Ready or not, the NASCAR marathon has begun MOORESVILLE, N.C. (May 22, 2003) -- Jimmy Spencer has been logging many laps this week, but not driving the No. 7 SIRIUS Dodge Intrepid; rather he's been operating a Cat Skid Steer Loader tractor that...
Ready or not, the NASCAR marathon has begun
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (May 22, 2003) -- Jimmy Spencer has been logging many laps this week, but not driving the No. 7 SIRIUS Dodge Intrepid; rather he's been operating a Cat Skid Steer Loader tractor that he's using to move dirt in his flourishing front yard.
The way Spencer sees it, this is the last week he can devote this much attention to his landscape, because the NASCAR marathon is about to start. And once it starts, there's no looking back.
This weekend's Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway (5 p.m. EDT on Fox) begins a grueling 26-week-long string of races that will carry the NASCAR Winston Cup Series through the remainder of the season. There are no more off weekends, and no more holidays. It's all racing from now until the middle of November.
It's only fitting that the longest string of consecutive races starts with the longest event on the schedule. Sunday's 600-miler will begin in daylight, end under darkness, and present a whole bucketful of challenges in between. For that reason, much of the time Spencer has spent on his tractor has been in deep reflection on the past 11 races, and what the SIRIUS Racing Team can do to prosper in the 12th.
With the Coca-Cola 600 now upon us, Spencer climbs off his yard machine to discuss a handful of topics, including time at home, the upcoming schedule, and how Mongo should tackle a 600-mile event.
Team SIRIUS driver Jimmy Spencer's thoughts:
No more off weekends. Are you ready?
"There's no question that we're ready. I think it's going to be important that we get some good finishes in this first month, because it sets the tone for the rest of the year. Twenty-six weekends in a row is hard for any team, but it's even harder if you're not doing well. This SIRIUS team has had some good runs this year, but we haven't gotten the finishes we're looking for. I'm hoping that changes this weekend. We need a good top-15 run this weekend."
How do you prepare yourself for a 26-week long race schedule?
"Everybody talks about how difficult it is for the drivers, but look at the guys on the crew. They are the ones who are really roughing it. Most of the drivers, myself included, have the opportunity to bring their wife and kids to the track each weekend, whereas guys on the team don't really get that chance, unless we're racing somewhere closer to home. They are the ones who rarely get to see their families because we're gone Thursday through Sundays, and they work in the shop Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. That's a tough schedule."
Have you enjoyed the last two weeks here at home?
"It's the most refreshing time of the year. I've been able to work on my yard, take my kids places, spend more time at home, and still go racing on the weekends. I played a couple rounds of golf, and I watched American Idol. I never really got into that show until last week. My wife and daughter were watching it, and so I sat down and started watching it, and the next thing I know I'm calling up the number to place my vote."
Were you pleased with the results?
"Yeah, my guy won. What's his name ... Ruben? Both of those guys were good, but Ruben captured the audience better than the skinny kid did, in my opinion. The very last song he sang the other night, that's what did it for him. I wasn't too sure if he was going to win until I heard him sing his last song. I can't even remember what it was, but I know it was good."
Is Mongo ready for a 600-mile race?
"I've been feeding Mongo healthier food this week to get him in better shape -- none of that junk food. We're taking a different car this week, one we think will really be good for us. It's a long race, it's a test of endurance, and it tests how well you can adjust your car. The change from day to night really throws you a curve ball, but it's one you're expecting, so you plan for it. Tommy Baldwin is as sharp as they come, and if you've noticed, our car always gets better. From the time we unroll off the truck, we consistently improve as the weekend rolls on, and we're usually pretty good by the time the green flag drops. I really give Tommy, Trip Bruce, Nuck, (shock specialist Mike McCarville, often called "Canuck" or "Nuck") and all those boys credit. They do a heck of a job."