Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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No pressure on Jason Jarrett

With the name of Jarrett and the game driving a race car, the stock and the stock car both are expected to cultivate winning results almost automatically.

It's a lineage pressure that's often unfair and unforgiving, but Jason Jarrett motors on while father Dale and grandfather Ned, both former NASCAR Winston Cup champions, keep their eyes on the youngster but their hands off assertive family influence.

“They never really pushed me. They let me take my own path,” said Jason, who may have found his comfort level a couple of tiers under that attained by his father and grandfather.

“I have friends who I played baseball with in high school and their dads were down their throats all the time about it. Now, they don't even watch it on TV.”

Jason is in his third year on the ARCA RE/MAX Series circuit where he's been very successful in terms of points, but not victories. After winning rookie-of-the-year honors as the runner-up in the points race in 2001, he finished third in points last year, but without a victory.

His performances at Toledo Speedway, where he will compete on May 4 in the ARCA RE/MAX Series GFS Marketplace 200, parallels his overall success on the circuit. He finished second at Toledo last year and third in 2001.

When Jarrett, 27, came into the ARCA RE/MAX Series three years ago, the plan was to use it as a stepping-stone, as many current Winston Cup drivers have done. The next step would be the NASCAR Busch Series with the final phase being the Winston Cup circuit.

“I've kind of found a home here [in ARCA],” he admitted recently. “I really enjoy the series and it's a place where I can have fun, still be a racer and be with good people.

“Sometimes that means as much as just staying in the Busch or Cup series [without being competitive]. If I was told tomorrow that I would be in this same situation 10 more years I would stay right here. That's unless Rick Hendrick or Robert Yates [leading Winston Cup car owners] called me.

“I just feel everything is in place, I have good financial backing, good cars and the people at the shop are hard working.”

The team, ML Motorsports, is owned by Mary Louise Miller who, along with her husband, Dane, owns Biomet Inc., which manufactures and markets products associated with orthopedic support devices.

With only one victory in 52 career ARCA RE/MAX starts, Jarrett wants to steer toward winning and let the points fall as they may. The first year the goal was to finish high in the points. Last year it was to win the championship. This year it's to win races.

“This is my 11th season in racing. I can't have the excuse that I need more experience,” Jason said. “I would just like to set my goals higher. It's my nature. I want to win.”

Just like his father and grandfather, but maybe with a few modifications.

“I think Jason has made a lot of progress,” said Ned, who won NASCAR Winston Cup (then Grand National) titles in 1961 and 1965. “He does seem to be a little more content than his dad was at the same stage of his career. Dale never had that [good sponsorship]. He had to scratch and claw to try to get to the next level.

“In that sense you wonder if Jason's dedication to being as aggressive as you need to be to move on is there. I see that differential between him and his dad.

“ARCA is a low pressure situation where he can run up front comfortably and be pretty secure. When I was talking about his aggressiveness, I wasn't necessarily talking about him on the track, but he certainly is not as aggressive as some of the other young drivers who have come along.”

But one can't dismiss Jason from becoming successful at the next level because it might be perceived that he's modest about mashing the gas. Aggressiveness has tiers, too, and sometimes it has nothing to do with daring but everything to do with comfort, good equipment and communication.

“If you're in the right equipment it can make you look aggressive,” said Ned, who has more opportunity than Dale to get a first-hand look at Jason's progress. “Look at the unfortunate things that have happened to Dale recently. It looks like he shouldn't even be out there.

“Jason wouldn't take the chances in an ill-handling car that some of the others might, and then wreck. But I've seen Jason drive aggressively and it has surprised me many times.”

Jason has competed in 25 Busch Series races since 1999 without much success, his equipment not always the best. There were wrecks that were not always his fault, including a head-on collision with the wall while testing at Memphis. He suffered a broken foot but claims he also strengthened his backbone.

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