Tuesday, July 22, 2003 DODGE THIS Teleconference Jimmy Spencer JIMMY SPENCER (Driver, No. 7 Sirius Satellite Radio Dodge Intrepid) ON NEW HAMPSHIRE RUN "It's a flat track and it's hard to pass on any flat track because usually the fastest...
Tuesday, July 22, 2003
DODGE THIS Teleconference
JIMMY SPENCER (Driver, No. 7 Sirius Satellite Radio Dodge Intrepid)
ON NEW HAMPSHIRE RUN
"It's a flat track and it's hard to pass on any flat track because usually the fastest groove is on the inside. But we worked our way up and got in an altercation on pit road and had to go to the rear and worked our way back up again. We were passing Todd Bodine and got together with him and spun out. They never did throw the caution. My God, we passed 19 cars in the last 35 laps or so. We were really strong, but that was the furthest we could get was 15th. We just ran out of time, but it was a good day for the Dodge all-in-all because a lot of things happened to us that we really couldn't get out of. Still, to come out 15th was pretty good."
ON REAR-END FIRES AND CRASHES
"Most of the fires are going to come from the rear of the car because of the fuel cell. The fuel cell contains the fuel. If there were no fuel cell it would be pretty tragic, but NASCAR is looking into some devices to keep the fuel vent hoses tighter and more secure in crashes. NASCAR is constantly working on trying to make it safer for everyone including the drivers. Most of the fires are a gallon of gas that spews out after the car hits the wall and spills out onto the rear rotors or hot tailpipes, and it's a quick fire. That's good because the fire goes out quick and the gas is gone quick but the cars are still pretty well secured inside. The metal inside that NASCAR mandates works towards the driver's advantage. The thing is, you know you are going to have a fire when you put 22 gallons of gas into the wall and you know you are going to have sparks, but luckily there hasn't been any fires lately that have done any damage to the drivers. There are so many crashes that have no fire at all. When there is a fire, everyone remembers it because of the explosion and the flames. That is definitely the perception that you get, yeah."
ON ESCAPE ROOF HATCHES
"I think every driver is excited about those being used whether you are big guy or a small guy. The biggest thing is, all the devices that we have come up with over the last few years have all been very good for the safety of the drivers, but yet the cockpit has so many things in it that are supposed to help you from getting hurt that could actually hurt you in a fire or collision. With this escape hatch, you could just pop right out of the roof. I think it is a good deal, like a fighter pilot deal. As a matter of fact, I'm going over today to look at it at the NASCAR facility. That hatch will allow you a few extra seconds to get out of the car more quickly but will also allow the safety workers to get to the driver a lot quicker. So I think it is a step in the right direction without a question, and next year you will probably see every car have one."
ON ANDRETTI COMMENTS
"I think John is just reaching for straws. It was just a racing deal. He passed me earlier in the race and he slipped going up into the corner and I got back underneath him and we went down the back straight a way and I passed him. Then when we went up into turns one and two my car just got a little free on me, and he kept pinching me down and pinching me down. My thought was it was just a racing thing, but on the other side of it, I feel like John should have used a little more common sense. He should have said, 'This is my first ride in this car and I have to get a good feel for it' and he didn't. Instead, he was all aggressive and kept pinching me down and I had no alternative left. I just got a little free and we bumped and he ended up spinning out. I didn't mean anything by it. But desperate people do desperate things I guess. We haven't talked. When he was fixing the car after the race they threw some stuff on my hauler for my driver and crew to get rid of. That was very unprofessional. It's not the crewmembers that cause these problems. It is usually the drivers, so the drivers should discuss this afterwards and he was nowhere around to discuss this with."
ON LEVEL OF OPTIMISM FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON
"Naturally we can't win the championship. I don't think there are that many people who can with the year Matt Kenseth is having, but I feel like we started out pretty strong and we made a lot of mistakes. Lately we have just been behind the eight ball on a lot of decisions we have made. Our fuel mileage has been terrible the last few weeks, and we feel our engine program is not where it needs to be. But we have not given up. At times we have had the best car on Sunday, but the best car doesn't always get the top-five finishes all the time. But the crew has really turned the corner as far as I am concerned. They are really positive and their attitude is positive and we feel like we can really win a race coming to some really strong tracks. We had a decent test at Indy, a strong run at Richmond, and had really good runs at Bristol and Darlington. A lot of those tracks we are coming back to in the next couple weeks and we are excited about it."
ON ENGINES AT POCONO
"I think Mike Ege is working hard right now. I think the direction we were going was for big power numbers and out motors aren't accelerating like they should. Mike is working on that now. We have plenty of horsepower but we don't have the acceleration factor that is necessary, and as we speak Mike is working hard. I wouldn't trade him for anything. I think the world of Mike Ege and the whole group. We have only had one engine failure this whole year. All-in-all we have had good power, we just need more acceleration to help the car get up off the corner."
ON DIFFERENT CAR SETUPS/PACKAGES
"Most of the tracks now are taking the aero package everybody is putting on their cars. That means that the nose of the car needs to stay down as close to the ground as it can and the back of the car needs to stay up at high as it can. That is your best aerodynamic package. So you spend all your time keeping the front-end down, the back-end up and keeping good grip in the car. The more aggressive front shocks you have, the faster the car will run, but the problems is it really eats the tires up. That's the major problem we were faced with at Chicago, and we will be faced with it at Pocono and Indianapolis. We were faced with it at New Hampshire. I would say at about 75 percent of the tracks that's what we are going with now. Tracks like Bristol, Atlanta and Dover that is not that case. It's hard. You need to get the tires to run as long as you can with the best grip and the best aero package with the nose to the track. Because it seems like you are doing it every single week, you look forward to going to places like Bristol and Atlanta because you don't burn the tires up in 15 to 18 laps. It's strenuous on the crew and strenuous on the driver."
"Pocono is special. I've been there since the first race they ever started with the Indy cars and Mark Donahue and AJ Foyt and those guys. The Mattiolis are great people and he (Joe Mattioli) keeps updating the facility every year. But, I think it needs to be a 400-mile race, which in turn will be a lot better for the TV audience and for the drivers who can get a little more aggressive. We know at Pocono it's a lot harder on the transmissions and motors because the straight-aways are so different. We turn so many RPMs on the long straightaway and not so much on the back, so that is why you start shifting. It's a hard racetrack, but there is a lot of passing going on every lap and it's the only track that has a tunnel turn. That really means something. I guess every track has a tunnel now but its always been known at Pocono that the tunnel turn is the tricky part of the racetrack. To me its one of the most critical parts of the track and you work hard on it everyday to try and get as fast as you can off the tunnel turn because that's where a lot of passing is done."
ON AGE IN NASCAR
"I know a lot of guys who wonder if they will ever get back to the top of the sport. I feel like I will. I feel like I can win. I don't doubt myself and I don't doubt my crew. I have in the past. This year I haven't doubted them. I don't really think age is as big of an issue as people make it out to be. You saw Bill Elliott dominate last year at Pocono and Indy, and we saw the young guys run good too. But I think that in our sport today that as it changes over the years, it changes every year, the competition level increases and I think it's whoever has the setup here for the next couple of weeks. But I don't deny that it looks bad for the older drivers. Personally, the moment I start doubting that I can get back there is when I will quit. Right now it is full force forward and hopefully we can win Pocono."
ON IMPORTANCE OF FUEL MILEAGE
"It's incredible that at Daytona some cars could run five or six laps further than other cars. That doesn't sound like a lot until you realize that is a two and a half mile racetrack. So that is about 13 or 14 miles. We saw that same thing again at New Hampshire. My gosh, these guys are running about 103 miles and we can only run 86 miles. So, we're on our motor department every week and we have really gotten on them lately about it. It's like every time you are running really good, the pit stop sequences mess you up. Jeff Gordon is a good example of this. He ends up 24th instead of being in contention to win the race because his fuel mileage was off. Guys are trying to figure that out. It's a shame that fuel mileage becomes such an issue in some of these races but there are so many different variables that go into running good on that particular Sunday that you have to take advantage of everything that you can. Right now our gas mileage stinks and we are working on trying to get it better - especially with Pocono and Indianapolis coming up. So hopefully we can get it figured out. It is part of the sport that you hate to see happen, but its inevitable that all these races down the road could become gas mileage races."
ON PLANNING FUEL STRATEGY
"I think a lot of the teams cannot plan. They have an idea starting the race that they can run 38 laps or whatever, and then they take the caution flags and how the car is handling. Then after the first pit stop they start realizing they can only run to a certain amount of laps. So as the race starts to progress, you keep adjusting on what you can do and figure out the gas mileage that will be beneficial to you to know when to pit. When a caution comes out, it screws everything up. All-in-all, you do have to plan as best you can to figure out when you should pit. It takes a lot of work on the part of the pit box to figure out what is going into that call that's being made. That is why there is so much pressure on the crew chiefs anymore. It's definitely a team effort but there are still a lot of variables."
ON POCONO BEING A HOMECOMING
"Oh it is. I stop and get my famous Texas hot dog while I am down there at Texas lunch and burgh and I go see coach Curry. I went to high school there and I have a big golf tournament there on Thursday to raise money. I have a lot of celebrities and drivers come for that. We are going to raise a lot of money so we are looking forward to that. That's going to be a neat deal. It's special to go back to Pennsylvania. Its good to go back and see Mattiolis and go back to Pocono again."
ON SIRIUS SPONSORSHIP LEAVING AT END OF YEAR
"It was a surprise. I figured we got the most publicity for them that they could have gotten for their dollar. I think there are some things that happen in companies that you don't know the workings of, but I am going to work as hard as I can to do the best that I can for Sirius or a new sponsor whenever we can announce that. All-in-all I don't think we let that phase us. I still wear the Sirius uniforms and I am still proud of Sirius satellite radios. I still have them in my vehicles and I will continue to support them. The thing we have to do as a race team is get our race cars to handle properly and work with out motor department to make our cars better every week and get some top-10 finishes. We felt like we had a top-10 team a few weeks back but we stumbled but now we feel like we can get back. So that's what we are going to do at Pocono and the rest of the year, and we will let our car owner worry about finding a sponsor and some marketing people. We feel confident we will get one, and we feel we can put them in the winners circle."