NASCAR

'Gentleman Jarrett' from the beginning

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Steve Byrnes

Steve Byrnes is a host and reporter for NASCAR on FOX. A broadcast veteran, he has covered racing for more than 20 years. Follow him on Twitter.

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When I was working with Ned Jarrett on the first syndicated television show strictly about NASCAR at TNN in 1986, I met his son, Dale. Ned and I were driving a panel van that had no backseat, and Dale needed a ride from the Jarrett's home in Hickory, N.C. to the Charlotte airport. I felt bad. "Altogether there's three of us and two seats," I said. "Nope, you guys are up here working," Dale said. "I'm just thrilled that you could give me a ride to the airport." To me, that kind of speaks to his humility and just the way his entire family is. Over the years, I've had the opportunity to interview Dale a couple of times in Victory Lane, but on far more occasions, I've had to interview him after he ran out of gas while leading a race or finished second at Rockingham six times in a row. By far, he's one of the most professional car drivers I've met in 22 years of covering the sport. Although there are many times he didn't want to do an interview, he always did — even when he was angry or heartbroken. That's something that a lot of today's drivers can learn from him. He represented the sport well, but what has really impressed me the most about him is how he carries himself as man. He's the same today as he was when he was hitching a ride to the airport, and I've always respected him for it.

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Ironically, Ned has said on several occasions that he tried to discourage Dale from going into racing. A lot of folks know that Dale is a great golfer, but he was a great athlete in high school, period. He played basketball, and he was the quarterback on the football team. Ned didn't want him to go into racing because he didn't want him to have to deal with the emotional heartache of losing a ride or losing a sponsor. The father remembered several Thanksgiving dinners that were pretty solemn occasions because he had to figure out how he was going to race the following year. Even through all of that, it's what Dale wanted to do, and he went after it. Dale lost a ride driving for Cale Yarborough, and he's lost sponsors. But he hung in there. If there ever was a deserving champion, it would be Dale Jarrett.


NASCAR on FOX and SPEED host and reporter Steve Byrnes has covered racing for more than 20 years.

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