Jimmy Spencer, driver of the No. 26 Kmart Taurus, has scored two top-10 finishes in the last three races to move back to 14th place in the NASCAR Winston Cup points standings heading into tomorrow's MBNA Platinum 400 at Dover Downs International...
Jimmy Spencer, driver of the No. 26 Kmart Taurus, has scored two top-10 finishes in the last three races to move back to 14th place in the NASCAR Winston Cup points standings heading into tomorrow's MBNA Platinum 400 at Dover Downs International Speedway. He led last week's Coca-Cola 600 three times for 57 laps before finishing in sixth place. Spencer was Saturday's guest at the Winston Breakfast Club in the infield media center in Dover, Del., and talked about, among other things, the state of the Cup series and his team. Rain cancelled Friday's qualifying session so the field was set by points; Spencer will line up on the outside of the seventh row.
JIMMY SPENCER-26-Kmart Taurus-
YOU HAD VERY STRONG RUN AT CHARLOTTE.
"It really was, and we were really happy with that. When we unloaded in The Winston the week before we felt like we had a pretty good car but some things broke on it. We brought the car that we raced at California, it was a good car, we led a lot of laps. I think the 33 car got into the wall and broke a brake rotor and when he did that we ran over it. We were very fortunate to finish where we did because we knocked the toe-in out about a half inch, and that made the car very tight and punched a big hole in the front valance. We were still very happy with a top-10 finish. In-between California it led a lot of laps, and Charlotte, we feel like we should be able to win a race there before long, that's what we're hoping for?"
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE KEYS OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS THAT HAVE LED TO THIS TO MAKE THIS TEAM COMPETITIVE?
"What happened this year, more than anything, was the just the accumulation over the last couple of years of working together, building cars-just took us a little longer than most, I guess. The tires, right now, are the best tires that Goodyear's ever made. We had to change no bodies over the winter. The only thing we had to do was improve the cars that we had, the noses and the tail we didn't have to change. One thing led to another and I think it's just the accumulation of the tires and the confidence that the team has together, Robert Yates engines, and I'd love to win really, really bad. I won in the Busch and that's a Busch league, that's what it is, it's a bush league, it's not Winston Cup."
"J.V.? J.V. league? Okay."
ON THE UPCOMING SCHEDULE.
"We're coming into some great race tracks for us. We run well at Pocono. Very bothered by the rule change that NASCAR did. I think a lot of guys are. I think you should not make a rule change of that caliber midway through the season, we're less than a third of the way through the season and they change the rules. And teams have tested, we have tested, and I know a lot of other teams have tested and then the great thing is you go to the NASCAR trailer and say, 'What the hell's going on?' and they go, 'Oh, this guy said we should change this rule, and this guy did.' And then you go to the garage area and talk to all the drivers and not one of 'em-not one crew chief and one driver-wanted a rule change. It's just a bunch of malarkey that they do, you know? And that's what's bad about NASCAR sometimes-making decisions and not really listening to the competitors doing it. That's the problem I have with it. It's not all NASCAR, the officials do their job. It's the upper people. I guess it was [Steve] Peterson and Gary Nelson."
WHY DID THEY MAKE THE RULE CHANGE?
"That's what I'm saying. I don't know why they made the rule change. And now, it affected a bunch of race team. I think Rusty Wallace was a big advocate against shock rubbers and all this kind of crap. I think that he felt like, well, if he goes in there and starts complaining-he was the only one that I could find out that was saying, 'Hey, these aren't good for the sport.' Okay? And everybody else was like, 'We're alright with this.' But, once again, NASCAR has implemented the rule and we have to live by it. That's what's bad about this sport in a lot of ways. You don't see the NFL saying, 'Okay, what we're gonna do now in this month is we're gonna say a first down is 15 yards. You gotta go 10 yards down the field to get a first down, now we're gonna change it to 15 yards this month.' That's what's bad about our sport."
WHAT SHOULD THEY CHANGE?
"They shouldn't change nothing now. They made the rules at the beginning of the year. They should not change them rules like that."
UNTIL THE END OF THE YEAR?
"Right. Because that rule was the same for every manufacturer. Now it's different when they make a rule change for the aero. That's different. If a Dodge in an underprivileged situation or not doing real then a rule change in that area is good. We cannot have a manufacturer dominating. We can not have a manufacturer that's not competitive. That's not good for the sport. But, we shouldn't be making rules changes that just institutes immediately, test dates and everything you've worked on, going to two or three of the biggest races of the year-especially Indianapolis. I think it's a pretty bad deal."
HAVE YOU EXPRESSED THIS TO NASCAR?
"It's like talking to nothing."
WHAT ABOUT THE TEAMS THAT TESTED WITH THESE RULES AND THEN WHEN TO THE RACE TRACK? IS IT A BIG DIFFERENCE?
"It's a big difference, because now they've come out with a rule where the height of the coil springs. Well, Travis Carter's bought maybe $20,000 worth of coil springs, sitting in the shop, they're not worth a damn anymore. Talk about cost. They're the ones causing some of the problems with the cost. And that's just us. I mean, I'm sure there's a lot of other teams-they ain't gonna to say it because they're afraid-but NASCAR knows I'm very unhappy about it, and does it matter? I think that that rule change is what I'm getting at is that those rule changes should not, they were not a safety issue, were not a safety issue." WERE THE NEW RULES?
"Were the new rules? No. the new rules is a shorter coil spring. Eight and a half inches, I think, is the rule on the front springs and no shock rubbers. Here we are today at Dover, Delaware, where we're about to start this Busch race, and we want to run a softer left-front spring an put a rubber in it-we're not allowed to do that. That's absolute stupidity, but NASCAR figures that that's the right thing to do. And, in turn, I think the racing is a situation like today where there's no practice at all, and there probably won't be any practice for the Cup cars-hopefully there will be, hopefully there will be for the Busch race that will be here-but the rules, you know, sometimes these rules are stupid. And I think they think that they're convincing Bill France that they're getting their job done, that they have to substantiate their salary. Once Bill's real, real healthy, he won't let this stuff happen. That's the way I feel. Bill's doing good, he's doing real good. He would not let this stuff happen. This stuff would not happen if [Dale] Earnhardt were still around."
"I just think that Bill France really respected Dale Earnhardt a real, really lot. And that's something that this sport needs. We need another guy to speak out and become a guy that's a stand-up. And whether it be a Rusty Wallace or a Jeff Gordon, a Mark Martin, Tony Stewart, somebody that's winning a lot of races, like Dale Jarrett or Bobby Labonte. We need a guy like that that we go talk to and stuff and NASCAR will listen to those people, especially Bill France, he'll listen to those people, because he knows we're not bullcrapping him. He knows we're telling him the truth. Bill France listened to the competitors and then he tried to institute the rules."
YOU DON'T FEEL LIKE YOU'RE BEING LISTENED TO NOW?
"No. We're listened to by Bill France or Mike Helton, but we're not listed to by other people in the area."
WHY WOULDN'T YOU GO IN AND TALK TO...
"You do. You do. You go in there and you talk to them and it's like, 'Okay. Alright. Yeah.'" DONNIE WINGO SAID THE OTHER DAY THAT THE TEAM IS DEVELOPING CONSISTENCY.
"I think the consistency with our race team is we've been together a while. The motor people sort of know what I like. When Robert Yates builds a motor for Dale Jarrett, it's probably a little different than Ricky Rudd's. When they build a motor for Jimmy Spencer, it's a little bit different because the driver has tendencies about him, he likes certain things and those guys working for me know what I like. I think it's just building a good relationship with the engine people, great engines. I think the guys in the shop, building up the data from the wind tunnel. Knowing that we're building better race cars and then in turn that pushes off on the crew, the crew pushes off on the driver and it just starts to build a lot of strength. It's like building a house. You don't really see anything at first. That foundation's built and then you start going up with it. I think that's something that Donnie and I have believed in one another a lot, and now we have the people around us that believe in Donnie and me. And I think that's important."
YOU'D LIKE TO BE INVOLVED IN THE POINTS CHAMPIONSHIP RACE, WOULDN'T YOU?
"Oh, man, I'd love to be in a points battle, but we're not this year. We've had a lot of problems this year. We had a rear-end break at Daytona and we had cut tire at Talladega, both worse than 36th places. At Rockingham, the first lap there with Little E, it wasn't his fault. And Texas. We've had five or six really bad races. But yet we've had some good races. And they were good cars that day. All in all, we think we still can be close to the top 10 in points. It's hard. Matt Kenseth's one point ahead of us, and then we look behind us and Mark Martin's behind us, Jeff Burton, guys that should be in the top 10 and I'd like to scrap with them, too."
WHAT YOUR TEAMMATE, TODD BODINE?
"Todd and I are working good. He's having a lot of tough luck this year, but that crew is sharing information without a question from one another. We just took two cars to the wind tunnel-one the 66 team built and one the 26 team built, and they're within five or 10 pounds of each other, so sharing information is important for both of us. Right now, I think Todd just needs to get more familiar with a Winston Cup car, and he's learning that and he's qualifying good and he has good cars. He's having tough luck. He broke a gear last week. He's broke a couple of motors this year, which I don't know what happened there. Just little funny things have happened to him, but I think he'll be strong."
DO YOU HAVE MORE CONFIDENCE THIS YEAR?
"No, I've always been confident, always felt like I could win races, and I love coming to the races every week. The day that I don't feel like I should come to the races, the day that I feel like I don't want to-the day that I get out of the race car and say, 'You know what? I'm just tired of doing this.' I'm not going to hang around this sport. I'm just going to quick. It's a long way away, but I think every driver knows when that days comes. That's a long way away. I want to contend for a lot of wins before I quit."
WHY DO YOU FEEL SO CONFIDENT SPEAKING OUT WHEN OTHER DRIVERS DON'T. YOU'VE NEVER BEEN ASKED NOT TO SPEAK?
"I just think that a lot of the reasoning there is they're afraid of maybe getting crucified by their sponsor or the media. A lot of the media people will sometimes misquote you and things like that. That doesn't bother me. I think the fans pay good money. We'll have over, how many, 110,000 or 120,000 people here and they want to hear the truth. They're paying good money to see a good race. When they read these articles in the paper and if just a bunch of words jumbled together, I don't think they like that. Winston Cup racing wasn't built on that, Winston Cup racing was built on my heroes, Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough and Richard Petty and those guys always spoke their mind, you know? And that's what made us what we are."
WHAT ABOUT YOUR CHARITY GOLF TOURNAMENT?
"My golf tournament is coming up in two weeks and I wish you people would all come up to it. It's Thursday, it's before Pocono, Thursday. I'm flying an airplane up from Concord, North Carolina. If anybody wants to, the phone number is (704) 662-9842. I'll fly you up and fly you back for Pocono. Just give us a call, you're welcome to come and welcome to play."
TO RAISE MONEY FOR...
"To raise money for whoever. I try to help a lot of handicapped kids, hospitals, anybody who needs help in the area. We raised over a quarter of million dollars so far and I just think it's a good cause. A lot of drivers come up there to it to help me and I go to theirs. Kyle Petty's coming up and Mike Skinner, Kevin Lepage, Rick Mast, there's a lot of guys."
WHAT ABOUT DRIVING IN THE BUSCH SERIES.
"I enjoy running the Busch Series. Tires have really been a help for me. The motor rule, I was against the motor rule, I was against it all the way. Right now I think the motor rule is going to help for the Cup drivers, I think it's been a help the Busch drivers who want to go Cup racing. If you just want to stay in the Busch Series and run in the Busch Series the rest of your life, I think it was a bad rule change for you. But those guys who are going to move into the Cup Series from the Busch, it would be very advantageous to them. That's why Bill France changed that rule. He wanted to get the cars a little bit closer to the Cup cars, and he's done it and it's worked pretty good for him."
HOW OFTEN HAVE YOU GONE INTO THE NASCAR TRAILER AND EXPRESSED YOUR OPINION? DO YOU DO THAT OFTEN?
"No. Because I know sometimes when I go in there that sometimes-nothing's going to happen. But when they do I just tell them I think they're wrong in what they did. And if you hear some rumblings that they're going to make some rules changes, then I think you need to address that, too. But I really feel like they do what they want to do anyway. That really bothers me some. I'm very bothered by that sometimes because I just think when you make a rule you better live by it for a year. And also, you know, they listen to certain people instead of listening to everybody. And I think they should listen to everybody. It would make more sense, if they talked to everybody. See, they never even talked to the drivers about the rule change on the spring rubbers and stuff like that. They just made it. If they did talk to some of the drivers, I wasn't included. I look at it, if I'm in the top 25 in points, that's the way I look at it. So there's more than 25 drivers out there and I'm in the top 25 and they didn't talk to me. So that did bother me, yeah."
SO YOU DON'T THINK THEY TAKE YOU SERIOUSLY?
"I don't know if they don't take me seriously or not. I don't think NASCAR does that at all, I think they take everybody seriously. If you go in there with a complaint or something, NASCAR will listen to you, there's no question about it. But sometimes I think the drivers feel like, 'What should we go in there for? You know, because they're not going to listen to us.'"
DO YOU HAVE A SENSE OF WHO'S RUNNING THIS SPORT RIGHT NOW?
"I THINK Mike Helton's in control of the sport itself. I don't think that Mike Helton is in total control of the rules changes. But then again, I don't think Mike's technical in that department. I think Mike does an absolutely outstanding job. One thing I say about Mike Helton: If you ever have a complaint, he will listen to you. And he also will call you back on the phone. He's one of the few people that NASCAR's ever had working for them, if you can leave a message, he will call you back. To me, that's a very important person, and at least he's listening to you. And there's times I say, 'Mike, I think you're totally wrong on what you're doing,' but he has a job to do. So that's the thing you have to look at. I respect Mike Helton with the utmost."
DO YOU SEE EVIDENCE OF BILLY LENDING HIS HAND?
"I still think they all listen to Bill France."
"Oh, yeah. As long as Bill France is alive, you will listen to him. I complained to him somewhere about something, and got a phone call back from him. That's why NASCAR Winston Cup has been so strong. That's why all the media and everything is so important to 'em. The Dale Earnhardt scenario, the media's blowed that thing way out of shape because NASCAR's always done it their way and they're doing the right thing right now investigating that Earnhardt deal. They're not just jumping to conclusions. They never did jump to conclusions on stuff. That's sorta why I guess I'm bothered why they jumped to conclusions on that rule change."
WHAT ABOUT THE NEW TIRE?
"I think it's the absolute best tire. Not coming from just me, but just talk to Tony Stewart, my gosh, all the drivers. It's the most consistent, the best tire that I think we ever raced on. That's a big saying but I feel that's it's the best tire we ever raced on. And I think it's the years of accumulating data and things like that. The tire is just bulletproof. You can go into this corner at Dover wide open knowing that that thing's gonna stay underneath you. I think that's a big plus to Goodyear."
YOU JUST SEEM LIKE YOU'RE SO HAPPY MOST OF THE TIME. EVEN WHEN YOU'RE UPSET, IT RADIATES. IS THAT JUST YOU THESE DAYS?
"That's just me. I love this sport. I love the opportunity to be driving in Winston Cup, it's what I wanted to do my whole life is drive in Winston Cup. I got the opportunity to do it and the neat thing about the sport is that there is people making a lot of money in it. We could still be racing Saturday nights in New England or something, New York, and instead we're here racing at Dover on Sunday in front of 140,000 people for a purse that should be raised."
IF JIMMY SPENCER WERE MAKING THE RULES FOR THE 2002 CAR, WHAT WOULD THE CAR LOOK LIKE?
"What I would do is I would accumulate the data that I had from all the wind tunnels. I would have the top-10 Dodge teams, Ford teams and Chevrolet teams all give me an opinion on what we need to do for the next five years. I would not change a lot of things because guys have 15 cars sitting in their shop, so if you do institute rules, you need to institute that you don't eliminate a bunch of stuff. I would try to make the rules pretty close, similar. Pontiac's coming out with new car in like two years and I think that they, NASCAR's looking at that and they're looking at it, and Chevrolet needed help, they got it. I think we're pretty dang competitive right now, Ford, Chevy, Dodge, stuff like that. I really wouldn't change a whole lot of things as far as aerodynamics and stuff like that. If I ever instituted rules, when I first started, I would eliminate about 10 or 15 of them templates. It's costing the car owners tons of money. Too many damn templates. Way too many templates. Things that you can't really police, and it's just aggravating to the officials that are putting the templates on. It's very aggravating to the fabricators. Our body costs have gone up hundreds of thousands of dollars a year because of these templates. The bottom line is that if everybody has the same thing, what the hell does it matter? So, if you would just have a couple common templates-people know that that four-door Taurus, that car we run on Sunday isn't the car that they drive on Sunday. But they know that it's a Ford. Dodge is no different. That four-door Dodge is not the car that they drive on Monday. And Monte Carlo, let's face it, they don't sell too many Monte Carlos. You'll see probably a four-door car that's popular next time for Chevy or Pontiac. And I think that the bottom line is if they would eliminate some templates that would be one of the biggest savings for the car owners."
WHAT ABOUT SPEEDS?
"Some of the tracks we get up there pretty fast but I think the speed is not that bad as long as we have a good, safe tire underneath us. The speed scares the drivers when the car wobbles or does the Wautusi, so to speak, going in the corner. Now, with this tire, we don't have that problem. When we go to Michigan we'll be really fast, but the car won't bobble around and do weird things. California was just incredible. A lot of side-by-side racing. I think that the speeds are dictated a lot by the tires. They could bring a tire here that we could run probably a half, three-quarters of a second faster. Goodyear realizes now that doesn't matter. What they want is 43 cars that start this race on safe tires and finish this race on safe tires and they've been doing that great because it's just like driving down the street. They could build a tire that's a lot better for the street to go to faster but it has a tendency, maybe, to blow out. So, the bottom line is that you're not going to buy a Firestone, I'm not going to buy a Firestone tire because they blow out. Maybe there's something wrong with the Ford but I don't think so. I'm going to buy Goodyears and that's what I run on all my vehicles. Would you? Would you run Firestones on your vehicle. My wife and kids in a vehicle will not have Firestones on. I won't take the chance."