Car number: 44 • Manufacturer: Toyota • Sponsor: UPS
Owner: Michael Waltrip
• Team: Michael Waltrip Racing
• Crew Chief: Matt Borland
Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images
Final Points Standing
After First 26 Races
Lead Lap Finishes
2007 Spin Dale Jarrett is hands-down the best driver on Toyota's roster. The former Winston Cup champion will attempt to start anew after 12 years in the Robert Yates Racing fold, having boxed up his sponsor and shipped out to Michael Waltrip's start-up team.
While the task appears to be a daunting one, there is a silver lining.
One, MWR is Toyota's factory-backed team. There is a ton of money being poured in to make this venture successful.
Two, MWR scored big when it lured Matt Borland away from Penske Racing South. The former crew chief for Ryan Newman is as good as they come - as evidenced by the fact that Newman did not want to see him go. Borland's well-chronicled engineering expertise will be an asset Jarrett has never enjoyed in the past.
Third, DJ has the support from longtime sponsor UPS. They bucked the recent trend among sponsors to drop the old guy and go after the next big thing. UPS followed Jarrett to a first-year team. That's loyalty.
Jarrett also possesses a Past Champion's Provisional. In the absence of a spot in the top 35 in Owner's Points, this is the sport's ultimate trump card. And finally, reports say he is being paid $20 million dollars to drive for two seasons for MWR and Toyota. He'd probably have driven for two additional seasons anyway. Might as well maximize your earnings potential.
It's hard to predict results here. While DJ is a champion, which says something, he's no spring chicken. We feel he still has the desire, but now he also has a fat, fat contract. Also, MWR is a start-up team but is raking in plenty of bounty from Toyota. A conservative estimate: A couple top 5 and top 10 runs. A win is stretching it.
2006 Recap Dale Jarrett ended his 12-year association with Robert Yates Racing at the conclusion of the 2006 season. During that time the No. 88 team enjoyed tremendous success. A 1999 Winston Cup title, 29 wins - including the '96 Daytona 500 and the '99 Brickyard 400 - and 138 top 5 finishes.
It looked as if DJ was going to add to those stats as 2006 kicked off. He had a top 10 run at Daytona and was sitting ninth in the point standings through four races.
Unbeknownst to Jarrett, that would be as high as he'd get in the standings for the remainder of the year. In the 32 races that followed, he would only lead eight laps, and have just one top 5 and two top 10s.
Although the season was a wash, Jarrett handled the situation as one would expect - with class, never lashing out at Yates or RYR in the media.
We'll miss DJ in that big No. 88.
• The Good: Using smart pit strategy, Dale Jarrett and crew took a 20th-place car and drove it home fourth at Kansas for their best finish of the season.
• The Bad: DJ had nine finishes of 30th or worse. Most of the issues were mechanical or wreck-related, but there were afternoons when he rolled off so bad it seemed he started the race a lap down.
• The Ugly: Jarrett and his first-time spotter had problems communicating in the Coke 600. The result: A mangled racecar before one lap was ever completed.