JIMMY SPENCER (No. 41 Target Dodge Intrepid R/T) NOTE: Spencer, a 45-year-old driver from Berwick, Pa., scored a season-best second-place finish in March at Bristol Motor Speedway. Spencer talks about the possibility of breaking his 259-race ...
JIMMY SPENCER (No. 41 Target Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Spencer, a 45-year-old driver from Berwick, Pa., scored a season-best second-place finish in March at Bristol Motor Speedway. Spencer talks about the possibility of breaking his 259-race winless streak under the lights Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.
"We had a really good car there in the spring. We were struggling in practice and had a little meeting with Tony and Andy. We talked about the thing that was making us better qualifying, and we actually qualified pretty good (fourth). Then in the race the same thing happened. We were running real good in the race. I feel like the 24 had one of the best cars, and he got in an accident. I felt like we were one of the better cars then. I felt like we were one of the better cars right off the bat, but there's some stiff competition out there.
"We got bumped and ended up finishing second, but that's part of Bristol. Those things can happen. I've got a lot of seconds there. I've got a lot of top fives there. I'm looking forward to it. I've always run well at Bristol. I guess it's a track that fits my style. You can't get caught sleeping there. You've got to stay on top of it all the time and drive it.
"I've always got pumped up for the night race. It's real hot, but there's something about that night race at Bristol. The fans and the lights, to walk out there across that stage and see that crowd of people and the noise. It's just a happening at Bristol. I don't think it's the best track we go to by any means, yet it's the atmosphere. The mental attitude you take because of the excitement of the fans and being real close to the fans. It definitely has the atmosphere of a college ball game where you've got the fans cheering. We have 43 teams there, and it's something a lot of fans look forward to. They've been coming for years and a lot people want to come to the race, but it's sold out. There's always something happening at Bristol, no matter what turn you're in. There's not many tracks that can say that. Bristol is one that can because there's always something happening.
"I think I've done well at Bristol because of that (controlling temper). A lot of times you say, 'he shouldn't have hit me. I'm going to retaliate and take him out.' You always have a chance of taking yourself out, too, if you do that. When you put 43 cars out there you can't focus on one or two cars that bump you. Everybody is going to bump you during the night. It's normal at Bristol. The people who can stay focused on what they do will have a good night there. I always seem to do well there.
"I feel like I should have won the race there in March. I got pushed out of the way so a guy could win the race. The thing that bothers me about the whole deal is that I didn't bump the car that I passed to take the lead. There's been a lot of fault with that particular car with a lot of drivers in the garage area, not just me. I think NASCAR is addressing it the way it should be addressed and the drivers are, too. They're leaving it in NASCAR's hands. You just don't go out there and spin people out deliberately. He did it. At Charlotte he spun out Robby Gordon for no reason and admitted it. You just don't do stuff like that. He'll learn. Without question NASCAR will send him to the principal's office more than once.
"You have to know why you got roughed up. Were you holding a guy up deliberately? Did you make a mistake? You have to know as a driver if you made a mistake and that's why the guy bumps you. Guys don't go out there with full intentions of bumping and knocking their way to the front. I don't think anybody in the garage has that driving attitude. You've got to ask yourself, 'why did Jeff Gordon bump me?' I've bumped Jeff and I've bumped Sterling. You've got to say you made a mistake and that's why you got bumped. Jeff Gordon is no different. Gordon says to himself that he made a little mistake and that's why he got bumped. That's why he's a championship driver. To me, I think if you just keep after your own car, talk to your own crew, focus on what your car is doing, you'll be ahead of the game. Track position is so critical. It's so hard to pass, yet we're seeing a lot of passing done because a lot of guys are pitting and putting tires on and their cars aren't handling quite as good. Then they put two tires on and they come back through there. It's a track that's worse than any track we go to to test your temper.
"I'm not a fan of concrete tracks. I think Bristol was one of the first concrete tracks. I guess it had something to do with the banking. I think Goodyear has done a really good job there over the years with tires. I don't think the concrete is forgiving as asphalt racetracks. I don't think concrete is the answer. It works fairly good at Bristol, but it's still not the Bristol of old. When it was asphalt you could really race at Bristol.. You could race two or three wide and on a half-mile track that's unheard of. It's hard to race at Bristol with the concrete and tires and conditions we run under. It puts that much more emphasis on the car handling good and the tempers not flaring.
"Earnhardt and I had some good races at Bristol. It actually started at South Boston in the Busch Series years ago. We were coming through the field and we got together at South Boston. We were coming through the field again at Bristol one night. We were parked next to each other. I was driving the Lowe's 87 and he was driving the Goodwrench 3. We were racing each other hard. I loved to race Dale Earnhardt. That night, NASCAR thought we were getting out of hand. We ended up finishing third and fourth. I think I beat him. We both got called into the trailer after the race. It went on to the next day, and they called us in. It was fun. We didn't jeopardize anyone else, but NASCAR didn't like what they saw. We agreed with them, but we did race hard. Earnhardt spun me out there one time. It was a deal where I was a little slow through the apex of the turn and he just got a run at me and bumped me. We both spun out. I felt like it cost both of us a shot at winning. I think he thought I was going to get out of the way and I didn't and it crashed both cars. We talked about it, and I miss things like that. I miss Dale Earnhardt a lot. A lot of don't like encountering people. They don't want to race to the point.... A lot of guys just want to move out of your way. I don't think that's racing. I think racing is when you get underneath a guy, that guy will race you back. A lot of guys when you get underneath them, they just roll out of the throttle and let you go. Earnhardt never would. He was race you until there was no more fight in him. That's something I miss about him.
"I think Tony Stewart races that way, and a lot of people don't like Tony Stewart. I think Tony is a hell of a racer. Ryan Newman has stepped up to the table and I like it. I like the idea of being able to race people.
"I think I've learned a lot through the years. I think I've learned how you're supposed to race in certain situations. I don't think I was treated right at Bristol. I don't know what saved the car, but it was crashed. He didn't hit me once. He hit me twice. Then we came right back to Richmond and Jimmie Johnson got me leading the race at Richmond. I look at that and it cost me a shot at winning two races this year. Maybe if drivers with a little more experience in these cars had been in those situations, those things wouldn't have happened. It's part of growing up. I went through those stages, but it's tough some times.
"I know I can still win races. Today the sport is so competitive. I don't care what you're driving, it's about team chemistry - the driver having confidence in the crew and the crew having confidence in the driver. That's the thing I think you need more than anything.
"I don't think Bristol is our best chance to win. I think we run good at a lot of race tracks. We've run well this year at Darlington, Las Vegas, Richmond, Charlotte. Sterling won Charlotte last fall. I think this team has been in some tough situations. We missed the Daytona 500. We started running good after Daytona and then got off track a little bit. We stumbled, lost confidence in each other or something, but whatever we did we got sidetracked.
"Lots of people were asking last week (at Watkins Glen) what was going on. I think he (Chip Ganassi) did the right thing. The 41 car finished good. I know I could have qualified. I've never missed a race at Watkins Glen before. The transmission went out in the first corner. I missed the race. I don't miss the race if it don't go out. I still think this team can win at a lot of tracks, but the first thing we've got to do is get back where we were banging out the top 10s and top fives. I'm looking forward to Bristol. I think we've got a top 10 car, and that's what we've got to do right now. We've got to start building this team for next year. That starts at Bristol, Richmond trying to get top 10s. To say you're going to a race and try to win cold turkey, I think you've got to be a top 10 car before you can win.
"I led one night at Bristol for 200 and something laps and the throttle linkage broke. I had everybody lapped except the fifth-place car. Travis Carter told me not to lap the guy, and he goes on and wins the race. I never look back. I had Rockingham won one year going away and Earnhardt wasn't even a factor that day. He bumps Bobby Hamilton. He ends up winning the race. My fan belts twisted and spun off the car. I was two to three tenths quicker than any car on the track. Racing is funny. You never know what's going to happen. You can't look back and say I should have done this or I should have done that. You look back as a team and see what you did wrong. You don't need to do it again. Then you look at what you did right. You can go back to Bristol and blow up on the first lap or get caught up in an accident on the first lap. You can't look back and say the track owes you something. You've got to approach Bristol with the attitude that if you can run in the top 10, you've had a good day. Then after the first half of the race and you've got a top10 car, you asked yourself what you can do to the car to make it a winner. There are so many variables to go through. You can change tires and the car goes away. I've gone to Bristol every year knowing that if I do my job right we should have a good night. I love Richmond, too. I've run well there. You just don't go in with the attitude that something happened to you last time so the track owes you something. I'm going to Bristol with the attitude that we'll see what we've got in practice, see what we have in qualifying and then if you do your job right, I think you'll have a chance to do well there."