JIMMY SPENCER (No. 7 Sirius Satellite Radio Dodge Intrepid) NOTE: Spencer will start fifth in Sunday's Bass Pro Shops MNBA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The 45-year-old Berwick, Pa., native was the guest of the Winston Breakfast Club Saturday...
JIMMY SPENCER (No. 7 Sirius Satellite Radio Dodge Intrepid)
NOTE: Spencer will start fifth in Sunday's Bass Pro Shops MNBA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The 45-year-old Berwick, Pa., native was the guest of the Winston Breakfast Club Saturday at AMS. He'll make career start No. 408 on Sunday, attempting to break a winless streak of 275 races.
"We come together pretty quickly. Tommy Baldwin (Ultra Motorsports crew chief) has put a bunch of good guys there. We feel like we've had three top 15 finishes, actually maybe two top 10s. We've had some problems. The pit crew is impressive, very, very fast. I'm impressed how we have in less than a month how quickly we've got a good relationship rolling. That's what you need. If you can't get along with your people, if they don't believe in you and you don't believe in them, I'll guarantee you that's the quickest way to failure there is. Jimmy Smith (car owner) has been doing this a long time, a lot longer than people realize. He's been very successful with the trucks. He was an off-road racer. A lot of people don't know that D.J. (his dad) and Jimmy were associated with Junior Johnson years ago and just loved racing. To have Sirius on board is a pretty neat deal.
"Sirius is a new company. It's a start up company. The way the economy has been, we all know how hard it is for anybody to make it anymore. We feel like Sirius is doing a pretty neat job. You can listen to music, news, anything you want on the radio commercial free. That's pretty neat. I drove to Atlanta, my buddy and I. I just wanted to ride down with him. Maybe you could hear 15 minutes of music an hour if you listened to one radio station. We've got Sirius on board, and we're going to try to help them as much as we can.
"Earlier in the year when we started at the Winston preview, we said we were looking forward to having a top 15 car. I quickly changed my mind to where I think we can win. Will it be Sunday? Who knows? I don't think it'll be long until we're contending for a win.
"We (Tommy Baldwin and Jimmy Spencer) both have the same personalities, so you'd never think we'd get along. The biggest thing is Tommy isn't intimidated by me, and I'm not intimidated by Tommy. That's behind us. That's the key I think. Tommy really thinks I can do it, and I really think Tommy can do it. That's a step in the right direction. The way the crew is working, and the biggest thing that Tommy has is respect for the crew. I think that's important in this sport. It's not that he's ever above those guys. He's on the same level and playing field with those guys in the shop. That means a lot.
"Mike Ege used to build engines for Chad Little when he ran in the Busch Series years ago. Then he went out and actually Dale Earnhardt bought his shop when he started DEI. Mike went to work for Peter Guild and then he went to work for Robert Yates. When we sat on the pole at Indianapolis and Charlotte, we actually had his engine in the car. When Jimmy Smith asked me what I thought for engines, I thought the natural thing if the Pettys would allow it was to get engines from Mike Ege. Mike is a very hard worker. I don't think he's as well known. He used to work with Roger Penske, so Mike's been around awhile. He's a very determined individual. We had a motor that was terrible at Rockingham, and I told him about it. The crew guys thought I was complaining, but Mike knew if I was complaining I was telling the truth. That's the relationship that our whole organization has. When the motor man was prone to saying, 'yeah the (expletive) doesn't know what he's talking about.' They tell you it's not the motor it's the car, but Mike was totally the opposite. He always believe me. I never lied to him in my life, and that's something that's really important. He asked me how the motor was yesterday, and I said good. Mike is really a down to earth guy. He has a great facility there in Mooresville, and he's a great engine builder.
"Fire is the worst thing that can happen to a driver. If he gets knocked out and stuff, he knows a rescue is coming as quick as they can, but a fire if you're knocked out and pinned in the car you're going to get burned and you're going to deface your handsome face. That's scary. A fire is very scary. My dad was in a fire back in '64 when he was racing. He got burned really bad. He carries the scars today, and he's 70 something years old. We saw Sterling get burned at Bristol a little bit. I don't know what's causing them. NASCAR's got the car built real strong in the back, really reinforced well. We saw a fire in the 59 car at Daytona, which was the fuel pump. We saw a fire in the 1 car in Las Vegas, which was really a bad fire, but I think they're doing everything they can to contain it. I know they've talked about putting fire extinguishers back there and they'd go off when it hit 150 degrees. It's no good. The cars that are on fire are usually crushed back there and the fire extinguishers wouldn't work anyway. NASCAR is looking into it, and I give NASCAR a lot of credit. They're looking into everything. They're constantly trying to figure out how to make it safer. As long as the teams keep doing what they're doing with the panels, there's a bunch of back panels between the windows and the fuel cells. What we can do is just hope the fire doesn't get inside the car.
"My dad raced in the dirt series up north. He was running second or third in the race and he came off turn two and lost power and got hit. There were no fuel cells back then. My dad had an aluminum quarter keg for a fuel cell. He was burned really bad. He was in intensive care for 21 days and he got out and started racing about three months later.
"The team didn't do worth a crap last year if you look at it. That's what Smith says. He said I passed more cars at Rockingham than they passed all year last year. I was definitely concerned, and he was concerned, too. He knew we were worried because he hadn't done well in Winston Cup racing. He said it was up to us to do it. All winter long we talked about what we were going to do with the cars, what we were going to do to make sure everything was the same in the cars so we had repeatability in them. We were going to go to the wind tunnel. Jimmy was giving us plenty of money for testing and wind tunnel time. Yeah, we were concerned. Somebody wrote we were a 37th place team coming to a gun fight with a knife. You don't realize how cool it was for you guys to pick on my guys because it (expletive) them off. They hung the stuff up all over the wall. It was neat for them to know that at least they were written about. They said, 'it's pretty neat they've got us that far because they don't realize how good we are.' My only comment to them was, 'you've got to prove it.'
"They worked hard putting a brand new car together for Atlanta and a brand new car together for another track. We took them to the wind tunnel and they were flops. You didn't even hear the fabricators say a word when they had to cut the bodies off of them. They worked again last night getting that car ready to go to Darlington. I was definitely concerned because the team had never done anything good, but Tommy said, on the other hand, that's the neat part about this organization. They haven't done anything. Now we can make it do something. I think we could be a top 15 car. We're pretty close to establishing that, and that's what we need to do. We'll get to the top 10, and I really feel we can win a race or two this year, maybe more than that. You never know. We'll try to win our first one here if we can.
"You know you're going fast here. This is the fastest track we go to. Daytona and Talladega ain't even close sitting the car down in the corner here in turn one or turn three. Plus, it's got some bumps to it. It's got the Humpy Wheeler effect. Every truck that Bruton Smith messes with, it's got something that's strange. Texas has got turn four. Atlanta has got turn one. Bristol, well, that's just Bristol. With all the speed during the race, you still know you're going fast. Even if you slow down two seconds from where you qualified... you won't win the race, but I think the race pace will be in the high 30s or 31-second bracket. That's still 180 something mph around this track. The biggest thing about this track is that it's so wide, you can negotiate passes and you don't get in trouble say at a track like Charlotte. If you go into turn three at Charlotte, you've got to be really careful. If you go into turn three here, it's a lot wider than Charlotte and Texas and those places. Atlanta was really built for speed, there's no doubt. The biggest thing here is handling. I think one of the guys who will be really good on Sunday is Bobby Labonte. He has a knack for this race track getting his car to handle really well. That's what we're all shooting for today if we get on the track. I can't believe the weather has turned bad again. That's what you try to do. Get your car to run as fast as it can but comfortable with it. If you give up a little speed and get it real comfortable you're better off because you can race it for 500 miles.
"I was doing everything I was supposed to do last year. I drove my heart out. I just didn't get along with the people there. I feel like you have to have good people. Every team has good people, but you've got to be able to get along with one another. You've got to believe in that person. Anybody that would go to bed with a woman at night and get up in the morning and start arguing with her. That's what they call a divorce. I've been with my wife, I always get in trouble for this, it's over 20 years. She's pretty dumb for being with me. The most excited I've ever been in my life, and the greatest pleasure there ever was was the day I got out of it. It's the truth, and I'm excited about this year. I have a lot of inner energy and it means a lot how people treat you in your organization. You can see it. It's not fake. I've got a good bunch of boys.
"I think it was a step in the right direction what NASCAR has done. You're constantly hearing, 'well, Dodge has an advantage.' Then you go to the Ford drivers and it's 'Chevy has an advantage.' Then you go to the Dodge drivers, and it's 'Fords have an advantage.' NASCAR just had to put a stop to that and say 'guys, let's just go racing.' I think they did everything they were supposed to do. I think Chevy has an advantage right now. The reason being is because it's a complete brand new body and car. Dodge and Ford didn't have that. It's still way better than it's ever been. I don't think it's nowhere near the advantage they had in the past when they had to keep kicking that nose thing out. Now we don't have the same rules, and we have to work around it. Now it's up to the people at Dodge, Ford and Chevrolet to stay on top of this program. I think it's a step in the right direction. It's going to be a lot better racing.
"It looked like the Chevys were cheating at Daytona as fast as they were. I think they just work really, really hard at their super speedway program. DEI has worked tremendously in that way, ever since the team was started. Dale Earnhardt said they would not be embarrassed when they went to those tracks. Everybody wants to say they're cheating, but they're not. They're just working hard at what they do. Then Childress, he ran like crap. This year they worked hard all winter long to get their program going, so automatically Childress is cheating. Immediately we just start pointing fingers saying they're cheating. That's the easiest excuse. Rusty was saying they were cheating and NASCAR knows about it. I guess he just wanted media coverage. I think Dodges were hurt at Daytona, the Ganassi bunch and the Petty bunch and Bill Davis. We were just off a little bit. We had to get it better. It looks like last week the Dodges are still hunting to figure out what to do with this nose. Probably the best Dodge team without question is going to be Ryan Newman. I think the world of him, and I think he's going to be Dodge's mainstay for the Winston Cup. He's a cool kid. He ain't afraid, and I like that.
"It's like trying to teach a kid how to walk. He doesn't know. He keeps falling until he figures it out. These guys are the same. They come in and ask questions. I remember Ryan Newman sitting in my Busch shop. I just liked him, and I was trying hard to get a sponsor. I was calling people and telling them I want to put Ryan Newman in my car and they were asking 'who in the hell is Ryan Newman?' I'd tell them you'll know who he is in a few years. I'd tell them this kid has got potential.
"I'd ask him how good he thought he was. He'd say I don't know. I asked him what he could do for me, and he said he really didn't know. I asked him what would happen if I put him in my car. He said, 'I'll drive that (expletive) as fast as I can.
"That's it. I hate to hear these people say, 'I beat Dale Earnhardt Jr. at South Boston.' That's great you did, but you're still at South Boston. They always say what they can do, but Ryan says I'm just going to do what I can do. I'm not going to say how I beat these other guys.
"I feel like the guys coming in today really didn't have a lot of experience as far as in the series. You take a guy like Bill Elliott and Rusty and all of these guys and you throw a 600-pound spring in the right rear, and they say, 'that cannot work.' Automatically they're defeated before they start. These kids go, 'OK, we'll try it.' They don't know. They just go out there and drive the car. That's the way you've got to look at it right now. The stuff we're running, you can't imagine we run a stiffer right rear spring than we did a right front spring at Las Vegas. That's what you have to do to be competitive today, and a lot of it is aerodynamics.
"I don't know if it's fearless. I think Ryan is afraid. Everybody's got human nature, and you're afraid, but I think it's knowing the confidence level you have in your team. Nobody can go around the race track when the car is not handling as well as it needs to. I think a lot of the veteran drivers know when the car starts to slip and slide that they need to lift off the throttle. A lot of the rookies don't and they bust their butts. Once you do it once, usually you don't do it twice. A lot of people don't remember Jeff Gordon tearing the crap up in the Busch and crashing -- Ryan Newman the same way, crashing the car in ARCA and in the Busch. They don't remember that. That's something all the car owners are looking at, how to train these guys. The ARCA series is a good series and the Busch is a good series for it so they learn the basics of this series and racing, mainly at the race tracks. They have really good race cars. These rookies have really good race teams. I feel like that's right in with my race team. I have a great race team, and I'm excited about it.
"I love racing. I've done it my whole life. I'll be involved in racing. I don't know how. I don't know when I'm going to retire or quit driving. I sparked some interest in my race team, and they feel good because I'm the oldest guy on my team except the car owner. I'll probably own a race team. I own a Busch team right now, and we're going to field a car at Texas. My wife and I talk about it, and I love this sport. I've given my whole life to it. I'm trying to get the Busch Series car running good and get a rookie in it and be over here in Winston Cup as a car owner eventually. It'll be pretty neat."