JIMMY SPENCER (No. 1 Mopar Dodge Ram) NOTE: The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series test session encountered several weather-related problems on Saturday and Sunday. The test was totally washed out on Saturday, and the trucks didn't get on the ...
JIMMY SPENCER (No. 1 Mopar Dodge Ram)
NOTE: The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series test session encountered several weather-related problems on Saturday and Sunday. The test was totally washed out on Saturday, and the trucks didn't get on the track until mid-afternoon on Sunday. They tested under the lights Sunday night and got on the track under cold, windy, sunny conditions Monday morning. The second NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Test Session gets under way Tuesday.
DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF A MEMBER OF THE SENIOR CIRCUIT NOW?
"I don't think the guys realize over there in that Nextel Cup garage the opportunities these guys have. Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman -- it's just phenomenal to think those guys have stepped into those rides, but this sport has progressed that way over the last 15 years. When I look at the series now, I want to drive Nextel Cup every day. That's the No.1 series in the country, but the bottom line is if you're not with a good race team there's no reason doing it. A lot of those guys think they're with a good race team. It's obvious Hendrick, Yates, Roush and some others. Will I get that opportunity again? No, but I think I can contend for wins in the trucks and the championship. I love working with Dodge. I'm glad to be back on board again. You can't ask for a better situation, the Ram Tough Dodge and me fitting in that No. 1. That's awesome man. I will drive a limited deal in Nextel Cup in a Dodge and try to build for the future. I'm probably not a contender for the Nextel Cup, but I'm a contender for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series title. I'm driving for Jimmy Smith and Ultra Motorsports. The No. 1 and No.2 (with Ted Musgrave) will be teammates. Ted and myself will share all the information we can. I think the world of all those guys over there. Buddy Barnes (Red Dog) will be my crew chief, and I was ready to drive anything competitive, so when the offer came up I was ready. I was in a situation last year and the car I drove was terrible. The bottom line is if you have a chance to step into a truck owned by Jimmy Smith, you're dumb not to do it, so I'd much rather run in a series where I can win and contend for a championship than just run around in the back of the field on the Nextel Cup Circuit."
YOU USED TO DRIVE FOR ULTRA IN THE CUP SERIES AND YOU'VE ALREADY WON A RACE IN AN ULTRA MOTORSPORTS TRUCK.
"Actually I had a chance to win in all three truck races I drove for Ultra Motorsports in 2003. I won in it the second time out. This team, when you see the shop and see the people working on the trucks and the organization... We contended for wins when I drove Cup for Jimmy Smith in the Sirius Dodge. I truly believe I can contend for championships in any series and I can contend for wins."
WAS IT ENCOURAGING TO SEE WHAT BOBBY HAMILTON DID IN HIS DODGE RAM LAST SEASON?
"Bobby did an awesome job. They call it the senior citizens store. Well, there's a lot of young guys failing over there and I like it. You're going to see more and more of them fail. There's more and more pressure being put on the above 40 crowd. I know Cale Yarborough and David Pearson and Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt won a bunch of races over 40. It ain't changed. It's just the people that work on the cars. That's the key ingredient. Why did Junior (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) change his group? Why did Hendrick change his bunch of people around? The bottom line is it's not just the driver. It's also the people who are turning those wrenches."
WHY DID THE 1 AND 2 TEAMS SWITCH?
"It doesn't matter. All winter long there's not been a number on the trucks. They all weigh five pounds within each other. It's incredible what the guys have done at the shop. I think the change they made was to the loyalty that Team ASE had. They've always tried to find the right guy for that truck, and it's never materialized. Ted loves the trucks and that was the switch. Team ASE has been very loyal to Jimmy Smith, and I think they wanted it to have a shot to win the championship. Ted will be a contender for the title. Jimmy Smith will have two trucks contending for the championship in 2005. It's going to be the year of the Rams."
IT SEEMS LIKE MORE AND MORE CUP DRIVERS ARE HANGING IT UP AND COMING TO THE TRUCK SERIES. IS IT REALLY THE SENIOR TOUR?
"NASCAR is looking at the truck series as being the tournament for above 40. Then the Cup is 25-30. Everything in the past has worked for 'em, so maybe this will work for 'em. I'm a finesse driver, so I don't know what people are talking about when they say the racing is rougher in the truck series, (laughing loudly) but this series is definitely a masculine series. These guys don't go out there with the intention of roughing people up. They do get close to one another at times, and it's some awesome racing. Fans will tell you that the truck series dollar for dollar is probably the best racing on the circuit and I happen to agree, but I don't think there's rough driving. Guys don't go out there and intentionally spin people out. You don't see that, but you do see close racing. It's exciting to watch and it is a series where they've allowed a lot more leniency in decision making on aggressive driving. Aggressive like Dale Earnhardt used to be is the proper aggressiveness, not like Robby Gordon did at New Hampshire and Robby learned. The Tony Stewart aggressiveness at Chicago was not the right aggressiveness. To me, I think there's a line that NASCAR watches and if you go over that line no matter if it's in Cup, Truck or the Busch Series, they're going to pull the carpet out from under you."
WITH THE EXPERIENCE BETWEEN YOURSELF AND TED MUSGRAVE, WILL ULTRA MOTORSPORTS BE AHEAD OF THE GAME WHEN THE SEASON STARTS?
"I don't think so. You've got the Childress organization involved and the Roush organization. Bobby Hamilton is doing good. In my opinion I think Ultra Motorsports is the No. 1 truck team. I think Hendrick is No. 1 in Cup. Jimmy Smith's organization proves it's the best in the truck series. He's got the most wins, he's only one win behind Roush really, but that won't last long. We'll take care of that for him. He's got the most poles by far."
HOW MANY WINS WILL IT TAKE TO SATISFY YOU THIS SEASON?
"I want to try to win every one, and if I can't, I want to know what happened that weekend and we'll look forward to the next. I think this team between the 1 and 2 truck has an opportunity to win every race. Can it happen? No, but you build on that. You've got to go with that attitude. If you don't feel you can win, they why even unload. That's the biggest difference between driving for this team and driving for somebody else."
IS THERE LESS PRESSURE IN THE TRUCK SERIES?
"I think there's still a lot of pressure anywhere you go. Those guys in Cup complain a lot, but there's just as much pressure in the truck series or Busch series. If I don't put pressure on myself to perform, then I need to quit. That's why I was so upset last year. The incompetence of the team was there. It's just one of them deals. You can't afford to have the driver mess up, but then you can't afford to make a pit stop and lose a lap and a half. You can't afford to run out of gas. So many scenarios are built into a team, and until you grasp that nucleus and start from the guy that's cleaning the shop to the girl that's answering the phone to the girl that's scoring the truck, if they don't have the proper attitude, that team won't be a success. That's the way I look at it. You can always have fun when you're running good. That's the bottom line. When I ain't running good, don't be around me. I hate it. Just get away."