Jarrett, Parrott make up for lost time
Todd Parrott didn't want to give himself too much credit, but he couldn't resist making one bold prediction for Robert Yates.
After the Yates Racing organization decided to reunite Parrott with struggling driver Dale Jarrett, for whom Parrott was crew chief through many victories and even one championship (1999), Parrott told Yates that he, Jarrett and the No. 88 crew would take Yates' Ford to Victory Lane before the year was finished.
"I just didn't know it was going to happen this quick, a beaming Parrott said, less than two weeks after making his prediction. "Me and [Jarrett] have worked a lot of magic together, and we're not done."
From the way things looked Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, that's another of Parrott's predictions that'll likely come true.
"A lot of the credit goes to Todd," Jarrett said. "This car was being built before Todd became the crew chief with our team, but it was being built to the specifications that he [in his other capacities with RYR] built [teammate] Elliott [Sadler's] car here the first race, so it was a copy of that. So he had a lot to do with that and made a lot of great calls in the pits [today] as far as when to get two and four tires and to get me in the right position at the end."
Jarrett was in precisely the right position at the end -- even if he didn't immediately know it. When a caution came out and set up a green-white-checkered finish, Jarrett was a bit disheartened to discover he would restart fourth. Unsure about their chances of making it to the front to take the checkered flag, Jarrett and Co. focused on mustering a strong finish.
"On the restart I kind of made a deal to go with Tony [Stewart]," Jarrett said. "I know he's racing for a championship there and being in fourth I wasn't sure what kind of chance I would get, but I thought if I could go with him "
Jarrett never finished that sentence, but you can be certain it wasn't to conclude with any thoughts of visiting Victory Lane.
When the green flag fell to signal the restart of the race, Jarrett got a bad jump and picked a bad line. As a result, he fell too far behind Stewart to give him a push. As the cars circled around Talladega's 2.66-mile tri-oval, Jarrett said he got a push and was far enough along that when Stewart made a move to the outside of Ryan Newman he was able to pull up to the bumper of Stewart's No. 20 Chevy and nose him by Newman.
Then, Stewart dove to the inside of fellow Chase contender Matt Kenseth's No. 17 Ford and Jarrett stayed put.
"I couldn't make that move," he said.
But with yet another Chase contender, Carl Edwards, pushing him, Jarrett was able to get to the outside of the No. 17, slip by and finally jump out in front of Stewart.
"It's just incredible," Jarrett said.
"Coming off of turn 4 to get the white flag I don't know that I felt like that I was in a position to win," he continued. " As I came down the straightaway it was just an incredible feeling."
Jarrett said the surprise of visiting Victory Lane wasn't the only thing that made his first win since 2003 so special. Two other things weighed heavy on his mind.
"When you get to this point of your career," he said, "you're not exactly sure when that last victory is going to be there. So you learn to cherish each one."
Especially, Jarrett said, one with an old friend.
Much has been reported about the break-up between Jarrett and Parrott. Jarrett insists that it wasn't a nasty parting, but rather a mutual decision to explore other avenues. Other avenues having been explored, Jarrett says he feels lucky to have his old race-caller back on top of the pit box.
"Driver-crew chief relationships, if you get six good years, then that's pretty good," Jarrett said. "That's longer than a lot of marriages last and we had a lot of success there, but we left as friends. We accomplished a lot in our six- or seven-year period there, [but] we just had a lot of things going on within the organization. But we do have a huge amount of respect for each other and Todd has brought back a leadership that we haven't seen since he left."
He's brought back a swagger, too, that has everyone with the No. 88 predicting success.
Rupen Fofaria is a freelance writer living in Chicago and a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.