BRISTOL — Bigger is not always better, according to Dale Jarrett.
Recently named to the new class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Jarrett believes the NASCAR All-Star race needs moved away from Charlotte’s mile-and-a-half oval to the short track at Bristol Motor Speedway.
“You watch it and Charlotte’s been a great venue, and Atlanta that one year, but I think it’s time we take it to a short track and let these drivers battle it out,” said Jarrett during a Tuesday appearance at BMS to promote the IRWIN Tools Night Race. “Short tracks are where every one of these drivers got their start, and what better place than an action place like Bristol where you have side-by-side racing.
“You have to know in your mind that they come with that kind of money on the line, they will be willing to take out their best friend out there. Just spin him and take that spot for that kind of money and prestige. I think we’d have to wave the three green-white checkered rule. I think it would be great for the fans to see a new venue, and an exciting place like Bristol is the perfect place to me.”
The suggestion of the All-Star race moving to Bristol is nothing new, but it’s the first time someone with the credentials of Jarrett has openly suggested it.
The 1999 NASCAR champion and the winner of 32 Sprint Cup races, he recently was named to the newest class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
As for the All-Star race at Bristol, Jarrett believes it would give the event a needed boost.
“I have to believe it would bring out the fans to this place to see the first one,” he said. “And after the first one happened, then it would be a no-brainer to go from there.”
The current ESPN analyst doesn’t base his feelings on an incredible track record at Bristol. He won on the high banks only once in the Cup Series, but always marked the August race on his calendar.
“It’s such a great event,” said Jarrett, 56. “You get so keyed up as a driver to come to Bristol and race. The spring race is great also, but to come here for a night race, it’s just incredible. From a driver’s standpoint, it takes you back to how you got started racing on a Saturday night.”
Jarrett added the All-Star race at Bristol would be more in the driver’s hands and less emphasis on engineering and other the technical aspects. He talked about how the qualifying speed at Charlotte has climbed 20 mph over the past two decades.
“The problem that we have is the cars and the sport has become so technical that aerodynamics mean so much,” Jarrett said. “We saw it at Charlotte. When you’re running 200 mph at a place, it means so much. I would like to see it be taken to a place like this, where speeds wouldn’t be nearly as high. It’s more about the drivers and their abilities and the willingness they have to see what they will do for a million-dollar pay night.”
Overall, he believes the Sprint Cup Series misses the variety of tracks of two decades ago, when the tour raced at the short track at North Wilkesboro and on the abrasive one-mile track at Rockingham.
He doesn’t give the “cookie cutter” label to the mile-and-a-half tracks that comprise a third of the schedule since they drive so differently, but can see where the fans find it hard to see the differences.
“Again, it goes into our problem of aerodynamics with these cars,” Jarrett said. “The fans don’t necessarily get to see the racing they get to see at the shorter tracks. I understand growing the sport, and these venues are good places. My solution to that would be — I think 36 races are too many, but if we’re going to keep that number, why don’t we go back to some of these shorter tracks and only run one race at some of these mile-and-a-halfs. I’m not trying to take any jobs or anything away from anybody, but I think we could step up the process and make things more exciting. You have to admit, the short tracks are where the most exciting racing is.”
It’s a two-fold problem as Jarrett believes the new Gen-6 cars are simply too fast at the larger tracks. Although people get temporarily excited about a new track record and a blazing speed, it’s the close quarters which brings fans back to the track.
“Our sport wasn’t built on speed, it was built on competition,” he said. “That’s what separated us from every other form of motorsports.We’ve got to figure a way to slow these cars down and get the racing back. The drivers are doing everything they can do and racing as hard as they can possibly race. When you’re going that fast you’re so much on the edge, if something does happen you have no chance of correcting it. That’s why I think the short tracks with the less speeds and more aerodynamics is a better watch and view for the fans.”