Times are rough? Puh-leeese MOORESVILLE, N.C. (March 6, 2003) - The stock market is hurting, a war is pending, and the terror alert has glossed every color on the rainbow. Mr. Rogers is gone, tax season is here, and Six Flags over Georgia...
Times are rough? Puh-leeese
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (March 6, 2003) - The stock market is hurting, a war is pending, and the terror alert has glossed every color on the rainbow. Mr. Rogers is gone, tax season is here, and Six Flags over Georgia is still a week away from opening its gates - which, by the way, when it does open will leave you standing in line long enough to watch a bare naked Chia Pet grow to shrubbery.
Somehow, none of this matters to Ultra Motorsports owner Jim Smith, because he's as chipper as Opie Taylor at a fishing hole, even when the world is miles away from Mayberry. The reasoning is all pretty simple. Smith has watched his No. 7 Dodge Intrepid notch its first top 20 in 14 races, he has witnessed his revamped team jell quicker than Pudding Pops, and he has realized the big, black dog on the hood of his race car is quickly becoming a NASCAR fan's best friend.
Times are rough? Puh-leeese. The only thing that would make life better for Smith is to land a top-10 finish this weekend in the Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 (12:30 p.m. EDT on FOX) at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Truth knows they've been close. Driver Jimmy Spencer had the SIRIUS Dodge in seventh place a week ago with 90 laps to go in the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 before an accident derailed a sure top-10 and a possible top-five. He still finished 17th.
Smith's "Dog Pound" will run the same car at Atlanta that it used last week in Vegas. Whether it will perform as well is still up in the air. Lest we forget, this is still essentially a brand new team. It just happens to be one that is having a heck of a good time right now with its driver, its crew chief, and certainly its owner. Racing was never supposed to be this much fun.
Team owner Jim Smith's thoughts --
Spencer said in a TV interview the other night there isn't an owner in the garage happier than Jim Smith, and we haven't even finished in the top 10 yet. Is that true?
"I don't think there's any question that I'm the happiest owner in the garage. It's no secret I've been running in the back the past few years, and that doesn't set well with me. I've always had a winning attitude. In the last two weeks I've seen my car pass more cars than it did all last year. There's no question that we've got first-class people now. I know by the way we ran in the first couple of races that we're going to contend for some wins this year."
Are you ever cautious of getting too optimistic, especially with it being so early in the season?
"Well, I know it takes time. But the last couple of weeks have shown me that we've built some pretty good race cars, and Dodge has given us a tremendous amount of wind tunnel time. Another thing is everybody had to start over this year. Every team had to build new cars. There's still a lot to be done in getting the chemistry between Tommy and Jimmy where it needs to be. They've got to get to a point where if Jimmy says it's loose, then Tommy knows exactly how to fix it. What is loose and what is tight? If it's loose, then define that into big loose or small loose - that kind of stuff. But I look at them right now, and I see that it's clicking. I've been in enough businesses and enough race teams to know it's all about people. As long as you've got everyone pushing the wagon, it will be successful."
What impresses you most about Jimmy?
"His attitude, and his tenacity. He reminds me of myself when I used to desert race. You always had these young kids out there, but the old guys could always get the job done."
How many times did you win the Baja races?
I ran the Baja 2000 only once, and won it. I won the Baja 1000 four times."
What impresses you most about Tommy?
"He's very good with people. He handles people well. He has a keen eye for what the car is doing on the race track. He observes better than most any crew chief I've ever been around. He knows adjustments. Take last week at Las Vegas for example: the adjustment he wanted to make on the car couldn't be made on a pit stop, so he did the best with what he had. He took some chances, tried to make the car better as the race progressed, and came out with a good finish. That's advancing."
Now the tough question: Everyone feels the dog on the hood should have a name. Do you have any suggestions on what it should be called?
"I tell ya, somebody mentioned the name D.J. awhile back, because it fits well with SIRIUS and the whole radio business. Those are also the initials of my father, who I think a lot of. I would have to vote for D.J. - because of my father and because it goes along with a radio disc jockey."
You know with all the world issues going on right now, you really shouldn't be having this much fun. Does this even feel like work to you?
"No it doesn't. I'll tell you something: it isn't a job when you're having fun. It's no secret that every NASCAR Winston Cup team spends a tremendous amount of time and hours working on their cars, but when you're in a zone like we are, you work longer and harder, but it never feels like it."
What is your answer to those who think you're taking a knife to a gun fight?
"I never take a knife to a gun fight. I take a machine gun to a knife fight. I just don't let you know it."
Of these three guys, which one would you choose to go to war with: Spencer, Baldwin, or SIRIUS president Joe Clayton?
"I would take Joe Clayton in a heartbeat. He'd talk our way out of it. He'd convince them to lay down their arms and come with us, and they'd probably end up buying a SIRIUS Satellite Radio in the meantime."
About SIRIUS --
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