Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jarrett Eyes Winston Cup

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jarrett Eyes Winston Cup

Article excerpt

LOUDON, N.H. -- Dale Jarrett drives the house car, the one that says Ford Credit.

Right now, he seems to be driving it to the Winston Cup championship -- something Ford has won only twice since 1972. The way he's talking, Jarrett expects the big shots in Detroit to be in a celebratory mood should he succeed.

"I think if a Ford driver could win right now, he could have his way at Ford Motor Co. for a while," Jarrett said, looking ahead to the second half of the season. "I think they would be indebted to a team that could do that."

Jarrett carries a 177-point lead over Bobby Labonte into the 18th of 34 races, the Jiffy Lube 300 Sunday at New Hampshire International Speedway.

It's a lead built on consistency. Jarrett got his third victory this season last Saturday night in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway -- his 13th top-five finish in 17 starts.

"It's surprising that it hasn't happened more with all of the good Ford teams we've had over the years," Jarrett said of the championship. "Hopefully, that's something that's going to change this year."

Indeed, unless Jarrett forgets how he reached the top of the standings. He plans no changes to the formula that has firmly established him as the one to beat the rest of the way.

Jarrett isn't totally content. He sees room for improvement.

"Can we get better?" he asked rhetorically after giving his team a mid-term grade of A. "Yes. We can be an A-plus team in the fact that we can run better."

Actually, discounting an accident that relegated him to 37th in the season-opening Daytona 500, the running has been little short of sensational. Only the starts haven't been so great.

Jarrett knows improving on them will make his job easier. The equipment won't have to withstand as much abuse, and the chances of being involved in points-robbing accidents will be significantly reduced.

"We can finish fourth and fifth without having to come from 25th," he said. "That's the one side we want to improve on. …

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