JIMMY SPENCER-26-Kmart Taurus, press conference pole position "Oh, it's gonna be special. My whole life, growing up as a boy, watching my dad race, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway meant so much to us. Tried to run well here in the past, and...
JIMMY SPENCER-26-Kmart Taurus, press conference pole position
"Oh, it's gonna be special. My whole life, growing up as a boy, watching my dad race, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway meant so much to us. Tried to run well here in the past, and mainly wanted to run an Indy car and took my way through the Winston racing series and then decided I was going to run NASCAR, GOT A Winston Cup ride and just wanted to get the Brickyard. To be on the pole, it's special, without a question. Mainly for my whole race team's been very supportive of me, they really believe in me and I can't say enough about my crew chief, Donnie Wingo. When I tell him what I'm feeling, he believes me. That's the key. I just can't say enough. I wish he was here, because he's over there working like he always - he's a working fool is what Donnie is. He works his butt off and he does a great job for us. It's gonna be a lot different view for me, starting on the pole. It's been a long time, with the legendary Junior Johnson when I did it, now I'm with the legendary Carl Haas and Travis, so that's pretty neat."
THERE'S FIVE YATES ENGINES IN TOP 10. DO YOU THINK THEY CAN PULL YOUR THEMOTORBOAT NOW?
"When I made that comment it wasn't a Yates engine. When I got Robert Yates engines now, they're pretty good engines, without a question. Robert and Doug Yates have done a great job. They've assembled a bunch of guys up in Mooresville and Steve Allen and Mike Egge head up that group, and they're just really good to work with, and Robert and Doug like to see their competitors, which we are a competitor of theirs, that goes to show you that they still give us good motors, and I'm proud to be associated with them."
CARL HAAS, co-owner-26-Kmart Taurus
YOUR LAST POLE WAS IN 1987...
"I don't even know if I had a pole here."
THE EXCITEMENT LEVEL FOR YOU TO START ON THE POLE HERE.
"I know we came close to winning them a couple of times with Mario and Michael, never quite made it. This is very gratifying. I'm extremely happy. Congratulations to Jimmy and Travis, all our guys, all our crew, engineers, truck drivers, you name it, we've really been coming together this year. Commend everybody for the job they've been doing. I'm so happy for myself, and I am happy for every body, and, obviously, Jimmy, and it's wonderful. Thank you."
TRAVIS CARTER, co-owner-26-Kmart Taurus
ON THE DIFFERENCE IN THIS TEAM - THE 26 AND 66 - FROM A YEAR AGO. NOW YOU'RE DISAPPOINTED IF YOU'RE NOT SITTING ON POLES.
"That's what a professional team should be like. I think success breeds success and as one moves forward the other team moves forward with it and I think that's the way you grow together, as one unit, two groups as one unit, and I think we've begun to do that more and more this year. You learn, you learn from what things people do that are an improvement. Both teams can take advantage of that and we've done a lot of that, and our people worked better and communicated a lot better this year, and that's been paramount and a key to the ongoing improvement."
DO YOU FEEL YOU'RE CLOSE TO A WIN?
"I say if you run well enough long enough you'll win. People say what are you doing better? It's not that we're doing that much different or better. Our philosophy is such that if you have a good course and you stay on it, there are ups and downs for a period of time you look stupid and after a while it all click and work, and we really haven't done anything drastically different than we were doing last year. Some of the details, I think, we're paying more attention to and doing better in that regard. But overall, the program hasn't changed. It's the same group of people everywhere in all positions. I think that's a testament to people who are committed and have worked real hard and been dedicated to what they've been doing."
THIS PLACE HAS MISTREATED YOU A COUPLE OF TIMES, IN 1994 AND '98.
"I was the first driver ever out of the Brickyard 400. I blew a right-front tire and A.J. Foyt, he called me up about two days later and he just wanted to make sure I was alright, so that was pretty neat. But, '98 was stupid on the driver's part that did that. We were racing for 16th or 17th place and I ended up missing three weeks. I think everybody learns from their mistakes so I think he learned a lot from that mistake that day. Most of all, we've ran pretty good here and we've never could capitalize on it. One in particular time we were running really, really well, about sixth or seventh, and Dale Earnhardt got together under caution, just a racin' deal and I've had a lot of bad memories about this track, but hopefully it all change this weekend."
ARE YOU GOOD ENOUGH TO WIN THIS RACE?
"I think our team is good enough to win, and if it's here or if it's Martinsville or if it's Chicago, wherever we were. In order to sit on the pole today you had to have a mistake-free lap and we had a mistake-free lap, so we were lucky there. I think we can win, I really do. I love this race track, and to me this is a race track where you can't get too aggressive at but you gotta drive on the edge. I love driving on the edge. That doesn't scare me. So, I think that's important. I remember Carl's driver, it was the most astonishing thing I ever saw, Nigel Mansell, wasn't it? That sucker hits the wall coming off one and two and still wins the Brickyard."
"No, he didn't win it."
"He didn't win it?
"He was leading in on the last..."
"He was leading it. It's definitely a driver's race track. If we're in contention in the last pit stop and hopefully we can focus on that thing and stay after it and go for it, and that's what we're going to try and do. But our object now is to try and get the car in race trim and get it comfortable for 400 miles and hopefully we can do it."
IS THIS POLE BIGGER THAN A POLE ANYWHERE ELSE?
"Oh, there's no question that the pole here is bigger than anywhere else. No, it's not as big as a race win. When you win a Winston Cup race, it's pretty damn big. I think winning poles is pretty neat. I've never been known to do it. I mean, I just do some things wrong when it comes time to do it. Today, Donnie told me, he said, 'I know you're not gonna do anything wrong today,' and it worked out for us. But winning a pole here is really special. There's no question that winning the pole at any race is big, but not as big as the Brickyard -- not with the history behind this track. I heard the story on the Georges and how they treat this whole community and how these fans, God, they take you under their arm. They just love you here at Indianapolis. Of all the race tracks that we go to, this track here the fans are vocal. They're big-time NASCAR Winston Cup fans and it's big to win the pole without a question."
WILL THE STRATEGY DIFFER FOR YOU STARTING ON THE POLE VERSUS MID-PACK?
"Oh gosh yeah. I never get the fortunate opportunity to start that far up front sometimes. This year we got running from the back end at Rockingham and run into the back end at Texas. Every time you look when you start 17th, 18th or whatever, you always have that cluster going in the corner. I've got two good guys starting there with me in Bill Elliott and Casey. He's done a great job this year. We'll try to get ourselves in tow getting into the first turn and, hopefully, everything will come out right and there won't be nothing ahead of us going out turn two down the back straighaway. That's what you're hoping for."
HOW MANY HATS DID THEY HAVE TO PUT ON YOU BEFORE THEY FOUND ONE THAT FIT YOU TODAY?
"I tell you, I was shocked. The Budweiser hat, they opened it up and said, 'I've got this thing really big,' and I said, 'My God, that'll fit an elephant's head.' That's how big it was, but we sized it down. I've got a big head, but that's literally."
HANDICAP THE RACE. WHO DO YOU HAVE TO BEAT?
"Forty-two cars. You've got to look at the guys who have run well in the past and the guys who are running good right now. The 28, the 88 and the 24 without a question. Bill Elliott will be a big factor. He always runs well at this race track. I think Junior will run good and I think Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte (will run good). Last week Bobby Labonte impressed the heck out of me, especially the last 20 laps of the race where his car -- with the same tire we have here -- his car really kept the tires underneath it. It doesn't matter, you could lead 159 laps here. I don't care who leads 159 laps, the lap that pays is the 160th and that's what you want to do. The 18 is gonna be really strong. Tony Stewart's gonna be strong. You've got a lot of cars that are gonna be tough. Rusty ran really well here last year and I think Gibbs' Pontiacs will run well. I think the Dodge getting the help they got right now with Bill Elliott will run well and Sterling will run well. There will be a lot of contenders without question."
COMPARE THIS POLE TO THE ONE YOU WON AT NORTH WILKESBORO?
"The first one was real special. We were having a tough time with the people I was working with. I wasn't having a tough time with Junior (Johnson), but I was having a tough time with the people believing in me. It was a blessing gettting out of that organization and going to drive for Travis the year after. So that was pretty special, but that was my first-ever pole. I knew that it was big for Junior Johnson to win at Wilkesboro. The different today for this race, my gosh, it puts you in the Busch Clash. Well, that screws me up now because I can't play golf that Sunday afternoon now. That's gonna mess me up for the Daytona race (joking). To win the pole here. I don't even know what the pole pays here. They said you get a boat and you get all kinds of stuff, but all I know is that my guys worked really, really hard. My guys worked hard. Cecil Gordon back at the shop and Schultz, our fabricator and our body men. Sandra Roseman -- those guys and gals have just worked really hard for us. Travis has put no pressure on my organization. He let us go. He lets Donnie do what he wants to do and Donnie builds the car the way he wants to build 'em and it's been working out really well. I think it's been an effort by the whole team and not just myself getting this pole. It's a lot different right now for me to win this pole here than years ago simply because of the dedication I got amongst my guys. I can't say enough for my guys and for Carl and Travis for believing in me."
HOW MUCH GOOD DO YOU THINK IT WOULD FOR THIS SPORT IF YOU STARTED WINNING WITH YOUR TENDENCY TO SPEAK YOUR MIND?
"I don't know. I feel that Winston Cup racing, when I watched Winston Cup racing growing up and I watched David Pearson and Richard Petty, Bobby Allison and those guys -- Junior Johnson and Bud Moore and the Wood Brothers. I love this sport. I love racing. I don't car about anything else in life but racing. I just feel that so many drivers, it was just constantly the same old crap. They didn't want to explain what happened and everything else under the sun. I think the fans and the media deserve to hear an honest answer. Maybe it's not the answer you were looking for, but it's an answer that is your opinion. That's the great thing about living in America and working under NASCAR is that you can say what you want to say. Sometimes I make a mistake by some stuff I say and I've apologized for it. I've made those mistakes and I'm man enough to admit it. Maybe if they paid me to keep my mouth shut and not say anything, but I can't do that. If something bothers me, I'm gonna express myself. Travis says it's venting myself, so there you go."
THIS PLACE HAS A SPECIAL MEANING O YOU DOESN'T IT BECAUSE YOU USED TO TSNEAK INTO TRACKS AS A KID?
"It does. I snuck in every damn race track that I could. I went to Pocono and watched the late Mark Donahue win and A.J. Foyt was one of my heroes. I snuck into the garage area and, hey, I'm a 15-year-old kid and I walk over to the garage area and nobody is walking in the garage area and I walked right into his car. He said, 'Hey boy, what you doing?' And I said whatever I said at the time when I was 15 years old. And he said, 'Well, you can look but just don't touch nothing.' And I looked and I said, 'My God, that's A.J. Foyt' and he said, 'Yeah' and he shook my hand. I mean, the Indy cars running here -- I drove open-wheeled modifieds so I have a lot of respect for the Indy car guys. I came up here for the Indy 500 test sessions and I thought it was pretty neat and I really hope the Indy car and the CART series get everything worked out for the sport because I love racing. I don't car if it's SCCA or Saturday night racing, where I raced originally. I don't car what it is, I just love to see racing prosper."
DALE JARRETT PAID YOU A COMPLIMENT BY SAYING YOU WERE A FINE RACE DRIVER. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT?
"I think that's pretty neat. There are certain guys you respect on the race track and without a question he's one of 'em. I think that compliment meant that he doesn't have to worry about racing Jimmy Spencer. I'm not gonna put him out. The incident at New Hampshire. When I look back over it now, I realize it wasn't my fault, but it's over and that's water under the bridge. Dale Jarrett, Ricky Rudd, Jeff Gordon -- we raced hard at New Hampshire and I hope I can race their butts this Sunday because they know they're in for something. They know where they are with me. I'm gonna race 'em real hard and, if I can get in that group of drivers, that's pretty special. When Dale compliments me under that, that's a big pat on the back for me and I appreciate it."
HOW TOUGH WILL THE DODGE'S BE TOMORROW?
"I think the Dodge's are gonna have a better front end a lot more frontal grip, especially at this race track. You need frontal grip here more than anywhere. The only thing that bothers me is I wish they would have given it to the Fords also. You've got five Dodge teams and 20 Ford teams, so what can I say? But it will be a big advantage for them. They'll run real good. I would not underestimate Bill Elliott having a shot at winning this race."