Silly Season in full swing as Busch Series heads to Daytona. CHARLOTTE, N.C. (July 2, 2002) -- Job stability in NASCAR? Don't be silly. Normally the racing season's midpoint serves as a suitable starting block for rumors, closed-door ...
Silly Season in full swing as Busch Series heads to Daytona.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (July 2, 2002) -- Job stability in NASCAR? Don't be silly.
Normally the racing season's midpoint serves as a suitable starting block for rumors, closed-door negotiations and team changes. But as NASCAR's two biggest circuits head to the high banks of Daytona International Speedway this weekend to mark the halfway point, "Silly Season" fired its engines months ago.
Jimmy Spencer, who will drive the #1 Yellow Pontiac in this Friday's Stacker 2/GNC Live Well 250 NASCAR Busch Series race (7:30 p.m. EDT on FX), is surprised Silly Season started so early this year. But the element of shock hasn't disabled Spencer's ability to think or speak, and when you combine those two charms, you get an official Jimmy Spencer opinion.
Hold on tight as Spencer discusses his view of Silly Season, driver changes, and Daytona. Oh, and even Britney Spears!
Driver Jimmy Spencer's thoughts --
Here we are at the halfway point of the season, and we've already seen driver changes, crew chief changes, and even crew member changes on various teams in Winston Cup and Busch. Not to mention the NASCAR rumor mill is turning faster than ever. Is it odd that Silly Season has started so early?
"This is the earliest I can ever remember Silly Season coming, but in a way it's good. It allows both the drivers and owners to look at other opportunities out there. I think it's a good deal that it's happening, but on the other side of it I think it's awfully early to release it to the media and team members. To me, it's something that could cause a team not to jell because of the uncertainty of who the driver or crew chief will be next year."
Are drivers getting a fair amount of time to prove themselves? We saw a couple of Busch drivers that were let go just seven or eight races into the season.
"You're right, it all started a lot earlier this year. I don't know what's causing it. It's awfully early to be announcing that drivers are going to leave at the end of the year. I don't ever remember that happening until July or August. Now it's happening in May. You're even seeing crew members getting jobs with contracts. It's really interesting, because our sport has a premium on tire changers and good crew people. Naturally, the car owner wants to be as good as possible, and the sponsor wants to get the best performance for its dollar. So I think we're seeing changes earlier this year because owners and sponsors are trying to protect their investments. It's not a good time to be without a sponsor, so you have to make the team better. And it has to happen quickly. Sometimes the changes work, sometimes they don't."
Are owners going after drivers now because of their driving ability, or are they going after drivers who have money and sponsors to bring with them?
"First of all, anybody who drives in the Busch Series or Winston Cup is darn good. It's true that a lot of drivers have ties to sponsors, but there are also owners with ties to sponsors. I think when it comes down to it, the thing that matters the most is how you work with other people. Drivers don't have to work with just two or three people; they have to work with about 20 or 30, sometimes more. If one person doesn't fit in with that little organization, then it's easier to change just one of the elements to make it better. That's where drivers and crew chiefs come into play."
How hard is it, as a driver, to change jobs in the middle of the season?
"Fortunately, I've never been in that situation, so I can't come from that side of it. But last year I added to my responsibilities by joining with Team Yellow after the season already started. I didn't like the idea of starting up with a team in the middle of the year. We started six races into the season, and it was hard. But I went into it with an open mind. I knew the Yellow team was a good team, and I knew that operation should have been producing better than it was. We went on to win three races, and we produced a lot of top fives and top 10s.
"Moving ahead to this year, we have only two top 10s. So what did we change? Nothing. It's just luck. We know we can get into the Winner's Circle just about every week. My point is when you join a team midway through the year, you can still produce results if the team has a good foundation of people like this one does. When you have a good combination, you need to stay there, and you need to work out the little problems. That's how you have a successful program -- admitting your problems and correcting them, whether it's the driver, the owner or the crew."
Do you think that's what Richard Childress was doing when he swapped the #29 crew and the #31 crew?
"I think Childress is evaluating. I think he felt the team was complacent, and he needed to make changes to the organization to make it better. He knows what he's doing."
You're heading back to Daytona, where you were in the hunt for the win in February. Are you pretty confident that Team Yellow can have a repeat performance?
"(Owner) James Finch has always runs well at superspeedways. We had a good car at Daytona. We didn't qualifying well, but we had a good car. I felt like we had an opportunity to win that race, but we cut a tire down and that was that. It's one of my favorite places. I love it. With it being the inaugural race for the Busch Series on Friday, it's pretty exciting. Daytona has been a bittersweet place for me. I've won there, and then there were races I wanted to win but didn't."
Now to the important stuff. Will you watch the Britney Spears racing movie whenever it comes out?
"Are you kidding? I'm going to be standing in the ticket line for it. With Pepsi and them behind it, it'll be good. I just want to know who's going to play the star role -- you know, the driver. That's what I want to know."