HUNTERSVILLE – Dale Jarrett entered the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Jan. 29 as one of the sport’s greatest late bloomers, having won the Sprint Cup Series championship at age 42 in 1999.

However, his three seasons with Joe Gibbs Racing not only put Jarrett on track for a hall-of-fame career, but also proved pivotal for the fledgling Huntersville-based race team.

Jarrett joined JGR in 1992. His brother-in-law, Jimmy Makar, was his crew chief.

“Over the course of those first couple of seasons, we were really hoping for something special to help validate the work we were doing – especially to our sponsors,” Gibbs said.

Jarrett’s win in the Daytona 500  – the sport’s biggest race – in 1993 marked JGR’s first victory in Sprint Cup. Since then, the team has won three Sprint Cup championships.

“The win really established us in the sport, and we owe a lot to Dale,” Gibbs said.