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This weekends All-Star Challenge at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway will mark the first time in 18 months that Mike Ford will not be atop the pit box of the 88 car. Ford and Jarrett seemed to have good enough chemistry to find success, as Jarrett sits 14th in the points and is currently eligible for the Chase for the Cup.
Ford must have been losing sleep at night trying to figure out what he could do to make the big brown truck a race worthy vehicle. What else would chase a crew chief away from a former champion and current Chase contender? If losing your crew chief of 18 months isn’t enough, the team now has to divert attention from racing to find a new crew chief. This leaves many concerned that Ford’s departure from Robert Yates Racing may be the beginning of the end for Jarrett.
The team does have a one-race window to rectify the situation. Aside from some bruised egos and a hefty winners purse, the All-Star race will have no impact on the points championship. Next weekend however, Jarrett and the UPS racing team may have the chips stacked against them in the seasons longest event.
The departure of Mike Ford and the current situation that Dale Jarrett faces is not the reason that fans need to begin worrying. From 1996 to 2002, Dale Jarrett found himself with consecutive top 10 points position finishes. In 2003, Jarrett finished 26th, and 15th in 2004. Jarrett is a three time Daytona 500 champion and 1999 Nextel Cup champion, however Jarrett currently finds himself in a dry spell. Jarrett has not visited victory lane since the Subway 400 in 2003.
This struggle to win races and make it to the awards ceremony at seasons end makes Jarrett a possible candidate for retirement. Jarrett is now 48 years of age. With drivers like Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin leaving the sport at seasons end, and veterans like Bill Elliot and Terry Labonte running limited schedules, it is more than obvious that the elder drivers are slowly but surely nearing the end of their legendary careers. While concerned with finding a new crew chief, Jarrett also needs to be concerned with the younger drivers and rookie hot shots that are taking NASCAR by storm. While there are six veteran drivers in the Chase for the Championship, none have made it to victory lane this season, and have only nine top 5 finishes among them. Jarrett’s career is currently at a low point, making the conditions seemingly perfect for a retirement tour. Even sadder, the seat of the 88 machine will most likely be filled by a young driver still looking to prove themselves to the racing world.
Jarrett is an accomplished racecar driver and a legendary figure in the sport, however is having difficulty in finding success. Truth be told, retirement is an inevitability in any sport, and Jarrett’s retirement may be right around the corner. Ford’s resignation has only helped to show the racing world the growing trend in retiring veterans, one of which may soon be Jarrett.
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