Michigan II: Jimmy Spencer preview

Spencer to race Formula One? He's only kidding MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Aug. 12, 2003) -- Fresh off his 23rd-place finish at Watkins Glen International Speedway, Jimmy Spencer is taking back his remarks last week of anti-road course sentiment. "I...

Spencer to race Formula One? He's only kidding

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Aug. 12, 2003) -- Fresh off his 23rd-place finish at Watkins Glen International Speedway, Jimmy Spencer is taking back his remarks last week of anti-road course sentiment.

"I think I want to go Formula One racing now."

He's kidding. Really, he is. Finishing 23rd isn't something to write home about, but after being handed a provisional starting spot on Friday, changing motors on Saturday and repairing the damage from three off-road excursions during the weekend, 23rd felt like a top 5. The No. 7 SIRIUS Racing Team dropped one position in the point standings, but it's merely a bruise for a team that appeared destined for a fracture. Team SIRIUS is now 28th in the owner's championship standings and only 53 points out of 25th. More importantly, NO MORE ROAD COURSES! Drinks are on us!

The final 14 events will not only be raced on ovals, but ovals Team SIRIUS has performed well on this year. That has the Dog Pound as confident as ever, even this weekend with a return trip to Michigan International Speedway for the GFS Marketplace 400 (1:30 p.m. EDT on TNT). The June Michigan race came in the middle of a dreadful month in which Spencer finished no better than 29th. But the No. 7 Dodge has finished 23rd or better in the ensuing six, and the momentum is building.

With road courses behind him and only ovals ahead, Spencer slows down to share his thoughts on the No. 7 SIRIUS Racing Team's optimism for the rest of the season.

Jimmy Spencer quote book:

With your lack of affection for road courses duly noted last week, what was it like waking up Monday morning and realizing the road course races are now behind you?

"I think it's probably the same feeling a guy gets the day he's been granted parole after 50 years in prison. Free at last, free at last, you know what I mean? Or it's the same feeling you have when you've been holding your breath under water for two minutes, and right before you give out, you break the surface and inhale all that wonderful oxygen. I'm looking forward to the rest of the season because we've got our bad tracks behind us now. We're going to some places we should really do well at, and that's important for our mental mindset. This sport is so mental, and it's so confidence driven."

But you seemed confident going into the Watkins Glen race. Here at the shop last week, you promised the guys you'd score 100 points on Sunday even though you had finished 36th at Sonoma (Infineon Raceway on June 22).

"Yeah, and there are some guys looking for their money, because I didn't get the 100 points. I only got 94 I believe. That's OK. We survived the weekend, and we're ready for Michigan. We struggled there earlier this year, and it was embarrassing. But it ended up being a pivotal point of the season, because that's when we realized we've got to do some soul-searching. We've got to dig deeper and figure out where our problem is. We had tested there the week before, had a great test, and thought we had something 'em for the race. Turns out we weren't even a contender. That was a wake-up call."

So has the Michigan game plan changed since the June race?

"Sure it has. When you perform as bad as we did (started 40th, finished 29th) you learn from your mistakes, figure out what didn't work, and try to improve when you come back. We're taking a different car this time. We thought (chassis) 027 was the ticket at Michigan, but it wasn't. We really lacked front grip. We're taking 051 this time, a car we call "Stephanie" (named in memory of Stephanie Huffman, daughter of Ultra Motorsports shop foreman J.W. Bartok, who died of breast cancer earlier this year). This car has been a good one for us, and we're hoping it goes fast again on Sunday."

What's your goal for this weekend then?

"Our goal all year has been to finish in the top 15; establish ourselves as a consistent top-15 team. If we can do that in these final 14 races, we'll have a strong foundation to build on for next year. It's kind of farfetched for a new team to go into NASCAR's premier series and think it can win week-in and week-out. We knew there would be races where we could contend for wins, and we have. But the reasonable goal is to shoot for top 15s, and then set our goals higher next year. Tommy and the boys have been building cars nonstop, and we finally have our inventory up to where it needs to be. The more you build, the better your selection becomes. Some of the cars we've been using as primaries this year could be back-ups next year, because we'll build better cars for certain tracks. That's something that obviously just takes time, and so far we're right where we need to be."

You, Jimmy Smith, Tommy Baldwin and others on the team raced at the local go-kart track just down the road from MIS last time we were there. Could we possibly see a rematch this weekend?

"If they let us come back, we'll be there. But we ran those go-karts pretty hard last time, so they may not let us come back."

But you're an established road racer now. Maybe they'll take that into consideration.

"That's true, I am a road racer now. I told Tommy I'm thinking about moving to Formula One."

And what was his reaction to that?

"He said the grass and gravel that's still falling out of the car suggests I should probably just stay where I am."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmy Spencer , Tommy Baldwin