BUSCH: Phoenix: Jimmy Spencer preview

Quiet please, Jimmy Spencer is about to drive. PHOENIX, Ariz. (Nov. 5, 2002) -- Shhhhhhh ... whispers only. Jimmy Spencer is about to drive -- from the tee box, that is. He's holding tightly to a one-stroke lead over Tiger Woods, but this par-4,...

Quiet please, Jimmy Spencer is about to drive.

PHOENIX, Ariz. (Nov. 5, 2002) -- Shhhhhhh ... whispers only. Jimmy Spencer is about to drive -- from the tee box, that is. He's holding tightly to a one-stroke lead over Tiger Woods, but this par-4, 430-yard, 18th hole here at the TPC of Scottsdale has been giving him fits all weekend. Water on the left, sand on the right, and a gallery of thousands nervously watching as this classic duel between two great PGA champions unfolds.

While Jimmy is out of earshot, let's make something perfectly clear: This really isn't the Phoenix Open, and we're really not at the TPC of Scottsdale. In fact, that's not even Tiger Woods over there; just Spencer's good buddy, Tom Cleary, better known as T.C. The truth is Spencer is here to race the #1 Yellow Chevrolet this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, but you can't come to beautiful Arizona without squeezing in a round of golf. Besides, we're nearing the end of the racing season, and the best way to combat the effects of a long, grueling schedule is by hitting the links. Therefore, play along. You're Freddie Couples. I'm Phil Mickelson. We've already finished our rounds, and we're here to support our good friend, Jimmy Spencer, who is trying to win the Phoenix Open for an unprecedented seventh year in a row.

It should be noted that Spencer drives much better on the race track than on the golf course. That's why his chances are much better this Saturday in the Bashas' 200 NASCAR Busch Series race (2 p.m. EDT on NBC.) Team Yellow is bringing the same car it contended with in both Richmond races earlier this year. And Spencer put the #1 Chevy on the pole in this race last season, further proving the team's dominance at short tracks.

It's a good thing the #1 Yellow race car is as fast as it is, for Spencer is going to need scuba gear to chase down that tee shot. As they like to say, it's in the drink. What better time to invoke the new PGA tour policy: Should the reigning Phoenix Open champion not like his tee shot, a second tee shot is permitted as a token of appreciation for the sportsmanship exhibited on and off the golf course. Always one to play by the rules, Spencer re-tees a ball and smashes it straight down the fairway. Take that, Tiger.

Team Yellow driver Jimmy Spencer's thoughts --

There are two races left in the 2002 Busch Series season, starting this weekend in Phoenix. Are you tired yet?

"I think everyone is probably ready to take a break, if there is such a thing as a break. There's a lot of work that goes on during the off-season, like building cars and testing and so forth. But it will be nice to have a weekend or two to spend with my family away from the race track. I'm really not thinking about that right now, because we've got two races left in the Yellow car, and we want to finish the season strong. We're taking a car that, quite honestly, should have won both Richmond races this year. It's been tested and it's fast. I'd be lying if I said we weren't confident going into this weekend."

You also put the #1 Yellow Chevy on the pole at Phoenix last year. What are the chances of that happening again?

"I think by judging how fast our car was at Richmond this year, we've got a really good shot of being on the pole. I'm not so much concerned about the pole as I am the race. This car has proven it can move to the front no matter where it starts. I think we're going to be in really good shape come this weekend, and if that means we can win the pole, that's even better."

How do you maintain the ability to focus with it being the end of the season?

"I think it's pretty easy when you know you've got a good chance of doing well. If I thought I was just going to Phoenix to log laps, then it would be hard to focus on the job. I'd probably be thinking about golf or something. But we've got a legitimate shot to do something big at Phoenix, and that keeps me motivated, and I'm sure it keeps the team motivated."

Are you honestly saying that since you've got a good car for this weekend, golf won't enter your mind?

"Well, it won't be in my mind once I get to the track. Of course I'm thinking about it right now. Arizona has some beautiful golf courses. The weather is usually very nice -- good golf weather."

How's your golf game right now?

"I haven't played a whole lot. That's why I'm looking forward to going out to Phoenix. I played a couple of weeks ago before the Martinsville race (on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series schedule). I did alright."

Good enough to win the Phoenix Open?

"Definitely. I could take those PGA guys on."

Seems like I keep thinking back to your charity golf tournament where you swung at the ball and missed it entirely.

"That's part of my game -- trick 'em into thinking I can't play golf. See there, you thought I did that on accident."

-ty/pr-

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Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Jimmy Spencer