Charlotte II: The Spencer family

NASCAR a man's sport? The Spencers say otherwise. CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Oct. 10, 2002)-- At 14 years old, Katrina Spencer isn't thinking about college, because there is a high school dance coming up. She isn't thinking about health benefits and ...

NASCAR a man's sport? The Spencers say otherwise.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Oct. 10, 2002)-- At 14 years old, Katrina Spencer isn't thinking about college, because there is a high school dance coming up. She isn't thinking about health benefits and insurance policies, because there's a rumor floating around the school halls that a certain boy thinks she's cute. And she isn't thinking about car payments because, well, she's still a year shy from a learner's permit.

The headstrong daughter of Team Yellow driver Jimmy Spencer does, however, know what path she'll take when the time comes to choose a career. She says she wants to follow her daddy's footsteps. Not daddy the driver; daddy the team owner.

The fact she's aiming herself toward a path predominantly trodden by men doesn't sway her in the least. Besides, times are changing. The new television package has introduced a whole new crop of fans to NASCAR, many of whom are women. And the business side of the sport has proven it thrives on intelligent people making smart decisions-- not just intelligent men. Case and point, Jimmy's wife, Pat, who handles many of the ownership responsibilities at Spencer Motor Ventures. For six years, it has been Pat Spencer's ability to run the company that has allowed her husband to do what he does best-- drive.

As driving goes, Jimmy Spencer will be back inside the #1 Yellow Chevrolet-- a James Finch-owned car-- this weekend at Lowe's Motor Speedway, a track he's particularly fond of since it's just a few miles from home. For much of the same reason, Katrina-- the future team owner-- finds a liking to the track as well, for she won't have to miss this weekend's high school dance to see her dad race Saturday. With the Little Trees 300 (1 p.m. EDT on TNT) now upon us, Jimmy sits down to discuss the impact his wife has made in this profession, and how women have become a part of what was once-- and often times still is-- regarded as a man's sport.

Driver Jimmy Spencer's thoughts--

You credit a lot of your success to your wife, Pat. Why?

"The old saying' Behind every good man is a good woman' is certainly true in my case. My wife and I have worked hard for what we have, and I'm proud to say that. Not only was she there when I was trying to make it as a driver, but she has played such a big part in the success of our race team at Spencer Motor Ventures. She makes a lot of important decisions, and I rely on her for everything. We communicate well, we're very open with each other, and she's tough when she needs to be."

You drove your own Busch car at SMV for several years and then decided to drive for James Finch at Phoenix Racing last year. Is it odd competing against the car you own?

"I'll never drive my own car again, because it's hard for the crew chief to communicate with the driver when the driver is his boss. If he thinks the driver is doing something wrong, he ought to be able to say that without fear of making the boss mad and losing his job. I think it hurts the team. So I decided to not drive my own car anymore, and it's one of the smartest things I've done. I joined up with Phoenix Racing and Team Yellow last year, and it's been a great relationship."

Your daughter says she wants to be a team owner. What do you think of that, giving the fact there are not a lot of female owners in this sport?

"I see a lot of my wife in Katrina, and that makes me think she would be very good at being an owner in this sport. If she grows up to be anything like my wife, then I know she'll be good. Right now I don't want her to think about that, because she's only 14. You know, my son says he wants to race, but that's a decision I don't want him to make right now. I want both of them to enjoy being kids, and then when the time comes to choose a career, then they can think about that. She says she wants to be a team owner, and I have no problem with that. I can see her in that role."

Are there enough women in key positions in this sport?

"It's definitely improved a lot over the years. You look in the garage and see a lot more women than you used to. I think teams and agencies and companies that work directly in the sport have realized that this isn't just a man's sport. You look at a lot of the drivers, such as myself, who have become owners over the past five or 10 years; most of them rely heavily on their wives. I guess Dale Earnhardt kind of started that. When he started DEI (Dale Earnhardt, Inc.), Teresa played a very big role in building that operation. People started recognizing her importance at DEI and realized that it wasn't just Dale. A lot of the drivers' wives are relied on to manage and handle the family's interests, and I don't care what anyone says, you've got to be a sharp person to do that.

"You've also got women who are landing prominent positions within NASCAR itself, you're seeing women break into the sport as drivers, and you're even seeing women on crews now. So I see it as a positive in our sport, and it's something you're going to see continue to grow."

You know, rumor has it your wife wears the pants in the family. Is that true?

"She knows how to take charge. Sometimes she'll be waiting on me to come out of the hauler for drivers intros or something like that, and she'll get impatient and say,' Jimmy, let's go!' and I'll jokingly say' Yes, Boss.'"

You, Jimmy Spencer, calling someone Boss?

"Yeah, but don't write that. I wouldn't want that to get out."

Whatever you say... Boss.

-tmdg/md-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jimmy Spencer
Teams Phoenix Racing