* Jimmy Spencer finds competition level tough but attitudes rewarding * Record-matching points battle rages with five races remaining DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 26, 2005) -- As a drop-in competitor, Jimmy Spencer (No. 2 Team ASE Dodge) won a...
* Jimmy Spencer finds competition level tough but attitudes rewarding
* Record-matching points battle rages with five races remaining
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 26, 2005) -- As a drop-in competitor, Jimmy Spencer (No. 2 Team ASE Dodge) won a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race in his second appearance.
Spencer, following that September 2003 victory at New Hampshire International Speedway, might have thought, "Well, that was easy."
As a fulltime NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competitor in 2005, however, Spencer's view has turned 180 degrees.
"I've never been in a series any more competitive than this one is today," said Spencer, a 30-year racing veteran and two-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series winner with 476 starts and nearly $20 million won.
Spencer has yet to duplicate his New Hampshire success although he's come close, losing by a split second to Bobby Hamilton (No. 04 Bailey's Dodge) on the final lap of this season's opening race at Daytona International Speedway.
The Ultra Motorsports driver currently shares a fifth-place championship points total with Todd Bodine (No. 30 Germain Motor Company Toyota) following last weekend's Las Vegas 350 in which Bodine recorded his second victory of the season.
Spencer, 48, may be on the short side of his competitive career but the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is giving him plenty of what got him hooked on racing in the first place: the opportunity to win.
"In the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series you have to race hard -- from start to finish," he said.
Spencer isn't surprised that the series has produced three members of this year's "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup:" Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards.
"The tribute to the series is that it brings out a never-give-up attitude in drivers," he said. "That's how you get recognized by a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup team owner."
Although Spencer didn't repeat as a New Hampshire winner when the series visited the 1.058-mile track a couple of weeks ago, he points to the race's dramatic conclusion -- a three-way fight between three "old school" competitors who had no thought in mind but standing in victory lane.
"Here you had three guys racing for the lead and the respect they showed for each other was phenomenal," said Spencer of winner Rick Crawford (No. 14 Circle Bar Truck Corral Ford), Dennis Setzer (No. 46 Chevrolet Z71 Silverado Chevrolet) and Ted Musgrave (No. 1 Mopar Dodge). "The series is tough but in a way nobody's going to give you anything but the room to race.
"First place pays the most points. That's how these guys approach it. And it fits my personality as a driver."
With five races left on the schedule, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship appears destined for a photo finish -- again.
Just five points separate standings leader Setzer from runnerup Musgrave, Spencer's Ultra Motorsports teammate. The point difference matches the record for this point of the season. In 1998, Jack Sprague (No. 16 Chevy Trucks Chevrolet) was five in front of Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 6 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet), who went on to win his second championship.
The closely contested championship race is nothing new. In nine of the series' 10 seasons, the decision has gone to the final race which, for the third time, will be held at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 18).
Neither Setzer nor Musgrave has won a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship but both have carried title hopes into the finale. Setzer and Musgrave finished second and third, respectively, in each of the past two seasons. Setzer lost the 2003 title to Travis Kvapil by nine points in the series' third-closest decision. Musgrave missed by 18.
Hornaday, the current third-ranked championship hopeful, is 200 points behind Setzer. The spread between Hornaday and 10th-place Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards/Seal Best Chevrolet) is 194 points with Sprague in 11th, 32 points back. Should he advance, Sprague will be a perfect nine-for-nine in top-10 championship finishes. Next closest in the record book is Setzer, who is working on his seventh-consecutive ranking among the top 10.
The next event is the Oct. 22 Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway.
NEWS & NOTES, PART II
ETC. ... How they got there: Musgrave led at Las Vegas for just the third time in 2005 and first since June 18 at Michigan International Speedway. He's spotted Setzer a net 45 lap leader bonus points but heads all drivers in top-five (10) and top-10 (13) finishes. ... Bodine's final lap pass of Musgrave marked the third time this season that the winner has gone from second to first with the white flag in the air. Hamilton beat Spencer at Daytona and Brandon Whitt (No. 38 Red Horse Racing Toyota) prevailed over Hornaday at Memphis Motorsports Park. ... Chevrolet is closing in on its sixth series manufacturer championship but Toyota trucks have led the most laps through the season's first 20 races. Toyota has 1,407 laps led to Chevrolet's 1,401.
10 YEARS TOUGH
Races were run back-to-back at two historic NASCAR facilities to close out the month of September in the 1995 inaugural season of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Joe Ruttman won at Martinsville Speedway on Sept. 25 when Geoffrey Bodine and champion-to-be Mike Skinner were involved in a Turn 4 accident two laps from the finish. Mike Bliss gave Ultra Motorsports its first of 36 victories five days later at North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Carolina.
Next Event: Kroger 200. (Race No. 21 of 25).
Where: Martinsville Speedway (Martinsville, Va.).
When: 1 p.m. ET Saturday, Oct. 22.
Track layout: .526-mile paved oval.
Race length: 200 laps/105.2 miles.
Posted awards: $398,064.
TV: SPEED Channel, 1 p.m. ET.
Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.
2004 winner: Jamie McMurray.
2004 polesitter: Bobby Hamilton.
Pre-race schedule (all times local): Friday -- Practice 9 a.m. -- 11:15 a.m. Qualifying 4:45 p.m. Trucks impounded after qualifying.
Top 10 drivers: 1. Dennis Setzer 2,877. 2. Ted Musgrave 2,872. 3. Ron Hornaday Jr. 2,677. 4. Mike Skinner 2,627. 5. Todd Bodine 2,593. 6. Jimmy Spencer 2,593. 7. Bobby Hamilton 2,577. 8. David Starr 2,507. 9. David Reutimann 2,493. 10. Matt Crafton 2,483.