Watkins Glen: Jimmy Spencer preview

Spencer to road course guns: "Come to Bristol" MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Aug. 6, 2003) -- Leave it to Jimmy Spencer to say what everyone else is thinking but won't dare divulge. Eight teams have hired road course specialists for this Sunday's...

Spencer to road course guns: "Come to Bristol"

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Aug. 6, 2003) -- Leave it to Jimmy Spencer to say what everyone else is thinking but won't dare divulge.

Eight teams have hired road course specialists for this Sunday's SIRIUS at the Glen NASCAR Winston Cup race, and if Sonoma was any indication, those hired guns will do fairly well. Two of them -- Boris Said and Ron Fellows -- finished in the top seven at Infineon Raceway (6/22), while a handful of other drivers were competitive. Still, when asked his opinion of road-course specialists who enter only two Cup events per year, Spencer is not at a loss for words:

"I'd invite those guys to pick up their bags and come to Bristol, and we'll see what kind of men they are."

God's answer to boredom has spoken again. And God's answer to boredom has been faring quite well himself in the No. 7 SIRIUS Dodge. In the past five races, Team SIRIUS has recorded three top 15s and one top 10 (an eighth-place finish at Indianapolis last week), and has made a considerable gain in the point standings. Spencer's average finish in the past five events is 16th, which ranks 12th among all NASCAR Winston Cup drivers.

This weekend, however, could present Spencer his most formidable challenge yet, especially since he enjoys road courses like he does ulcers, and the 2.45-mile Watkins Glen course is one of the toughest road courses around. Nonetheless, the Berwick, Pa., native is determined to give his team and his sponsor a strong performance in what is shaping up to be a critical weekend for the No. 7 SIRIUS Race Team.

With right turns in his future, Spencer discusses hired road-course specialists and a variety of other storylines leading into Sunday's SIRIUS At The Glen (1 p.m. EDT on NBC).

Jimmy Spencer quotebook:

There are 47 entries for this race, eight of which are hired drivers who specialize on road courses. What are your thoughts on that?

"I'd invite those guys to pick up their bags and come to Bristol any time, and we'll see what kind of men they are. There are two ways of looking at it, and you really can't blame team owners for hiring road course specialists, because owner's points are so critical. At the same time, I like those team owners who stick by their drivers through the good and the bad. It could've been easy for (Ultra Motorsports owner) Jimmy Smith to say, 'You know what, Spencer doesn't like road courses too much, and we finished 36th at Sonoma, and it would be better to hire someone to drive this Watkins Glen race.' But he didn't do that, and I think it's because he knows it's very important for a driver to know he has the backing of his team. I know my team supports me, so I'm going to drive my ass off this weekend for them and for our sponsor, SIRIUS."

But you would agree those road course guys are really good at what they do.

"Without a doubt they're good. I drove behind Boris Said and Ron Fellows a few weeks ago during practice at Infineon, and they are extremely good -- very smooth off the corners, very consistent and very fast. I wanted to learn something by watching where they accelerate and brake. Those guys are really good race car drivers. I know Boris well, and I think he's one of the coolest guys around. You talk about a guy who enjoys life and counts his blessings every day, Boris is the man."

You'd still like to see them come to some oval tracks, right?

"Sure I would. And Boris is going to get that chance, because he won the pole at Infineon and has a spot in the Bud Shootout (at Dayonta next year.) When I think of road course drivers, I think of wine-and-cheese people. But when I think of drivers who race at Bristol and Richmond and Daytona, I think of meat and potatoes. I've got a lot of respect for your Tony Stewarts and your Jeff Gordons and your Kevin Harvicks, because they can do it all. They can race the ovals, the road courses, the dirt tracks, the off-road courses, mud holes, gravel pits, whatever you want, and still kick everybody's butts. I like that."

Let's change the pace a little bit. This team seems like its back on track after a difficult June. Why is that, and what needs to happen to keep it this way?

"Obviously we need to keep making the right decisions on the setup of the cars, and Tommy (Baldwin) has done an excellent job doing that. I think we're running about as well as we were at the beginning of the year. The only difference is we're now getting those lucky little breaks that we didn't get earlier this season. Last week (in the Brickyard 400) we made a green-flag pit stop and then the caution came out. We were stuck on the tail end of the lead lap, but only a few laps later, another caution came out and we were able to catch back up with the rest of the field. Things like that. I don't care how good you are, you've still got to be lucky every once in awhile. I think back to Matt Kenseth at Sonoma when his tire cut down right in front of the entrance to pit road. If that tire would've cut down anywhere else on the track, it would've been disastrous for him. But happening where it did, he was able to go directly into his pit, change tires, and stay on the lead lap. Little things like that can be the difference between good finishes and bad finishes. We've got to keep putting ourselves in position to capitalize on breaks like that, and it will pay off."

What is your goal this weekend?

"Our goal all year has been to establish ourselves as a top-15 team. You've got to be realistic, and we think it is very realistic for us to finish in the top 15 each week. Of course we've always got it in our hearts the desire to win races, so it would be a lie if I said I didn't go out there trying to win. But right now, the goal for this team is to continue gaining points. We don't need anymore bad points days, because we're finally gaining some ground here."

To make things more exciting for the Dog Pound, crew chief Tommy Baldwin and his wife Beth are proud parents of a newborn son, Jack Harris Baldwin, born on Monday, Aug. 4th. How soon before Tommy puts Jack to work in the shop?

"I suspect Jack will be putting decals on the car by the time we hit Daytona next year. (Laughing) I think that's probably about the same time Tommy started working in his dad's shop."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Boris Said , Jimmy Spencer , Kevin Harvick , Ron Fellows , Tommy Baldwin