Dale Jarrett Talks Feuds, Paybacks and Coverage
Larry Woody | Senior Writer
With emotions at a fever pitching heading into this week’s race at Bristol – NASCAR’s most cantankerous track – the media has to walk a fine line between pro wresting and Masterpiece Theater.
That’s the opinion of Dale Jarrett, who will be calling Saturday’s Nationwide race for ESPN, even as all eyes will be on the next day’s Sprint Cup re-match between combatants Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski.
“It’s a big story that can’t be ignored,” said Jarrett.
“We have to do our jobs, describe what’s going on, and call things as we see them. As an analyst I sometimes have to be a little critical, even if the drivers are friends of mine.”
While some complain that the media goes out of its way to over-hype and stir controversy, Jarrett said the Edwards-Keselowski feud is “is something that has to be covered. It’s a story that’s out there.”
Besides, he added, there’s nothing wrong with drivers showing some emotion, and the media reporting on it.
“The passion and emotion of our sport is what makes it so popular,” he said. “I don’t think we want to take that away. If it gets out of control, NASCAR can step in. But I find it a little odd that for awhile we heard complaints about a lack of action in racing, and now we hear complaints because there’s TOO MUCH action.”
Edwards begins a three-race probation at Bristol after intentionally wrecking arch-rival Keselowski two weeks ago at Atlanta. The feud has been simmering since Keselowski sent Edwards tumbling in a reverse encounter last year at Talladega.
Jarrett said “payback has always been part of the sport,” and that the Keselowski incident “probably looked worse than it really was” because his car went airborne. Otherwise it would have gone down as a routine fender-bender.
“Unless you’ve ever been in that situation, it’s impossible to understand the emotions that drivers go through,” Jarrett said. “You have to experience it to understand it.”
Jarrett believes such self-policing is OK, “as long as you don’t overdo it. You have to pick your spot. You never want to get anyone hurt, and there are certain spots on the faster tracks where it’s not a good idea to bump somebody. But by and large these things have a way of getting worked out.” Jarrett is following in the footsteps of his father Ned, a championship racer who enjoyed a successful second career as a broadcaster.
“My dad taught me a lot about racing and he’s taught me a lot about broadcasting,” Jarrett said. “The most important thing he told me is to just be myself. I’m not someone who knows a lot of big words. I just try to explain what’s going on down on the track. I don’t try to come across as something I’m not.”
Ned, 77, is retired. Jarrett’s brother Glenn is a veteran radio announcer who works for MRN. Their sister Patti is a housewife who is married to Jimmy Makar, Jarrettt’s former crew chief.
Jarrett said he has adjusted to life in the ESPN booth, although he admitted “there are times when I miss being on the track. When we go to a place like Daytona, for example, or this week at Bristol … Bristol was always one of my favorite places to race because there was so much going on.”
He added with a chuckle: “Sometimes as a driver you got a little more action than you bargained for. But from the fans’ perspective it’s great. Fans in the stands and watching on TV love the excitement.”
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