The Mouth Rises Again

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If Jimmy Spencer were a little older, he’d be NASCAR’s greatest curmudgeon.

Since he’s still fairly young, he’s simply outspoken. But in the keep-your-mouth-shut world of Winston Cup racing, no one is simply outspoken. When Spencer opens his mouth, you’re never quite sure what’s going to come out.

Well, you can probably bet it’ll be something negative toward NASCAR. But not always.

Outspoken and unpredictable – that’s Jimmy Spencer.

“Part of the reason is (other drivers are) afraid of getting crucified by their sponsor or the media,” Spencer said. “A lot of the media people will sometimes misquote you. It doesn’t bother me. The fans pay good money, and they want to hear the truth… Winston Cup racing was built on my heroes: Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough and Richard Petty. Those guys always spoke their mind. That’s what made us what we are.”

Maybe Spencer feels like NASCAR is losing something when drivers don’t speak out. Maybe he feels like he has to somehow save the sport by saying what he feels.

No matter the reason, he’s a reporter’s dream. Want some samples?

The latest rule change outlawing “bump stops” on springs and calling for a minimum and maximum height has gotten under Spencer’s skin.

“(Car owner) Travis Carter’s bought probably $20,000 worth of coil springs,” Spencer said. “They ain’t worth a damn anymore. They talk about cost – they’re the ones causing some of the problems with the cost.

“We want to run a softer left spring, and put a rubber in it. We’re not allowed to do that. That’s absolute stupidity.”

Spencer wasn’t sure why NASCAR made the change.

“The great thing is, you go into the NASCAR trailer and say, ‘What the hell is going on?’ ” Spencer said. “And they go, ‘Oh, this guy said we should change this rule.’ Then you go to the garage area and talk to all the drivers, and not one of them – not one crew chief and not one driver – wanted a rule change. It’s just a bunch of malarkey that they do. That’s what’s bad about NASCAR sometimes: making decisions and not really listening to the competitors doing it.

“They listen to certain people instead of listening to everybody. It would make more sense if they talked to everybody. They never even talked to the drivers about the rule change on the spring rubbers. They just made it. If they did talk to some of the drivers, I wasn’t included. And I look at it as I’m in the Top 25 in points… That did bother me.”

But even if Spencer had talked to NASCAR about it, he’s not convinced they would have listened.

“We’re listened to by Bill France and Mike Helton,” Spencer said. “But we’re not listened to by other people in the (garage) area.

“You go in there and talk to them, and it’s like, ‘OK, yeah, all right.’

“It’s like talking to nothing.”

Spencer would like all drivers to be consulted whenever a rules change is made, but he’d prefer rules not to be changed during the season.

“You don’t see the NFL saying, ‘OK, what we’re gonna do this month is we’re gonna say a first down is 15 yards.’” Spencer said. “It’s not all of NASCAR. The officials do their job. It’s the upper people. I guess it was (Steve) Peterson and Gary Nelson.

“Sometimes these rules are stupid. I think they think they’re convincing Bill France that they’re getting their job done. They have to substantiate their salary. Once Bill is real, real healthy, he won’t let this stuff happen.

“This stuff would not happen if Earnhardt was still around. I just think Bill France really respected Dale Earnhardt really, really a lot.”

Spencer wants a winning driver to speak out.

“We need another guy to speak out and become a stand-up (guy)… somebody that’s winning a lot of races,” Spencer said. “We need a guy like that we go talk to, and NASCAR will listen to those people.”

Spencer’s opinions aren’t limited to NASCAR rules changes, of course. Ask him anything, he’ll have something to say.

On what he’d change if he were in charge:

“If I ever instituted rules, I would eliminate about 10 or 15 of them templates. It’s costing car owners tons of money. Too many damn templates. Way too many templates.”

On the Busch Series:

“I won in the Busch, and that’s a Busch league. That’s what it is, a bush league. It’s not Winston Cup.”

On his confidence:

“I’ve always been confident, always felt like I could win races. I love coming to the races. The day that I get out of a race car and say, ‘You know what, I’m just tired of doing this’ – I’m not going to hang around this sport, I’m going to quit.”

On the crowd at Dover:

“One hundred and forty thousand people. What the hell? How come our purse ain’t higher?”

On Firestone road tires:

“I’m not going to buy a Firestone tire because they blow out. Maybe it’s something wrong with a Ford, but I don’t think so. I’m going to buy Goodyears, and that’s what I run on all my vehicles. Would you? Would you run Firestones on your vehicle? My wife and kids in a vehicle will not have Firestones on. I won’t take the chance.”

On NASCAR’s investigation of Earnhardt’s death:

“The Dale Earnhardt scenario, the media’s blown that thing way out of shape. NASCAR’s always done it their way, and they’re doing the right thing investigating that Earnhardt deal. They’re not just jumping to conclusions.”

See, Spencer isn’t always negative. He even likes Goodyear’s new, harder tire.

“I think it’s the absolute best tire,” Spencer said. “It’s the most consistent, the best tire we’ve ever raced on. That’s a big statement.”

If it comes from Spencer, it usually is. Thank goodness.

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