JIMMY SPENCER (No. 41 Target Dodge Intrepid R/T) "The Team Target Dodge started off with high expectations and then we missed Daytona. How could that happen? We came right back at Rockingham and ran pretty good. We made a lot of mistakes over...
JIMMY SPENCER (No. 41 Target Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"The Team Target Dodge started off with high expectations and then we missed Daytona. How could that happen? We came right back at Rockingham and ran pretty good. We made a lot of mistakes over the last collection of weeks here. We had an opportunity to win a couple of races. When you really evaluate it, it's not too bad because of a new team. We've got a bunch of new guys. We did have a bunch of information from Sterling, which has been helpful. We're 18th in the owners' points and 19th in drivers' points. It's hard to believe we missed a race and we're still that far up. Then we look and say if we didn't have a couple of major problems, the accident at Darlington when we were running third behind Tony Stewart and I forget who else, but it was a pretty bad accident. We had a terrible. We had a tire go down at Martinsville and that cost us a bunch of spots. The last two races we were kind of struggling on our own. All-in-all, we have high expectations coming into the second half of the season. Daytona is coming up and that's halfway. We still think we can win some races and be in the top 10 in points at the end of the year.
"The thing about Pocono, first of all it doesn't need to be 500 miles. Our time frame with TV is getting important because we're competing against other sports. I think the race gets boring at certain stages. It's 500 miles here, and gas mileage is a factor, handling is a big, big issue. How many times you shift, heave braking points, you turn a ton of rpm's on the front straightaway, so it's a race track that really is something you have to stay after all day long. If you try to stretch fuel mileage for one more lap and you run out, you can't make it back. So, it's a race track the crew has to deal with all day long. It's a long race. It's competitive probably for the fans, not that they can see the back straightaway, we do a lot of passing back there through the tunnel turn. Of all the tracks we go to, it's probably the only track where we use a lot of brakes, shift and still hit the speeds we have and it not be a road course. It's different.
"It's awful it's happened. It's messed up everybody. We come to a race twice a year and some just once a year and unexpected water coming out. It's been tough on the competitors and also Mr. Mattioli and his staff. I feel bad for him, but yet Sterling was up here and tested two weeks ago and they wasted a test in their opinion. From what I understand, we've had seven or eight inches of rain here in the last month and a half. I wish we had it in Charlotte, but we didn't. I think some of the blame needs to be looked at. The staff here should have understood when those guys were testing here, Rusty Wallace, Ryan Newman, Sterling, they should have listened to those guys and looked into that situation with the water seeping out, and they didn't.
"Now, it's really compounded. We lost practice yesterday. Hopefully we can get practice in today. I'm sure Mr. France is not happy.
"I think it's neat that our partner and friend most of all is leading the points. You know the guys in the shop build great race cars, and I think a lot of it reflects back to the sponsors and car owners. I've got the greatest car owner in the garage area without a question. I've got a great sponsor in Target. Right out of the box about the fifth or sixth race at Darlington we're running in the top five and have an opportunity to win. We definitely have an opportunity to win if somebody doesn't do what they do to us at Bristol, and then we have an opportunity to win at Richmond and another new guy on the block takes us out of that race. I think all-in-all we regrouped from it pretty well. Yet, the team, we've made some mistakes where Sterling hasn't made those mistakes because they've been together for so long. In our weekly meetings, we all admit the good and bad. That's what makes a good race team. I think we'll win before long. I think we can finish in the top 10 in points. Sterling leading the points, we're going to try everything in our power to make sure he stays at the top of that heap all year long. He's our teammate, and it's a one-team effort from Chip's side. Of all the people who deserve the championship, it's Felix. He's put more effort into Winston Cup racing than any car owner out there and hasn't gotten the benefit of the Winston Cup championship. Hopefully for him and Carolyn and Chip and his wife they can sit at the head table.
"I think years ago, Texas is a good example. He (Texas Motor Speedway Executive VP and GM Eddie Gossage) laughed at Dale Earnhardt and Rusty, everyone one of us who went out there. What the hell did he bring us out there for. He let us drive around his race track and we told him what was wrong with it and he said we didn't know what we were talking about. As the years progressed, especially with NASCAR, especially the biggest asset we've got is Mike Helton. They listen to us. John Darby is doing an excellent job. I think over the last two or three years, it's gotten a lot better. They've gotten to the point now where it's not just water on your back and they brush it off. They listen to what we have to say. They have really take it to heart, especially when we lost Dale Earnhardt. They got very concerned about how we could make the cars safer and the walls safer. I think the thing that Dale Earnhardt changed, I know he's dead and gone and I hope he's in heaven, but the things he's changed in the sport has made it better for everyone in the garage area. Not just the safety issues, but everything else involved. When we walk in that trailer now, we're respected. I think that NASCAR knows we're competing against other major-league sports. We're competing to keep these sponsors. We need to keep 43 cars on the race track and 43 sponsors. I think the biggest thing they've done, when you walk in and say you've got a problem, they'll listen to you. They are listening a lot more. The track promoters are listening to the drivers, too, and the fans too. Winston Cup Scene has just done an article and I know the cost of doing business for the fans, between motel rooms and food and everything else, everybody has problems, and we need to keep this sport growing the way it's been. I remember when Winston Cup Racing was nothing back in the late 70s. I came here and watched Winston Cup run. You could drive into this track about 11 o'clock in the morning and get a seat pretty easy. I don't think you'd want to try to be here around 11 o'clock Sunday morning now. NASCAR has grown a lot and I think NASCAR is doing a great job listening to the drivers and owners right now.
"The big greenhouse car is a step in the right direction. The dreaded aero push, everybody says what are you guys talking about. The people who cover this sport every week know what we're talking about. That's when we absolutely lose the front end of our race car. We tested one at Kansas City not long ago. It's the future I think that's going to make the sport even more competitive than it already is. Today if you're running really well and you get shuffled back on a bad pit stop or whatever like Jimmie Johnson did at Charlotte and you can't get back to the front, it's pretty bad. I think our sport needs to get rid of this aero deal. It becomes more of a crew and driver getting the car handling other than we've got a good aero package and we can win this race today. That's what's been happening lately.
"Dover was one of them and they did it and it's a lot better race. The Coca-Cola 600 is a 600-mile race. I think it's a long day, but it's history in the making. That race is long and we understand that. Mattioli would jump me and say Charlotte is four and a half hours long and that's true. On the other side of it, Daytona and Talladega are 500 miles and they're over in no time, three hours usually. Martinsville is 500 laps and that's about a three-hour race. I know 500 means a lot to some people, but I think the fans would see a better race at Pocono if it was a 400-mile race. The reason being, it takes about 58 seconds a lap at Pocono. Charlotte takes 30. That's a big difference. You run 200 laps at this race track and it's a minimum of 200 minutes. If you run 200 laps at Charlotte, it's 30 seconds a lap times 60 times 2, about 180 minutes maybe. I shouldn't have got in that situation. I'm not a mathematician, but you see my point.
"If I ever did TV they'd have me kicked out of there in about 30 minutes. I did ARCA last year here and I didn't think I did a good job, so I asked them if I could do it again. I'm going to do ARCA this afternoon from the pits. There's a lot of people who like me for what I say and there's a lot of people, a lot of people, that dislike me for what I say. I just feel that the truth's the truth. If we're honest, we can make a valid point or argument. At least that's why we live in America.
"We asked how they tested and they said they didn't get any practice time at all because it rained and water seeped up through the track. Tony (Glover) actually burned his hand. They were putting cones on the track and trying to dry the track where water was seeping through. I'm sure the Good Lord will let that water seep out and take care of it. Who would have expected it to rain two and a half inches Thursday. I think the track was in pretty good shape until that rain came. That really compounded the problem. I don't think he's ever had that problem here before. We got fogged out here and the deer. I had a guy run across the track one day. Kyle and I were racing and Kyle waved his hand out the window. I looked and it wasn't a streaker, but a guy ran across the race track. If one of us had hit him, that would have ruined our careers. We know we would have killed him. It would have ruined the driver's career. We've had some weird things happen at Pocono, there's no question. From water seeping through the track that's got to be the topic of the year this year. I didn't go out and look at it. I'm not an irrigation specialist. OK, I'm a mathematician. I know one thing, you don't mess around with big, heavy rocks.
"I went down to my dad's house last night. We're remodeling the house and putting some watering featuring in the front yard. I'm trying to figure out what rocks I want. I moved one that probably weighed 150-200 pounds. I got my hand behind it and move it and at the same time I slipped. It got me. It went all the way through, and it hurts pretty bad. I learned to respect them rocks.
"I was pretty good at math. I really was. So what would it be? 30 seconds times 200 laps, it would be 90 minutes.
"I don't know what the fix is. We have engineers and aero specialists at Ganassi Racing and.... It's fun to watch old Winston Cup races on TV. It's fun to watch on Speed Vision, those cars slipping around and having a good race. The aero push is something I think from rules we've got over the last two or three years on downforce. We're running coil springs in our cars that absolutely collapse because of the downforce on 'em. They try to keep the nose down, so they go and put a coilspring rule on 'em. That's an option they have. T at's another rule implemented. We don't need more rules in that respect. The 5 and 5 rule was terrible because the car had such an aero lift with the speeds we were running. It was a very poor handling car in a lot of ways. The car I tested in Kansas City, actually only had about a two and a half inch valence, so the aero was hitting on the nose. The fenders were only 71 inches wide and it was square. It was straight up and down. A Chevy looks like a snowplow coming down the race track. Fords aren't quite as bad. The Dodges and Fords are pretty close. The Pontiacs, they look like a 1953 Packard that was hit from the back. Every one of us is going to complain about the other makes. I'm driving a Dodge. I'd like to have more kick out or I'd like to have something. It's a situation we all keep wanting more and more. It's becoming such a sensitive situation when the air gets on the car and pushed the nose into the race track. That's fine when you're by yourself. Then you get behind somebody and you absolutely lose the nose. With a five-inch spoiler and a valence of four or four and a half inches, the longer we tested it, we said, 'man, I can't drive this car.' They kept working on it and we got the car pretty good. Then we started putting soft tires on it. We never ran as fast as Jeff Gordon did, but we only slowed down two tenths slower than him at the end of a long run. We were four or five tenths slower than him at the start of the run. Staying up to speed was actually closer together for us and further apart for him. What we found in the wind tunnel when it got in yaw, it actually increased rear downforce. My suggestion to that was to cut the spoiler down the width of it and make it narrower and maybe a little taller. It's not an easy fix. It's terrible what we're going through now. We understand it's going to be really bad at Indianapolis and Michigan next week. Here, you can prime your stuff and get along side of people. You're still going to have an aero push coming off these corners. The fix right now, there is no easy fix. It would be easy for us to say let's do this and this and this. Maybe let's raise the valence up, but I think that would make it that much worse. Is there a possibility for the rest of this year that maybe we could narrow the fenders up instead of what we have. We're at 76 or 77 inches. Maybe they need to take it down some. I don't know without testing. The schedule is so busy right now that we don't have time to test. I know it cost NASCAR a lot of money and all the car owners a lot of money, and then they have to get volunteers. I lost two days again to go test that car as a favor to NASCAR. The next time somebody else is going to lose two days. Our time is so valuable now and NASCAR understands it. They have to work this thing in slowly. The races have been pretty good. Dover was a good race last week. Charlotte was a good race. Mark Martin drove his $@# off. Richmond was a good race. We've had some good Winston Cup race this year. Sterling started in the rear at Las Vegas and won. Matt Kenseth, that was a great race at Rockingham. Sterling won at Darlington. Bristol was a good race.
"I think it's a fear for everybody, not just NASCAR, but for competitors, too. The bottom line is, we need to have a lot more passing and a lot more giveup in the tire. As far as a guy not pitting and putting tires on and winning the race, that's (BS). That's not the way we race. It was always was an issue where if you did it, it was a big, big risk. Last week, the Busch or Winston Cup races were won by a guy who didn't pit for tires. That really has compounded the situation that much more. I remember when Winston Cup Racing was like 20 laps to go and when you pitted you put two tires on versus four. Then it got to be where it was a pushing and shoving match on the race track. We don't have that any more. If we rub into one another, you take your chances of running good that much further away. It is a fear. Can they do something right now? They've been wind tunneling these cars as often as they can. John Darby and Gary and all those guys are looking at what they can do to make this aero push go away. Hopefully between Goodyear and them doing the engineering they can figure something out.
"There's things we like to do and one of them is sell Dodges on Monday. The fans have to think that car is pretty close to what they're buying. The Intrepid R/T, I went to the Kiser Brothers Dodge Dealership the other night and they said they were selling the heck out of Dodges, especially that Dodge Ram Tough truck. We have about 32 race cars sitting at Ganassi Racing. I don't know how many Hendrick has got or Yates, but we're talking about hundreds of race cars now. When they make these changes, they've got to try to help the cars owners not spend a ton of money. Despite this new rule, with the aero with the tall roof, it's really not that bad a fix. It's fairly easy. I think the way the nose is structured with the flap in front and 71-inch fenders, you don't have to worry about cutting the nose. When they give you a nose from Dodge, now you don't have to worry about nothing. You just bolt that baby on and let's go racing. I think that's going to be a big help. From the cowl opening to the rear spoiler, they're talking about every car being the same distance. They're all looking at it now. They're going to let the nose open and test it and see where it goes. I remember when I was signing some autographs the other night. The spoiler was only about 30 degrees on some of those old cars. Now we're complaining about 70 degrees because we want more downforce. If we only knew what we knew back then, we would have been in the same situation. We would have been pulling the fenders out. We would never race an 1800-pound right front spring. We would raced an 800 like we race today. It's all technology and engineering and stuff. These damn colleges teaching kids this stuff.
"The progress of the Winston Cup car is that we need more downforce. They've really increased it over the last two or three years. I think they caught NASCAR with their pants down so to speak. The officials that were policing this stuff didn't know what was going on and they didn't have rules or templates at that time. It really got out of hand. Then they caught on to what was going on two or three years ago. I blame it on the manufacturers. They listen to what we say. I'm going to Dodge Wednesday or Thursday and going through their engineering deal. If you give those engineers an idea, they really go after it, so we're our own worst enemies. Engineers at Chrysler, Ford and Chevy really blew out this downforce deal. We're the ones that started it. If we were racing together and I could figure out how I could beat you, I'd do whatever it took. Our Winston Cup car owners have said do whatever you need to do. We talked about that a little bit yesterday.
"Mark Martin won over a million bucks at Charlotte. The reward they got compared to the little fine they got was an embarrassment to the competitors. Now, it's going to be a lot different if somebody goes through there low. Mike Helton gave us fair warning. The traction control, from what I understand, some of them had it in this year. I think if they get caught with that, I dread it. I would dread the team that gets caught with traction control in their car. I would say they're not racing in the next 12 weeks. NASCAR and Mike Helton have to do something, and he said it in the Busch garage last Saturday and again in the Winston Cup garage last Sunday about being lower and implementing rules. Everybody said what's an eighth of an inch. We know it's not an eighth, it was probably more like three-eighths. I think the bottom line is NASCAR is the one policing these rules and NASCAR is the one implementing the rules for the aero cars and things like that. They have their table full. Their plate right now is so full it keeps falling off the sides. I wouldn't want to be in their position. I don't know how you fix this aero problem. Can you imagine being Mike Helton and listening to the phone from the Chevrolet people and Dodge people and Ford people. Then listening to the drivers complain, and then we go and say, 'Mike, I need to get these two people in the pits.'
"Mike Helton doesn't make enough money to do what he does. I feel bad for him. I feel bad for the officials because they have to police these rules and it's hard on them. There's no easy fix.
"It's been an interesting year with the rookies winning races. Ryan Newman won a great race in The Winston. Between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ryan Newman. That was awesome. I was sitting at home watching it on TV. I would loved to have been in it. Jimmie Johnson winning some races already. Matt Kenseth and Mark Martin the last week closing in on Sterling, but Sterling's not stumbling. He's having a tough time right now. He's had one top five in the last eight races, but at the end of the year, this could be the point where he wins the Winston Cup championship. When the rest of them stumble, Sterling has got the 11th, 12th, 13th place finishes, and I think that's going to be important.
"I think Team Target is going to win. We've been hot and cold. Rookies, 67 guys over 45 have won out of 1960 races. I'm 45, and they're not really rookies. They have got this wealth of information, cars from their teammates last year. They have this book. Wouldn't it be neat to put your name on it and say you wrote this book? I like James Patterson. I like the way he writes. I could put James Spencer on it and reap all the rewards because he wrote the book but I'm accepting the pages. Winston Cup is no different. These guys have got these books over the last couple of years. The crews and engineers have accumulated the books, and these guys just step right in to this thing. Just look at the wealth of knowledge these guys have received. They're not rookie teams by any means in regards to our sport. These crew members have worked so hard and those are the guys who deserve the credit for these rookies running good. That's the big thing the NASCAR series has done over the last couple of years. Our wealth of knowledge has really grown to where we've documented everything. I think it's good bringing new fans in. It's helped racing tremendously. It's going to keep growing. Everybody says it's getting stagnant. It's not. We're going to have a couple of bad races ever so often. We can't not have that, but then again, Tiger Woods wants a 10-stroke lead going into the final round. The people aren't going to watch that tournament. It's never going to happen like that in Winston Cup racing. You can turn on the TV and you have no clue who's going to win. Engines blow up in the later stages of the races, guys hit the wall cutting tires down. That's what makes Winston Cup so special over other sports."