Amoco Team To Start 24Th At Indy
August 4, 2001 | 12:00 A.M. EST
Jimmy Spencer lived up to his nickname Saturday morning, taking advantage of an early qualifying spot to win the pole for one of NASCAR Winston Cup’s biggest races at one of the motorsports world’s most famous tracks.
Spencer was the sixth car to qualify, taking to the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway around 10:30 a.m. He had a devilish speed of 179.666 mph, but in the Midwest heat, that was plenty fast enough.
Forty-eight drivers took their shots at Spencer, but with the temperature rising and speeds slowing, Spencer’s early number held up.
The No. 93 Amoco Ultimate Dodge, piloted by Dave Blaney will start Sunday's Brickyard 400 in the 24th position.
“I can’t say enough about (engine builder) Robert Yates and his guys,” Spencer said. “They’re doing a good job for us, but it’s not just them. My guys built me a brand-new car for here, and this is the best we’ve ever been at Indy. (Crew chief) Donnie (Wingo) is just doing a great job for me, and I can’t say enough about him and all the guys back in the shop he’s got working for him.”
The guys working for Ray Evernham did an impressive job as well, helping put Bill Elliott outside the front row and Casey Atwood inside Row 2. The Dodge duo ran nearly identical laps, with Elliott going 179.565 mph and Atwood 179.361 – a difference of .057 seconds.
Ricky Rudd, the fifth-to-last car to qualify, ended up fourth at 179.233. He was the best of the three championship contenders, as points leader Jeff Gordon – the last car to go attempt a run – was a paltry 27th and Dale Jarrett was sixth.
Hoosier native Ryan Newman qualified sixth after slapping the Turn 4 wall. Following Jarrett, the rest of the Top 10 was: Ricky Craven, Sterling Marlin, Tony Stewart and Todd Bodine.
The Brickyard is not conducive to side-by-side racing, given its long straight-aways and slightly banked turns. Previous races have turned into follow-the-leader affairs, with 13 lead changes in 1999 and only nine last year.
But with a guy nicknamed “Mr. Excitement” starting up front, maybe this Brickyard 400 will be wild. However, Dale Jarrett isn’t worried about Spencer creating any problems.
“I’m not concerned with Jimmy,” Jarrett said. “Jimmy’s problems usually have come whenever his car hasn’t been as good. We’ve seen a different race driver as they’ve gotten their race cars better. Jimmy Spencer, in year’s past, has gotten the reputation because he was trying to make his race cars do something maybe they weren’t capable of doing.
“He’s got a lot of talent. He’s raced up front the majority of this year. I don’t have any concerns with racing with him or seeing up front. My concern is, ‘Can we beat him.’ ”
If no one can, Spencer will have his greatest career victory and his first in nearly seven years. Spencer and his Haas-Carter Motorsports team has had some good runs in 2001, posting three top-five finishes – including two in the last three races.
“The whole package is getting better,” Spencer said. “The poles are nice, but we’d like to win races. That’s what we want to do really bad, mainly for Carl Haas and Travis (Carter). That would be awesome if we could, and that’s what we’re hoping for.”
Newman, who was fastest in Friday’s practice and sixth Saturday morning, had a possible pole-winning run going when he bounced off the Turn 4 wall headed to the checkered flag.
“The guys made me got take a nap after practice, and I think somebody moved the wall a little bit before we qualified,” Newman said. “It seemed to be a little closer than what it was. Just got a little higher and couldn’t bring it back down. I was at a point in the corner where you can’t let off if you want to get the best of the race car. I didn’t know how much I was going to hit the wall, but I figured I was going to hit it a little bit. I just had to push it to the max, and that crinkled the car up a little bit.”
Newman said he was only slightly disappointed at not winning the pole in his home state, but another Hoosier, Stewart, was decidedly surly The emotional Stewart was second-fastest in the morning practice, but his car slowed down more than a half-second.
“When you’re eighth-thousandths off the quick time in practice, you feel like you’ve got a shot at it,” Stewart said. “To slow down a half-a-second between practice and qualifying, that’s not what we want.
“I don’t know. All I know is my car was loose. I don’t know why it was loose. I just know it was loose.”