MOORESVILLE, N.C. (July 23, 2003) -- These are the kinds of weeks that call for an adult dosage of Aspirin. Yet the people at Ultra Motorsports press on more focused than ever, undeterred by the announcement that a search for sponsorship has...
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (July 23, 2003) -- These are the kinds of weeks that call for an adult dosage of Aspirin. Yet the people at Ultra Motorsports press on more focused than ever, undeterred by the announcement that a search for sponsorship has begun. Why? Because crew chief Tommy Baldwin expects no less.
The hiring of Baldwin late last year brought a distinct sense of confidence to an organization that had very little to go around. He brought his desire to achieve the impossible, determined to make a contender out of a team that didn't finish in the top 10 all last season. He brought his strong sense of perspective, understanding that no new team goes through a 36-race schedule without bumps, bruises and battered egos. He brought his sense of pride, routinely reiterating what a privilege it is to work for Jim Smith, a man who races anything that has wheels and some things that don't.
So don't expect to see sulky, puppy dog faces at the Dog Pound this week or any hereafter. This is just one more bump in a road that Baldwin, Smith and driver Jimmy Spencer have been smoothing for months now. Team SIRIUS has finished in the top 15 in two of its last three races, and it is approaching a handful of tracks Spencer considers some of his favorites. Another top 15 at Pocono this weekend in the Pennsylvania 500 (12:30 p.m. EDT on TNT) would continue a hefty momentum swing that started with the Pepsi 400 (July 5) at Daytona. And as Baldwin reminded everyone in a team meeting Monday morning, if the performances are there, the sponsors will follow.
Team SIRIUS driver Jimmy Spencer's thoughts:
On Ultra Motorsports' current and future sponsorship opportunities:
"SIRIUS is a great sponsor, and I am going to work as hard as I can for them while their big dog is on our car. I still wear the Sirius uniform, and I'm proud of Sirius satellite radios. I still have them in my vehicles, and I will continue to support them. The thing we have to do as a race team is get our race cars to handle properly and work with our motor department to make our cars better every week and get some top-10 finishes. We felt like we were a top-10 team early in the season, but we stumbled. Now we feel like we can get back to that point. So that's what we are going to do at Pocono and the rest of the year, and we will let our car owner and marketing people worry about finding a sponsor. We are confident we'll get one, and we feel like we can put them in the winners circle."
On the level of optimism for the rest of the season:
"Obviously we can't win the championship, and I don't think there are too many people who can with the year Matt Kenseth is having. But I feel like we're getting better. Lately we have just been behind the eight ball on a lot of decisions we have made. Our fuel mileage has been terrible the last few weeks, and we feel our engine program is not where it needs to be. But we're not given up. At times we have had the best car on Sunday, but the best car doesn't always get the top-five finishes all the time. But the crew has really turned the corner as far as I am concerned. They are really positive and their attitude is positive, and we feel like we can really win a race coming to some really strong tracks. We had a decent test at Indy, a strong run at Richmond, and had really good runs at Bristol and Darlington. We're excited about going back to a lot of those tracks in the coming weeks."
"Pocono is special. I've been there since the first race they ever started with the Indy cars and Mark Donahue and AJ Foyt and those guys. The Mattiolis are great people and he (Joe Mattioli) keeps updating the facility every year. But I think it needs to be a 400-mile race, which in turn will be a lot better for the TV audience and for the drivers who can get a little more aggressive. We know at Pocono it's a lot harder on the transmissions and motors because the straight-aways are so different. We turn so many RPMs on the long straightaway and not so much on the back, so that is why you start shifting. It's a hard racetrack, but there is a lot of passing going on every lap and it's the only track that has a tunnel turn. That really means something. I guess every track has a tunnel now but its always been known at Pocono that the tunnel turn is the tricky part of the racetrack. To me its one of the most critical parts of the track and you work hard on it everyday to try and get as fast as you can off the tunnel turn because that's where a lot of passing is done."
On engines at Pocono:
"I think Mike Ege is working hard right now. I think the direction we were going was for big power numbers, and our motors aren't accelerating like they should. Mike is working on that now. We have plenty of horsepower but we don't have the acceleration factor that is necessary, and as we speak Mike is working hard. I wouldn't trade him for anything. I think the world of Mike Ege and the whole group. We have only had one engine failure this whole year. We have good power, we just need more acceleration to help the car get up off the corner."
On returning home to Pennsylvania:
"I can't wait to stop and get my famous Texas hot dog while I am down there at Harry's Texas Lunch, and then go see Coach Curry (head football coach at Berwick High School.) I went to high school there and I have a big golf tournament there on Thursday (July 24th at Edgewood In The Pines Golf Course in Drums, Pa.) to raise money. I have a lot of celebrities and drivers coming. We are going to raise a lot of money so we are looking forward to that. That's going to be a neat deal. It's special to go back to Pennsylvania. Its good to go back and see the Mattiolis and go back to Pocono again."