Taking His Time In ARCA
“I might be old, but if you looked at the caliber of field at Nazareth (this year) and look at the field when I was at Nazareth in 1999, it isn't even close. The top 15 cars now are obviously still good, but it is broken up a lot more from there on down. It wasn't like that back then.
“But again, I didn't produce, so there is no excuses for that.”
So, after another dismal year in 2000, things changed... for the better.
The 2001 season saw Jarrett join forces with ML Motorsports, an established Indiana-based ARCA
Jarrett (#67) races with Christi Passmore at South Boston Speedway.
However, Jarrett is finally feeling free. Now, Jarrett is not just the son of Dale Jarrett and the next in a great line of racing superstars. Jason Jarrett is his own racer, with his own team, carving his own niche in the world of stock car racing.
“Maybe I have had blinders on, because everyone has always been nice to me to my face,” said Jarrett recently during the ARCA race at Lowe's Motor Speedway. “Everyone likes to talk about (my dad and grandfather) around me and (my dad and grandfather) have always told me the compliments they've heard about me.
“So I've never felt like it was pressure that I was living under to make it in the business. I think, just like any
sons of daughters in an sports these days, people just expect the same things of them that their parents did.
“The only pressure I feel is I really wish my timing would have been different when I tried to break into the Busch Series. As far as the 'name thing' though, it has never been a hindrance. It has been a big help I've always thought. There is probably a lot of guys who don't get a chance to leave their local track to do this stuff and the name has helped me.”
Jarrett started out at North Carolina's Hickory Motor Speedway in some of the lower classes before eventually moving up to the premier Late Model Stock class. Then, in 1997, at Hickory, he made his first career Busch Series start and came home 21st.
For the next several years, along with running at Hickory, Jarrett tried to make it in the Busch Series. He accumulated approximately 40 career starts with a best finish of 16th, coming at Hickory in 1999. In fact in those 40 starts, he finished in the top-20 just four times.
Jarrett was living under the umbrella that he couldn't produce like his father and grandfather.
“I'm not making excuses because I hate excuses and the simple fact was that I didn't get the job done back then,” said Jarrett. “But I think my deal was a lot of timing back then. I was running the Busch Series when my dad and Jeff Burton were struggling to make the races. There were 60 cars every week, no matter if we were in California or in Richmond, Va.
Jason Jarrett has always lived in the shadows. That is just what happens when your a kin to legendary NASCAR stars Dale Jarrett and Ned Jarrett.
Jason felt it when growing up in Hickory, NC. He felt it when making his first career Busch Series start, he felt it when his Busch career failed to produce any big triumphs.
team. The team had some of the best equipment in the series and just came off of a season that saw their driver, Brian Ross, capture the ARCA Rookie of the Year title.
It was a “second chance” for Jarrett with a team that had the equipment and personnel necessary to achieve the success his father and grandfather had done.
“It was the best thing that ever happened to me in racing,” said Jarrett of his new relationship with ML Motorsports.
“Even though they had a season or two under their belts in ARCA, I felt like I had learned some things in the Busch series that I could bring to them and help them even more. I leaned how to run on the speedways and the mile and halfs.
“They had a good short track program. They seemed to struggle on the speedways. Brian (Ross), their driver before me, is a great short track driver and they had that figured out. We really excelled at everything right away because I could bring that superspeedway experience.”
The ARCA Series, with its variety of speedways, short tracks and dirt races has been good for Jarrett.
“The series has really gotten tougher each year we've run in it. Some weeks you are matched up with all the regulars and others you are matched up with a lot of these Cup and Busch team's cars and drivers that are out here.
Jason Jarrett has been through tough times during his career, but has found new life in ARCA.
But second has been Jarrett's Achilles heel. Jarrett has finished second a total of nine times in his ARCA career. He even finished second in the points in both 2001 and 2003.
“Yeah, I hate second place. Second sucks,” said Jarrett joking around. “No, really, it has been nice but it stinks to be that close so many times. But that just means I have to work that much harder and get that much more out of the car.”
The 2004 season has also been a struggle for Jarrett. While he's always been fast, the team and Jarrett just have yet to find that spark and the consistency that brought them the wins in the past and what kept them in the points hunt. Of course, sometimes it has been just bad racing luck.
In 10 races this year, he has just five top-10 finishes and sits just fifth in the points.
How tough has the year been? Take these two examples.
About a month ago, the team tested at Michigan International Speedway. Jarrett couldn't get a feel for the car and said it felt horrible. Veteran driver Dave Blaney jumped in the car and took it two seconds faster than Jarrett, but agreed that the car felt horrible. So the team made a number of changes to the front end geometry and the entire setup of the car. Jarrett came back and was instantly fast. But when the Michigan race rolled around, Jason was on his way to the front of the back when another car lost a tire, spun and collected Jarrett in the mess.
Jason Jarrett joined the ARCA Series in 2001 and has been a regular there ever since. (51 photos)
Then, just last weekend, at South Boston Speedway, Jarrett was leading the event with just 15 laps to go, hounded by Frank Kimmel, when the engine let go and he spun. Jarrett went from first to 19th in the flash of an eye.
But Jarrett's career is far from over. The third-generation driver is just 29-years-old and has all the experience of veterans twice his age.
What might the future hold? Maybe an ARCA championship! Maybe a return to the Busch Series. Maybe even a chance to race full-time with his father in the Cup Series.
“Bottom line, I just want to race for a living. When I had my two shots to get into the Busch deal the bottom line was, whatever excuses I want to make, we didn't get the job done.
“I don't miss (the Busch and Cup world) because if I had this kind of opportunity (with ML Motorsports) over there, I'd definitely do it and know I could do it. If these guys ever decide to take their stuff to Busch, I'd be glad to go with them, especially now that I have three years under my belt over here. I think I would be more competitive over there.
“Sure, just like every driver's dream too, I'd like to go to cup in the right situation. It is one of those things where I always thought I could be there by a certain time. I don't care if I do though. It won't make or break me as a person, as long as I can race for a living, whether it is over there or over here.
“That is one of those things. If I don't ever run another Cup race, how many people can say they've got to grow up around around guys like Red Famrer, Ned Jarrett and Dale Jarrett? My life isn't bad by any means. I'm pretty happy with it.