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Jarrett Races On, Mourns Tara Parker

September 13, 2003

LOUDON, N.H. (AP) _ Dale Jarrett and his team struggled to stay focused Friday as they mourned the death of crew chief Shawn Parker’s wife.

Tara Howell Parker, 29, and her two sisters were killed Wednesday night when the limousine they were in burst into flames in Greensboro, N.C., after being hit from behind by a pickup truck.

The Robert Yates Racing team was at New Hampshire International Speedway on Friday, where Jarrett qualified 27th for the Sylvania 300. He admitted his thoughts were elsewhere.

``We’re here because we have to be, but our thoughts are with Shawn Parker and his family,″ Jarrett said. ``It’s going to be a difficult weekend because we’re going to be thinking of them. Tara was a wonderful person who will be missed tremendously.″

Yates will share crew chief duties on the No. 88 team this weekend with Shane Callis, who assists in car setup; tire specialist Scott Elkins; and car chief Jason Burdett.

Tara Parker was well-known in the NASCAR community for heart problems she suffered. She had made it through five open-heart surgeries before doctors ultimately determined she needed a transplant. She got one in July 2001.

The Parkers had adopted a baby boy in July.

Tara Parker was returning from a Fleetwood Mac concert in Greensboro when the accident occurred Wednesday night. She had surprised her sisters with the limo ride to the concert.

Megan Elizabeth Howell, 16, and Mysti Howell Poplin, 24, both of Mocksville, N.C., also were killed. All three were passengers in the limousine.

Police said the limousine had stopped in a travel lane due to highway construction when it was struck by a pickup truck driven by Jeffrey Niles McFayden of Greensboro. The truck pushed the limousine into the car in front of it.

McFayden was charged with driving while impaired and three counts of second-degree murder. He was held in the Guilford County (N.C.) jail on an $800,000 bond after his first court appearance Friday.

The limousine driver and the driver and a passenger in the front car were not injured.

Shawn Parker joined Robert Yates Racing earlier this year with Elliott Sadler’s No. 38 team. He switched over to Jarrett’s crew chief this summer.

``It just doesn’t feel right racing up here, to be honest with you,″ Sadler said. ``It has been a tough couple of days.″

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