Daytona 500: Jimmy Spencer speaks out

"God's answer to boredom" speaks out. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 7, 2003) - It has long been theorized that Jimmy Spencer is God's answer to boredom. Whether that's true or not, everyone has their own opinion - including Spencer. With the ...

"God's answer to boredom" speaks out.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 7, 2003) - It has long been theorized that Jimmy Spencer is God's answer to boredom. Whether that's true or not, everyone has their own opinion - including Spencer. With the Great American Race just days away, Spencer sits down to discuss a variety of topics, including the art of speaking your mind, his team's search for respect, and why he thinks the Daytona 500 is NOT the Super Bowl of stock car racing.

The phrase "Jimmy Spencer is God's answer to boredom" is one you've heard before. What do you think about that?
"Hey, if God didn't intend for us to speak our minds, he wouldn't have given us mouths. I figure that every sport needs to have someone who's willing to speak their mind. The NFL has Shannon Sharpe; the NBA has Mark Cuban. It's something that, if you do it, you know you're going to make a lot of people mad, or you're going to get yourself into hot water. I've got a tremendous amount of respect for Tony Stewart, because he has never once tried to hide who he is. Sit back and think about that. Think about all the pressures in this sport - sponsors, owners, crews, all these different people with all different opinions. Yet, you've got to make them all happy. It's a tough thing to do and still be yourself and speak your mind with complete honesty."

What kind of mind frame does it take to race here at Daytona?
"Patience. The way these cars are set up now, you're running inches apart and there's just no room for error. You make a mistake, and it takes out half the field. Daytona is nothing but a chess game. You spend your whole time trying to figure out who to draft with, who not to draft with, which line your car works best on, that kind of stuff. But the moment you get impatient and try to force the issue, something bad is going to happen. That's just the way it is.

What is your take on blocking at Daytona?
"Blocking is going to happen, and not just at Daytona. Whether it's good or bad, well, that just depends on the outcome. Everyone is trying to protect their position out there, yet you're also fighting for the same position. With 43 cars trying to climb to one spot, you're going to have blocking. I just hope everyone uses a little bit of common courtesy out there. You race people the way you'd want to be raced. You're all going for the same spot."

Do you guys feel like Team SIRIUS is getting any respect?
"Not at all, but that's fine. You've got to perform well to get respect, and I think this team is going to do that. It's going to be a good year for us. Challenges are a part of every-day life. Anyone who's ever achieved greatness didn't do so without overcoming challenges and adversity. Do we have challenges? You better believe it. So what's the best way to handle it? It's certainly not sitting around and listening to these people who don't think we can do it. We're going to make this work."

What are you're thoughts following Daytona Media Day?
"It went well. A lot of questions are still about last year, and off-the-track situations. I honestly just want to get inside that No. 7 SIRIUS Dodge and give people a reason to talk about this year."

How good is the car this week?
"This is the part where every driver says, 'We've got a good car.' So you know what, we'll just let our car do the talking for us. Ask that big, black dog on the hood after the first two or three practices, and it will tell you. I will say this, we left Daytona testing feeling really good. Then we went to Talladega and tested, and we felt even better. Even Tommy (Baldwin) cracked a smile, which tells you something."

Do you still buy Daytona 500 tickets?
"Oh yeah. We buy 12 tickets in the Joe Weatherly grandstands every year."

Who gets the tickets?
"You know, family members, cousins, friends. It's just something that is fun to be a part of. The Daytona 500 is special."

Somebody asked you yesterday about night racing. We'll get to that in a second. But before that, tell me about the difference between night racing and day racing at Daytona.
"Night racing at Daytona is one of the coolest experiences a driver can have. I think I actually see better at night. The way the lights reflect off the cars all the way around the track is really neat. People were asking me yesterday if I thought the Daytona 500 should be raced at night, and my answer to that is 'no.' The Daytona 500 is something that should not be messed with. Don't change the name, don't change the format, don't change anything. This is an event that should be raced in the afternoon.

Why do feel so strongly about keeping the Daytona 500 the same?
"I can't speak for other drivers, but for me it's the past, present and future of NASCAR racing all in a single weekend. I'm a historical person. I know the history of NASCAR, how it got started, and how it succeeded. I know about the people who helped build NASCAR - the France family, the drivers, the crew chiefs, the people behind the scenes. All of that points back to Daytona. Everyone has a special story about this place. The Daytona 500 is a treasure; it's sacred. And anyone who tries to mess with it will hear from me, all the drivers, and all the fans.

I've heard it bothers you when people refer to the Daytona 500 as the "Super Bowl" of auto racing. Is that true?
"It's the other way around. The Super Bowl is the Daytona 500 of football."

Back to night racing, rumor has it NASCAR could be adding more night races to future schedules. Are you cool with that?
"Definitely. It's such a unique experience. I love night racing, because it is a reminder of my old stomping grounds of Saturday night racing up North. A lot of people say it's too inconvenient for fans, but I disagree. I think the experience of a NASCAR Winston Cup race at night is so awesome that it is well worth any inconvenience it might cause. Night races on Sunday would be a problem, but if you do it on Saturday night, then it's perfect. Fans still have Sunday to go back home, and in fact, will get home sooner than if the race was on Sunday afternoon.

Do you have any big plans for your birthday (Feb. 15)?
"I've been celebrating my birthday here at Daytona for the last 15 years, so my wife and I will probably go to dinner, hang out with friends and family, and just have a good time. That's my idea of celebrating. I'm not crazy about big parties and all that stuff. I'd just rather spend it with family and close friends. Of course, I'd be a party animal if we put that SIRIUS car in Victory Lane on Sunday."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Jimmy Spencer