Since retiring in 2008, Dale Jarrett has been one of the greatest announcers in NASCAR. Jarrett, 57, hasn’t been in a racecar in quite some time, yet he has never faded away from the sport.
Jarrett joined NASCAR on ESPN before he retired in 2007, and since then – his name has become well-known for fans that weren’t around to follow his racing career. Highlighted by winning the 1999 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship with Robert Yates Racing, the Hall of Famer won 32 events at the sport’s top level in 668 career starts. Making a career of being one of the most consistent drivers in NASCAR history, Jarrett has offered his fair share of advice for up and coming drivers.
Now, the 57-year-old will be moving away from the booth – at least temporarily. ESPN’s contract with NASCAR expires at the end of the year, and they were not able to reach an agreement with the sanctioning body. Evidently, NBC Sports Group came up with more money than FOX, which reached an agreement for $2.4 billion to provide coverage of each of NASCAR’s top-three tier divisions. However, Jarrett along with some of his ESPN colleagues might be out of work. Then, in late June, the company canceled their only NASCAR show – NASCAR Now.
“I've seen a different side of the sport is probably I think that's biggest. I could probably go to the booth every week and just look at the race and talk about it and do okay. But I think to be prepared and do as good a job and give as much information as I possibly can is about getting in the garage area, talking, staying up to date,” Jarrett said. “It's been a little over seven years since I've been in a car. I still want to know what's going on. Even though driving a racecar is going to be similar regardless, you're giving it your best effort. As things change, you want to keep up with that.”
This will be the last race for ESPN at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the track is incredibly special for the entire NASCAR community. Since stock cars raced a 400-mile event at the ‘Yard of Bricks’ for the first time in 1994, there have been 12 different victors in 20 races. However, Jarrett did something that changed racing at Indianapolis forever.
Jarrett and his crew chief Todd Parrott came up with the idea to go onto the frontstretch and kiss the bricks that lay upon the start/finish line.
“Todd grabbed me and said, Hey, remember what we talked about. It wasn't until then that I remembered that we were going to do something a little different. We hadn't told any of the crew or anything like that. So we just told them to follow us and went out and had our time on the yard of bricks,” he said on the NASCAR teleconference on Tuesday.
As his journey with ESPN comes to a close, Jarrett will be remembered for his insight in the booth. Arguably one of the best drivers in the 1990s, he provides plenty of memories for fans along with insight that spectators usually don’t get.
If he is able to land a job at another broadcasting company, the three-time Daytona 500 winner would be an essential part of any team.
“I was going to say a big race like Indy, but we bring tons of people, over 150 people, for ESPN to all of these next 17 races. It takes tremendously talented people there to do that, to bring a good product to the fans watching on TV, just like it does to have a good race team and organization. It takes all of that. We at ESPN have a tremendous group,” Jarrett said.
“It's been fun to learn something new and to look at the sport in a different way. It's always a challenge. Just like driving, I tried to get better with every race. I've done that here in the booth, too. It's going to be unfortunate that it's kind of my last time at Indy. But I'm going to look forward to that. Each and every week we'll be that. We're going to make the most of these 17 weeks.”