ESPN’s booth analyst for NASCAR coverage, Dale Jarrett was the 1999 NASCAR Cup champion and one of the founding drivers of the NASCAR Nationwide Series. The three-time Daytona 500 winner made his television debut in 2007 as an analyst on select ESPN telecasts. He retired from driving five races into the 2008 season and became ESPN’s lead NASCAR analyst.
Jarrett retired with 32 NASCAR Sprint Cup and 11 NASCAR Nationwide Series wins. He was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame in 2011 as well as his homestate North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. In 2013, he was nominated for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Jarrett got a late start in racing, according to today’s standards. When he began racing at the age of 20, he quickly proved to be a threat behind the wheel. A talented high school athlete, Jarrett was offered a golf scholarship to the University of South Carolina, but chose the path of his father, two-time NASCAR champion Ned Jarrett, as a NASCAR driver.
Working on cars with friends, Jarrett first got behind the wheel at Hickory Motor Speedway and in a few short years, was on his way to the top. In 1982, Jarrett became one of the charter drivers of the new NASCAR Nationwide (formerly Busch) Series by competing all season in the new series and finishing sixth in points. In 1984, while still a fulltime Nationwide Series driver, Jarrett made his NASCAR Cup debut at Martinsville Speedway and finished 14th. Jarrett got his first career Nationwide Series win in August 1986 at the Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, N.C. He ran his last full NASCAR Nationwide Series season in 1987 and in the same year, participated in 24 of 29 NASCAR Cup races.
August 1991 marked Jarrett’s first Cup victory at Michigan International Speedway in a car owned by the famed Wood Brothers and he won his first Daytona 500 in 1993 in his second year with Joe Gibbs Racing. In 1995, he joined Robert Yates Racing and won his second Daytona 500 the following year. In 1997, he won a personal-best seven races and finished second in the Cup driver standings, and in 1999 won his first NASCAR Cup title. He won his third Daytona 500 in 2000.
Jarrett and his father – who worked for ESPN from 1988 to 2000 as an auto racing analyst and is in the NASCAR Hall of Fame – are just the second father-son combo to win Cup titles. (Lee and Richard Petty also did it.)
From 1996 to 2001, Jarrett finished in the top five in points, and was ninth in 2002. He has four wins each at Daytona and Michigan, and his three victories in the Daytona 500 ties him for third all time with Bobby Allison and Jeff Gordon.
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