CONCORD, N.C. - Bill Wilburn will attempt to do what four other crew chiefs couldn't: Get Dale Jarrett back up to speed.
Wilburn joined Jarrett's team this week on an interim basis to replace Mike Ford, who resigned earlier this week.
"He left. He came in Monday morning, sat down with Robert (Yates, car owner) and Eddie D'Hondt (general manager) and said that he was leaving," Jarrett said. "That's all I know. I have not talked to him. I wish him the best at whatever it is that will make him happy, and move forward."
In the past two years, Brad Parrott, Shawn Parker, Jimmy Elledge and Ford have tried to get Jarrett, the 1999 series champion, on the right track. Going into tonight's Nextel All-Star Challenge at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Jarrett has only three wins in the past 3 years.
Wilburn worked as Rusty Wallace's crew chief before leaving a year ago. He recently worked for Brendan Gaughan's truck team before being fired last week.
"This is a big opportunity for me, personally, and a chance to do some things that I hope will be good in this sport as far as the team goes," Wilburn said. "This is a great organization, Robert Yates Racing, and Robert, Eddie and all the people involved there have given me an opportunity to come here and have a chance to be a crew chief again, which is something I really wanted to do after I left Penske.
"I'm looking forward to the opportunity, and this means a great deal to me, personally."
Jarrett said Ford decided to leave because he wasn't happy that his team was going in a different direction of his teammate, Elliott Sadler.
"Obviously, the performance shows, no, we weren't where we wanted to be, but didn't know how desperate that situation was," he said. "I think the biggest thing I can say about the whole thing is our two race teams were moving in totally opposite directions. ... It's not that the race cars have to be exactly the same, but for an operation and organization to work properly, and to benefit from each other, you need things to stay as close as they can, as far as aerodynamics and chassis components, and we weren't doing that. So, that's something we definitely have to get back to starting this weekend."
Wilburn clearly has that message.
"I think the biggest thing that Yates Racing wants to do is pull this team together and get in line with what the 38 (Sadler) is doing so that we can compare apples to apples, and work together as a team and definitely get this thing back in the top 10," he said.
OPERATING IN GRAY AREA: Since tonight's all-star race won't count toward the series championship, some teams might be tempted to test the rule book.
"There are some areas you can work in, but not a lot because everything is pretty limited as far as rules go," said car owner Ray Evernham.
In 1997, Evernham, then Jeff Gordon's crew chief, brought a specialty-built Chevrolet that had ground effects under it to provide better traction. While all the tricked-up parts were legal, NASCAR officials warned the team to never bring it to the racetrack again after the victory. The rule book then was changed to prohibit some of the creative parts.
"The car was just very different than the other cars in the garage area," Evernham said.
Crew chief Tommy Baldwin said the new rule book - and the threat of fines - make it more difficult to cheat.
"You can try some trick stuff, but the fines if you get caught are a lot more than they used to be," he said.
PIT STOP: Kasey Kahne's crew won the Nextel Pit Stop Challenge on Thursday night at Charlotte Coliseum. The seven-man over-the-wall crew split $70,000 after changing four tires in 16.14 seconds.
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