“I wish my record showed I had more wins here, but I had so much fun most of the time,” said Jarrett, who had one win in 44 Bristol starts. “It’s just such a great event and you get so keyed up as a driver to come to Bristol and race. Coming to run the night race is just incredible, takes you back to how you got started racing on a Saturday night.”
Jarrett actually won twice at Bristol, the first time in a Nationwide Series (then Busch Series) race in 1991, and the second time was his lone Sprint Cup victory in the 1997 August night race.
It really wasn’t a night he expected to capture one of his 32 career Sprint Cup Series wins.
“When we started that race I didn’t think we really had a winning car,” he said. “I thought we had a top-five car and anytime you have that, you have a chance to win. We made the car better and better throughout the night. I was able to pass Mark Martin and kind of drive away from him.
“Then I got a little cautious with the lapped traffic and he got close to me. You’re always spent here when you run 500 laps around this place. I can remember when I was in victory lane, I felt like could go another 400-500 laps. That victory lane gives you that much energy because you know then as a driver this is one of the top three or four places you want to win.”
Jarrett racked up in the major events, twice winning both the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 in addition to his 1999 series championship.
His accomplishments led to him being named one of the newest members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
“I was surprised the first year on the ballot that it actually happened,” said Jarrett, now an ESPN analyst. I thought when I was put on the list of 25, it might happen a few years down the road. I’m very honored the people who vote on that recognize the hard work and efforts and the accomplishments.”
Now 56, Jarrett is most appreciative of being able to share in the moment with his father Ned. They are one of only two father-son driving combinations named to the Hall of Fame along with Lee and Richard Petty.
“Knowing how much of a part of our lives this sport has been and there’s only one other father-son team there, that part means more to me than anything else,” he said.
The driver most famous for piloting the No. 88 Ford added it was humbling to be part of the first 25 people inducted into the Hall of Fame. In addition, Jarrett was glad that short-track legend Jack Ingram was part of his class.
Ingram, from Asheville, often traveled the short distance to race at Jarrett’s hometown Hickory (N.C.) Speedway.
“I was fortunate enough to watch him before I ever drove,” Jarrett said. “To be able to race against him and learn from him, he taught me a lot of lessons, some of them pretty difficult. He taught me a lot about cars, which was something I needed as a driver. He took the time when we going around the short tracks to discuss things with me. That day in Charlotte when our names were announced, it did as much for me for him to get in there as to hear my name.”