Daytona II: Jimmy Spencer preview

Spencer a gentleman? Not if a win is on the line MOORESVILLE, N.C. (July 1, 2003) - It has been nine years since Jimmy Spencer won the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway, one of two victories he earned in the 1994 season. The Berwick,...

Spencer a gentleman? Not if a win is on the line

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (July 1, 2003) - It has been nine years since Jimmy Spencer won the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway, one of two victories he earned in the 1994 season. The Berwick, Pa. native hasn't won a NASCAR Winston Cup Series race since the '94 campaign. So ask yourself this: If Spencer is in second place when the caution flag waves at any point this weekend, do you honestly think he's going to be a "gentleman" and let off the throttle?

When hell freezes over.

The pressures of winning, Spencer says, far outweigh the pressures of having a few fellow competitors angry with you. With the Winston Cup Series as competitive as it is, racing back to the caution flag is a no-brainer. The debate, of course, is about safety. Keeping the throttle hammered when the yellow flag comes out creates a safety concern, and the super-fast Daytona tri-oval is no place to risk any more than what is absolutely necessary.

Spencer is certainly an advocate of safety. He's also an advocate of winning, keeping his sponsor happy, obtaining some semblance of job security, and standing in good light with the guys who turn the wrenches on the No. 7 SIRIUS Racing Team. If that means passing other cars when the caution flag waves, he's not at all against it if he has received assurance from his spotter that the source of the caution is behind him.

As the NASCAR Winston Cup Series prepares for night racing at Daytona (Saturday's Pepsi 400 will start at 7 p.m. EDT on NBC), Spencer sits down to discuss one of the hot topics on the burner, the "gentleman's agreement."

Team SIRIUS driver Jimmy Spencer's thoughts:

What is your understanding of the "gentleman's agreement"?

"There's always a gray area any time the green flag drops in a Winston Cup race as far as the gentleman's agreement. Mike (Helton) said it to us. He said, 'Guys, we know there's not a gentleman's agreement any more.' I think the reason why there isn't, the drivers, me included, are constantly getting pressure from the media, from our crew members to stay on top of the wheel and the fans. Today, the equipment, the engines, the cars, the tires, the braking systems are so advanced over where they were 10 years ago that you have to drive as hard as you can once they drop the green flag to the checkered. We have come to take advantage of this gentleman's agreement. I heard a lot about what Robby (Gordon) did. I saw what Jeff Gordon did at Texas. As drivers, we have to come up with something. I don't think it's NASCAR's rule because NASCAR can only police that caution line. Passing under the caution is a bad deal, but on the other side of it, you can gain a spot. You can win a race because of it. You win a Winston Cup race and you're set. Your sponsor is set for the rest of the year. The pressure is off. A lot of things put pressure on everybody. I think the pressure of the sport has caused drivers to say, 'I agree, there is a gentleman's agreement.' Then we put our helmet on, we get in the car and say 'to hell with the gentleman's agreement.' We try to gain everything we can. It's not NASCAR's fault. It's the drivers' fault. Some guys push the limit and some guys don't. I think you have to realize that certain competitors out there are going to give under the caution. There are others that aren't. The drivers have to establish who they are. We know that Bill Elliott, Mark Martin, Terry Labonte, those guys aren't going to push that yellow light issue, but it's obvious that Robby did and other people are going to and you'll have to do the same thing to them, so it's a no win situation. It's something that's tough and something for everybody to write about."

Would you have done what Robby Gordon did at Sonoma and pass after the yellow flag has waved? (Gordon passed teammate Kevin Harvick during the Dodge/Save Mart 350k.)

"I'm not going to lie. Of course I would. In that situation it's not a teammate issue. It's about winning the race. I think every driver is going to treat a situation a little bit different. If it comes down to winning a Winston Cup race, I don't care who you are. I don't care what any other driver says. I don't blame Robby for what he did. He ended up winning the race, and I credit him for it. We can all point fingers at him and stuff like that, but always put the shoe on the other side. If Jeff Gordon could have done it, he would have done it. To me, yeah, I would do it if I got the opportunity."

Talk about the season's first 16 races, and how this team has progressed and where it needs to improve.

"A lot of people didn't give us an opportunity. We came out of the box and ran pretty good. We were very competitive in the first six or eight races. We felt like we made a lot of mistakes. Right now we're a little bit confused, and it's been a difficult month. We didn't run well at Michigan. That was the car we had at Atlanta and ran really well with. We're doing some searching right now. We think we can find it. We have a brand new car for Daytona. We're excited about that coming up and I think we're going to some tracks where we should really run good, but our biggest concern right now is getting ourselves back thinking the way we were at the start of the season. I think we'll get back on track and start notching some more top 10s and top fives."

There were some torn up race cars at Talladega that ran well, including the winner, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Is it possible to see that at Daytona?

"I don't think so. Even though Talladega and Daytona are both restrictor plate tracks, there is a lot of difference, and that's something you have to realize. Daytona is more of a handling track, a lot more so than Talladega. At Daytona, you're not going to win if you have damage to the body, simply because of the little aerodynamic problems that create a push condition. At Talladega, you have a lot bigger corner and a lot more sweep, and it is dependant more on the draft than the handle of the car. That's why a little bit of damage at Talladega might not to be so drastic. I don't think you'll see the beating and banging at Daytona like you did at Talladega."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Jimmy Spencer , Kevin Harvick , Robby Gordon , Mark Martin