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Jarrett, Rudd eye finish line
By BRANT JAMES
Published January 27, 2005
MOORESVILLE, N.C. - Dale Jarrett said he has at least two more years left in him. Ricky Rudd knows he might have only one left.
Since Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin and Terry Labonte announced retirement plans last year, fellow 40-somethings Jarrett, Rudd and Kyle Petty have become the next logical focus of speculation. Jarrett, 48, has two years left on his contract with Robert Yates Racing and said because he started his Nextel Cup career later than his contemporaries - at age 27 - he can go longer.
"It'll be a minimum of two, but probably three (years)," said Jarrett, who won the championship in 1999 and finished 15th last season.
Rudd, 47, in the final year of his contract with the Wood Brothers, hinted that unless he performed better than his 24th-place finish in the standings last year he might be out. Team executive Eddie Wood said Rudd can stay as long as he wants, but Rudd said that if he cannot win with the organization currently behind him, it might be time to consider his future.
"Physically, I feel great. I feel as good as I ever have," said Rudd, who had just three top 10s last season. "We've got the Yates motor program. We've got (crew chief Michael) " Fatback" McSwain. We've got (engineer) Hoyt Overbaugh. We've got all these good fabricators and mechanics in the shop. If we can't get it done and run up front this year, then you probably won't see me the next year."
SWITCHING SIDES: Sarah Fisher thinks the Indy Racing League has lost its way - perhaps because she feels the series clamped off her attempt at an open wheel career - so the 24-year-old has changed direction.
Fisher, who finished second in a 2001 IRL race at Homestead and was the third woman to start in the Indianapolis 500, was announced as part of Richard Childress Racing's development program on Tuesday. The three-time IRL "most popular driver" will run full time in the Grand National Division, and two Busch Series races.
Fisher's career had faltered because of a lack of opportunity and sponsorship in the IRL. She said NASCAR was now "where it's at."
"I think the biggest thing is (the IRL) had a mission statement five or six years ago," she said, "and they're not there anymore with that mission statement. ... I know that NASCAR is extremely successful at figuring out business plans and they've shown that with their history. As a company, they do business very well, very proper."
Founded as an American-based open wheel circuit, the IRL is now dominated by foreign drivers and engine manufacturers.
FRIENDLY SKIES: Tony Eury Jr. is in one lucrative frequent flier program. Cousin Dale Earnhardt Jr. promised Eury a seat on his new private jet for every race this season, plus a junket this weekend. They'll fly to Atlantic City for the Arturo Gatti- Jesse James Leija super lightweight title fight, then to California and Las Vegas.
"That's going to be pretty neat so we can fly back and forth and we can talk about what his car did and what my car did," said Eury, who had worked on Earnhardt's team before becoming crew chief for Michael Waltrip this season. FAREWELL: The Rusty's Last Call Tour, a concert and interactive show celebrating Rusty Wallace's retirement, will make a June 30 stop in Tampa. It will feature a live band, an appearance by Wallace and exhibits.