FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- Dale Jarrett is happy to be back in Texas.The former season champ is off to a slow start this year but eager for Sunday's
Samsung/RadioShack 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, where he won in 2001 and came in second two other times.
"This could be a place where we could come back to make up some ground," said Jarrett, who is 22nd in Nextel Cup points.
Jarrett is the only driver to have led in all seven races at the track. And he has led for a total of 407 laps at Texas, more than any other
"I enjoy the track," he said. "Having a good race car is first and foremost. It helps to get out here early and practice too. I think part of it is
the track plays into what we do best: aero (dynamics) and horsepower."
History isn't entirely on Jarrett's side, though. For some reason, he fares best at the speedway in odd-numbered years. His best finish in an even
year was 11th in 1998.
"It doesn't matter to me," he said. "I actually feel better about this year than I felt about last year."
Jarrett finished 13th last year and led for just one lap.
Not a rookie in Texas
Nextel Cup rookie Brendan Gaughan is making his first Nextel Cup appearance at Texas Motor Speedway in Sunday's race. The track, however, is hardly
new to him.
Gaughan won four straight NASCAR Craftsman Series truck races at TMS and finished second in his only other truck race there.
"I do have maybe a little bit more of a swagger when I come into Texas; we do have a great history," he said.
Gaughan is still adjusting to Nextel Cup racing -- he is 26th in points with no top 10 finishes. But the longer races haven't been hard for Gaughan,
who played basketball with Allen Iverson at Georgetown.
"All of these drivers are athletes, but with some of the athletic stuff I've done and some of the gentlemen I've had a chance to work with in my life,
I've always felt that the fourth quarter was an advantage for me," he said.
For all his familiarity with TMS, Gaughan and the other racers know he's still a rookie.
"They don't ask me for advice," he said. "They know I'm too dumb to know how to get around this place anyway."
Track's great, unless you're driving
Count Evernham Motorsports president Ray Evernham among those who want to add another Nextel Cup race date at Texas Motor Speedway.
That is, if TMS can find a way to ease traffic when more than 200,000 people pour into the track on race day.
"I like the race track, and I love the people," he said. "The money's great, but they've got to fix the roads around here. You can't get in and out.
I'd come here five times a year if Eddie Gossage and those guys would just make it so the people could get in and out."
There's only one major interstate near the track, and the smaller freeways are notoriously backed up.
Bill Elliott had the fastest practice speed Saturday, hitting 187.767 mph in the morning session, ahead of Greg Biffle and Casey Mears. Jeremy
Mayfield had the top speed in the afternoon practice at 186.483 mph. Dave Blaney was second and Elliott Sadler third. ... Ford has won four Nextel Cup
races at TMS, Chevrolet has won two and Dodge one. ... The Texas Motor Speedway has brought more than $2 billion into the North Texas economy,
according to a new economic impact study. That's much higher than officials expected, Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief said. The track opened in 1996.
... Texas basketball coach Rick Barnes is attending Sunday's race as a guest of Dale Jarrett. Both are from Hickory, N.C. ... Texas is the second of
21 races this season for Race Fans for a Cure, a charitable initiative that benefits the Dallas-based Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. The
program has generated $1 million in donations since 1998.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved.