Ford Racing's Spencer to leave at end of year

Jimmy Spencer, driver of the No. 26 Big Kmart Taurus, informed car owner Travis Carter he would not be back as the team's driver in 2002. He spoke about that decision and his future plans. JIMMY SPENCER --26-- Big Kmart Taurus --...

Jimmy Spencer, driver of the No. 26 Big Kmart Taurus, informed car owner Travis Carter he would not be back as the team's driver in 2002. He spoke about that decision and his future plans.

JIMMY SPENCER --26-- Big Kmart Taurus -- "We're gonna try to finish the year out on a high note. We feel we can be in the top 10 in points in the Kmart car. We're coming here to Charlotte and we're excited about this race. We qualified good here in the spring and ran real well. We're also going to some really good tracks for us -- Phoenix, Miami, Atlanta, New Hampshire, Rockingham -- and I really truly believe we can be in the top 10 in points. It's not gonna be easy because if you look at the points, it's like 10th through 16th and we're one of those six cars. We're right in the center of them now, but we're on the better side of being on the bottom of the list. We're in the middle of that list for getting on the stage in New York and we're gonna try real hard to do that."

IT SEEMS THE LAST TWO OR THREE YEARS YOUR STATUS WITH THE 26 TEAM HAS GONE DOWN TO THE WIRE. WHAT MADE THIS TIME DIFFERENT? "I'd say that was some of it. I've been offered a three-year deal and I've accepted it. I could stand here and criticize, not Travis or any of the team members, but I could criticize a lot of things of who I've worked with in the past and I could say positives and negatives either way and it wouldn't benefit neither party. I look at it and say to myself that I feel like there's something missing between Travis and myself as far as we've run really, really well. We've run strong, but there's something lacking between the team and myself. It's nothing against the team and it's nothing against me, so I think a change of pace is gonna be good for both organizations -- for me and Travis. It caught him by surprise. I don't want to leave, but I also feel like going to another team could be better for both parties. It could be a situation that Travis could find a driver that will really mix in good with him and they can be an instant success. That's what I'm hoping for for those guys, I really am. Whoever drives that car, I want them to know they're getting a hell of a team. They're getting a bunch of great fabricators, engines, everything is really, really good. I think this is the biggest shock in the garage area -- that I'm leaving a team that runs in the top 10. I don't think any other driver has done that. We can look back and say, 'Man, he made a big mistake.' Or we can say we're both better off because of it and I'm looking at it and saying that I think both organizations are gonna be better off because of it."

AT YOUR AGE ARE YOU LOOKING AT THE TIME YOU HAVE LEFT? "No, because I don't know when that time is gonna be. I'm 44 years old, I'm not gonna deny that, but I believe you're only as good as the attitude you carry to the team and the desire you have. You could hand me five or 10 million dollars right now and say 'you've got to quit driving today and you can't drive for the rest of your career,' and I'd tell you to take the money and run because I'm standing right where I am. It's not a money deal. It's something that I feel deep down inside that I can be successful. The day is gonna come when I get in the car and at the end of the day say, 'I don't want to do this anymore.' It's a long way off though."

WHAT DOES THIS NEW OPPORTUNITY PROVIDE YOU? "I don't think it provides me anything more than what I've got right now."

JUST LOOKING FOR THAT PROPER CHEMISTRY? "I think we've got good chemistry with the 26 team. I think the big reason why I did it -- I don't want to really elaborate on it because I never have picked on a sponsor or a corporation in my life and I'm not gonna start right now."

SOMETIMES PEOPLE JUST GET IN A POSITION WHERE THINGS CLICK. "I think Donnie and I clicked. Every one of those guys, I think, believes in me. I think this 26 team is a strong race team and I think we can win races. I'm not leaving it because of that reason and I'm not leaving it because we don't get along. I don't know what to expect out of the other team. I'm leaving it probably for reasons that have nothing to do with the 26 team and nothing to do with the team I'm coming to. There's nothing wrong with the 26 people at all. I really had a big decision to make and it was a personal decision on my part. I've driven for some great companies. McDonald's, Procter & Gamble. I've driven for some awesome companies. RJ Reynolds was probably the best company I ever drove for and I guess that's what I'm looking for. I'm looking for a company like RJ Reynolds to support my program and me, and I want to support their program. That's the easiest way for me to sum it up. I'm looking for something that I can really get behind and really, really support, and they have to support me. The race teams don't have anything to do with that. My race team -- the 26 team -- is fantastic. It has nothing to do with that."

SPONSOR?  "The car owner told me that he will have one.  I have a
long-term deal with him.  He believes in me and I believe in him."

IS THAT A HANDSHAKE DEAL? "My handshake is my bond. I don't need a contract. I drove for Travis the first time with a handshake. It was a hard decision. I sat with Carl and Travis last week and they wanted to do whatever it took to convince me to stay and I explained to them why I wasn't staying. It has nothing to do with Travis or Carl or any one of his guys. It was a personal decision."

-Ford Racing-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmy Spencer