With Ned Jarret, two time Winston Cup Champion, as a father it would seem that his son would gravitate naturally to the sport but that wasn’t the case for Dale Jarrett. Jarrett himself says he lacked direction in his earlier years. Jarrett was very athletic and as star quarterback, star shortstop, top golfer, and star forward on his basketball team his father knew that he would be a professional athlete one way or another. After turning down a golf scholarship the young Jarrett went to work doing odd jobs at Hickory Motorspeedway. He got behind the wheel for the first time at the age of 20. Starting in 25th place and finishing in 11th he realized his life no longer lacked direction. He was going to race.
Dale Jarrett ran his first Winston Cup season in 1987 and in 1989 he achieved his first top ten finish at Atlanta Motorspeedway. That same year he broke the top five barrier in Martinsville. He ended the 1989 season with 2 top-five finishes and four top-tens. The 1990 season gave Jarrett a 4th place finish (he best so far) along with 4 top-tens.
Dale Jarrett broke into victory lane in 1991 with a win in Michigan. He finished in the top ten eight times, including three top-fives. He ended the season with a 17th place in the points race. By 1993, Jarrett’s career was on the move. With a .16sec victory over Dale Earnhardt at the Daytona 500 and 13 top-five finishes, Jarrett earned enough points to be in fourth place at the end of the season.
Dale Jarrett had one win in both the ’94 and ’95 seasons but by 1996 his luck was turning. Jarrett started the season with another Daytona 500 victory and went on to win three more races including the Brickyard 400. He had second place finishes in five races and never fell below fourth place in the points race. His consistency paid off and he took home third place in the championship running.
Consistency was the name of the game in 1997 as well as 1998. In ‘97 Jarrett visited victory lane seven times and had four second place finishes. Jarrett was in grasping distance of the title up to the last race of the season but even a second place win in Atlanta didn’t do the trick. Jeff Gordon edged out Jarrett by a mere 14 points. It was the closest three way battle for the championship in NASCAR history with Mark Martin finishing third in Atlanta and only 15 points behind Jarrett. Out of the 32 races that season he placed out of the top ten only nine times. The 1998 season had only three wins for Jarrett but again his consistency paid off. Finishing 22 of the 33 races in the top ten earned Jarrett enough points for third place in overall points. Jarrett was also named NMPA Driver of the Year.
Dale Jarrett start out the 1999 with an accident at the Daytona 500 but again his ability to finish in the top ten led him to his first Winston Cup Championship title. By the 11th race of the season Jarrett was leading the points race and held the lead throughout the entire season with Bobby Labonte finishing 201 points back. His 29 top ten finishes, including six second place grabs and four wins in 34 starts led him to become the second father/son duo to become champions. Dale received many honors in 1999 including Driver of the Year, Racer Magazine’s Oval Driver of the Year, TNN’s Racer of the Year, as well as NMPA’s Driver of the Year.
Jarrett and four wins in both 2000 and 2001, including another Dayton 500 victory, this one from the pole position in 2000. He ended the seasons with a fourth and fifth place in point totals. Jarrett took the checkered flag at Michigan again in 2002 and also won at Pocono and his 18 top ten’s gave him a season ending 9th place. With only one win in 2003 Jarrett finished a disappointing 26th in points standings.
In a Winston Cup Career that began in 1984, Dale Jarrett has started in 465 races and won 31 times. He has been named True Value Man of the Year (1997) and has been involved in many charities including, but not limited to: Susan G. Komen’s Breast Cancer Foundation, National Spokesman for Disabled American Veterans, Samaritian’s Purse, as well as Goodwill, Special Olympics, and the Make A Wish Foundation.