JIMMY SPENCER (No. 41 Dodge Intrepid R/T) "We haven't been in competitive mode yet. We've mostly been doing testing, and the guys have been working real hard in the shop building me new race cars. I've never had an opportunity in my career to be...
JIMMY SPENCER (No. 41 Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"We haven't been in competitive mode yet. We've mostly been doing testing, and the guys have been working real hard in the shop building me new race cars. I've never had an opportunity in my career to be in a situation that I'm in. Not just with Target as a sponsor being a great company like they are, but being associated with Chip and Felix, knowing the success they had last year, has been pretty neat for me to get the job offer. I'm building a good relationship with all the guys, and that's the key, all the guys. It's not one guy there that works for Sterling and one that works for Jimmy. They work as a team, and I think that Sterling and I are excited about being partners. I know I'm excited about being his partner. He's happy to have me on board. I think we're going to do pretty well, and we're looking forward to having a successful year.
"They came out with some more templates. They're trying to get a location for every manufacturer. The location of the spoilers, especially at Daytona and Talladega, has been a sticky point, and they just came out with a template to market. Our Dodges have always fit that new template. I don't think it's going to be anything that's detrimental to the Dodges. I think it's just another rule, another template that's going to try to level the competition.
"I don't think the sport has changed a whole lot since it started in 1949. I think the Winston Cup Series has always been about competition, about trying to win and win the championship and win races. When I drove for Junior (Johnson) it was no different. Junior was a very successful car owner, and I consider him a very close friend. Junior and I talked about Chip, and he said he thought it was a really great move on my part to go drive for Chip and Felix. Junior still stays in touch with this sport and I was fortunate to win with Junior. I would say the technology has changed a tremendous amount. I would say the engineering and cars have changed. Chip has done such a tremendous job of getting people in the organization that he gives free reign to do. I've never had that opportunity. I'm really excited about the opportunity I have this year. The sport hasn't changed a lot other than the new technology we're getting, yet the bottom line is when they started in 1949 and it's going to be the same for the next 50 years I would think, is to try to win races. That competition level has increased. There's a lot more cars that can win. Hopefully the Target team can be one of them.
"I figured they were just picking my mind to see if I would come to drive for them. I was happy where I was at. I think people know Jimmy Spencer. I speak what's on my mind and I'm a happy go lucky guy. I'm not going to change life. I'm not going to change what I say. I'm going to express my opinion. The thing I dislike about the sport lately is that you can't come to shops and you can't sit and talk to other drivers and crew members like you could five or eight years ago. Everybody wants to screen you and ask 'what the hell are you doing in our race shop?' I hadn't been to Felix and Chip's shop in probably three years. I went in there with an open mind and sat down and started talking to Chip and Felix. One thing led to another. I was sitting in the office and I started looking, and I said, 'that's interesting.' "Chip says, 'what's that?'
"And I said, 'the 01 car and the 40 are sitting next to each other and guys are working on them. How do you know which guys are which?' "He said, 'that's the difference. Each guy has a job in this shop and it doesn't matter which car it is. It's team.'
"I sort of made my mind up right there. In the back of my mind I started smirking. I said, 'this guy knows what the hell he's doing.' "The conversation went further and further and we actually made a deal that day.
"The neat thing I've got to say. Chip told me I had one thing to worry about this year and that's to drive the race car. I'm not worried about what a Ford or Chevy can do. I'm not worried about what another Dodge can do. I'm worried about telling Andy Graves and Tony Glover, our managers, and I'm worried about talking to Doug Randolph, my crew chief, and all the other engineers. This is what I'm feeling. This is where I think we need to get better. I'll leave it up to Chip and Andy and all those other guys to worry about the rules and everything else. I've never had that. Team guys always say, that Chevrolet has got a little edge at this race track.'
"To me, those guys don't address that situation publicly. They address it to themselves, management wise, but not the team players. That's a big plus for me. I don't have that negativism going into every week. Going into Daytona, do we have the best car? I'm not worried about it. I know that my boys have prepared the best possible car they could prepare out of Mooresville (N.C.) and we're going to go there and try to win the Budweiser Shootout and naturally we're going to try to help Sterling all we can and I'm sure he's going to try to help us. As far as that goes, we're going to approach the Twin races on Thursday and then go to the biggest race of the year, the Daytona 500, with having the expectations of having a really good day.
"I consider a racer a guy who wants to be successful and win. That's what Chip does, but what he does more than anything, he doesn't look at the bottom line. He might look at that through somebody else, but from what I see in his racing shop, between the guys in the shop, they get excited when the owner comes in. They know that he's looking at the cars and asking what we can do to get better. He doesn't call these guys dumb (%@#!@). He doesn't point a finger at 'em and say, 'you know what, you guys screwed up you bunch of idiots.' You never hear negativism come out of Chip's voice. In turn, the racer that he is, he gives these guys whatever it takes to be successful. That's what I've been noticing about him. That's why I'm excited about being on board. I'm glad we've got Target on our car and Coors on Sterling's. Those are two great sponsors, and it's up to the sponsors to foot the bill for us. That's Chip's job. That's the hardest part, but the first thing is he gives the guys whatever it takes to be successful. These guys can't say, 'the car owner didn't let me buy an extra set of tires or didn't let me test or didn't let me build a new car.' I've been through these situations. That's the difference in Chip as a racer and a lot of other guys who call themselves racers.
"When you start looking at a 44-year-old driver, they say the guy is too old. You see fingers pointed a lot at age. Our sport is a lot different than a football player or a baseball player. Usually you don't get in your late 30s in football or baseball. In racing, it's different. Darrell Waltrip calls it 'sperience. It's experience. The drivers just know what to do with what they have. You can't take a 12th place car and finish first with it, but you can take a top 10 car and better yourself to a top five. You can take a top five car and better yourself to a win. When I was a rookie, I'd take a 15th-place car and I'd try to push the issue. More than your share of mistakes were made because you didn't have a car capable of doing it. That's the big thing that a driver with experience brings to the team. I've won championships in the past (modified series). I believe a Winston Cup championship is no different than any other championship. It doesn't matter if it's baseball or football. It doesn't matter if it's CART, it doesn't matter what it is. It's based on consistency and it's based on building a relationship with all your team players. We have a team. We have over 100 employees in Team Target Racing. I have to get to know these guys names, and I have to get to know what they like. They have to get to know what I like. As that relationship builds, it gets stronger and stronger and stronger. At our get-together party, I said, 'boys let me tell you something about Jimmy Spencer. I'll never turn my back on you. You can always bank on it. I'll be there for you, and I expect that out of every one of you guys.'
"I think I've got that out of Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates. I think the world of Felix and Chip, and I'm so excited to be on board that I'm really looking forward to this year with Team Target.
"Everybody asks me about a lot of proving and what's my expectations. I've tried to do those things in the past, try to prove to people what I can do and stuff. The bottom line was is that it'll bite you in the #@!. It will knock you back a lot further than you expected it to. I'm going to go to Daytona. If we have a car capable of winning, I'm going to put that baby in the winner's circle. If we don't, we need to bring it home with the best finish we can and then when we go back to the shop, we'll say, 'guys, we need to do this or that to make it better.' Then when we go to Rockingham, the same situation. Then when we go to Las Vegas, the same situation. We're going to take each race... We're not looking at the overall picture. We're looking at it from week to week so we can build a great team effort and carry it and carry it. They've expecting me to do that. Doug Randolph has done a great job as a crew chief and Andy and Tony and Lee McCall with Sterling, the way this team is based, the way the team gets in this trailer at the end of practice and has meetings and stuff, there's no question that we're going to be a step ahead of most teams if not all of them by the unity that Chip has instilled in this organization.
"I'll be disappointed if I don't finish in the top 10. I've never finished in the top 10 in points, and that sounds pitiful. It is. I've had opportunities, but it's behind me. It's water under the bridge. You can't go back and scoop it up. I'm looking at it as saying this is the best opportunity. I felt last year that it was my best opportunity to win races and the championship. I feel the same way with Team Target. If I don't feel that way, then I'm going to retire. When this year starts, I'm looking forward to having a great year and being on stage. At what position? I'd sure like it to be No. 1.
"The neat thing I've got with Chip and Felix when we sat in that office the first time, they said the one thing you have to worry about with us is to drive that car as fast as you can drive it and get the best possible results you can. I never forgot that. That was pretty neat for me. I think that's their outlook. Chip has been so successful with CART and then taking the Indy 500 with Juan. Take his track record and the way he has his team coming to test, we're going to be testing in Vegas tomorrow, the way he's structured his organization, that makes it so much easier on a driver to know he has all these people looking out for his best interest. All he has to do is stay focused on what he has to do, and that's drive the race car.
"I think I could get an Indy 500 ride. Chip has already asked me if I'm interested. I came home and talked it over with my wife. I love the Indy 500. I think you've got to say it's one of the biggest races of the year. To me, the biggest race is the Daytona 500. Yet the Indy 500 is well known around the world. That's something you always have to take into consideration. I've always wanted to race an Indy car. Chip gave me that opportunity at Sebring. I drove eight or 10 laps and I started to really, really like it. I said, 'this is not good' so I pulled in. I am a big person. I do not think at my age that I want to go through... It's a tough sport. Indy cars and CART cars, Kenny Brack and Bruno, he's a Brazilian and he's a great talent. He won last year. We don't understand what those CART guys go through. To watch down at Sebring how fast those guys have to react and have to brake that car, and the moves they have to make, they are incredible race car drivers. I want to get me one and try to put it together here in the next year or two and have it as a top so I can go play a little bit myself with one.
"Dodge was the first manufacturer to come back into the sport in 25 years or whatever it was. What you saw, you saw a ton of red shirts around the race track. As a driver, you kept looking and saying, 'who's that guy and who's that guy?' You realized that Dodge is really behind this effort. It's not just the Dodge people in Detroit. It's the Dodge people that sell Dodges in Florida, in Nevada, Las Vegas, in Boston, Mass., or wherever it is. You just see such enthusiastic people come to the race track and watch Dodge. I want to be on that thing. I said to myself that was a no brainer, to be associated with a manufacturer that is concerned about how we can make everything better for you. That's why they build some of the best trucks and best cars there is right now. I'm glad to be on board with them, without a question.
"I'm upset that Pittsburgh lost. I've always been a Steelers fan back since the old Mean Joe Green Days and Franco Harris. I love competitiveness in anything, whether it's playing dice in Las Vegas or playing cards or playing Monopoly at home with my kids. I want to see a good Super Bowl. I think it's good for the country, especially after what happened September 11th. The country is coming back strong. Those people tried to take the American spirit, tried to take what our forefathers fought for, freedom, and they tried to take that away from us. President Bush and his staff, Dick Cheney and the Air Force, you name it, this country is stronger than ever and we as Americans need to be behind the Super Bowl. I'm sure there's going to be added security there. There's added security at every NASCAR race. There's added security at every CART race, simply because of what happened on September 11th. They'd better learn not to mess with us. I'm excited about the Super Bowl and I hope it's not a blowout. I hope it goes down to the final play because that's what makes life exciting. May the best team win."
Chip Ganassi interview