Saturday, October 13, 2007
Updated: October 16, 10:03 AM ET
Jarrett won't get behind the wheel once he retires
By Marty Smith
CONCORD, NC -- Terry Labonte has done it on occasion. Bill Elliott is doing it now. But don't expect Dale Jarrett to join the on-again, off-again trend of former Nextel Cup champions running one-off races sporadically.
"As far as coming back, and people wanting you to get in a race here and there, I just don't see that happening, whatsoever," Jarrett said Friday, just after announcing his pending retirement.
Jarrett considers it unfair to the teams attempting to run the entire schedule.
"I know what that is like [from experiencing it] this year," Jarrett said. "I didn't want to put someone else in that position."
Moreover, Jarrett stresses the focus is competitiveness. Not money.
"I think to do it right you'd have to be in the car a lot more than that," Jarrett said. "I just think I'm good with the idea that these are the  races I have left, and that's going to be it, and we'll carry on from there.
"If it were a situation where I needed money I would have never gone to [UPS]. I would have stuck it out for another year. As always, I've never done this for money. It's about competing. And I'm going to be finished with that side of it.
"The only thing that would change that would be if UPS came to me and said, 'We need you to run this race.'"
So what's next? Jarrett will mentor Michael Waltrip Racing development drivers Josh Wise and Michael McDowell, and said he plans to begin discussions with ESPN about his television future very soon.
Jarrett, UPS and the No. 44 team were thrown a curve ball at the outset of the 2007 season when NASCAR reduced the number of allotted champion's provisionals to six. But Jarrett said it had no significant bearing on his season.
"I don't know that that really changed much," he said. "Did it shock us? Yeah it did. But I never really envisioned having to use that many, to be quite honest. I said publicly, if we need more than six we're in trouble, anyway, and obviously we were.
"That had no part of my decision to do this. [NASCAR has] to do what's best for the sport, and I understand what they were doing. We just needed 10 weeks [to prepare] more than we needed more provisionals, because that was only going to put us in races -- it wasn't going to make us a better race team.
"We needed to get the cars running faster. Would it have kept our sponsor in races? Obviously. But that hasn't pushed them away from the sport because, so to me it wasn't a big deal."
Jarrett's retirement is a big deal. He recalls the decisive moment vividly.
"It's kind of strange," he said, grinning. "I was at home, woke up at like 5:30 a.m. -- and that's not a normal time for me to be waking up -- and it was like I had been awake for a long time. It just hit me, like, you have all of these signs, this is time that you need to think about getting out of the race car and doing other things.
"I sat up, wide awake, and it was plain as day to me -- you have to start looking at this now and taking action. This wasn't a dream. This was something instilled in me that this was the time. It was so strong that I started evaluating everything and said, 'this is right, this is the time, this is the perfect opportunity for me to do this.'"
Qualifying Fridays have been brutal this year for the 1999 champion. But Sundays off haven't been so bad. The key was convincing the sponsor it was time.
"The selling point was UPS, because I'd made that [two-year] commitment," Jarrett said. "Trying to make that work was the difficult thing. I couldn't just leave them hanging."
And he won't. Jarrett is committed to appearing on UPS' behalf at sponsorship functions in 2008. And he'll appear in commercials.
UPS' 2008 commercials spots were slated to be shot next Monday-Wednesday. Now they're being rewritten to include David Reutimann.
"I've been able to see that I enjoy some of those Sundays off, whether it's being in the TV booth or playing golf or being with my kids, whatever," Jarrett said. "This is the right time."
Marty Smith covers auto racing for ESPN.com.