Spencer Sirius About Improvement

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HAMPTON, Ga. - Ultra Motorsports owner Jim Smith stood atop the Team SIRIUS transporter on Friday and watched his No. 7 SIRIUS Dodge Intrepid turn a qualifying lap around the Atlanta Motor Speedway that only four other cars could beat. He then turned and asked the same question he's been asking for the last two weeks: "Who did they say was bringing a knife to a gun fight?"

Obviously not the SIRIUS Racing Team, which qualified fifth for Sunday's Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 NASCAR Winston Cup race with a speed of 190.339 miles per hour. The speed translated into a lap time of 29.127 seconds around the 1.54-mile tri-oval. Earlier in the day, the No. 7 Dodge registered 23rd fastest in the two-hour practice session, posting a speed of 188.507 miles per hour (29.410 seconds).

"Wow, I guess Tommy made the right adjustments!" shouted Spencer, referring to crew chief Tommy Baldwin. "We got this thing loose, probably a little too lose, and I was definitely holding my breath through the turns. We were decent in this morning's practice - no better, no worse. But Tommy made some changes, made an air pressure adjustment, and this thing just took off."

The fifth-place qualifying effort ties Jim Smith's best as a sole Winston Cup car owner. His other fifth came with driver Kevin Lepage at Lowe's Motor Speedway in October of 2001. This also ties a career-best start at Atlanta for Spencer, and it's his third top-10 start in his last five races here.

Spencer will start on the inside of row three beside Michael Waltrip. Rusty Wallace, Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch and Jeremy Mayfield round out the top 10 starting spots.

"I just can't say enough about these guys," Spencer said. "I'm talking about the guys at the shop, the guys on the road, even the girls who work in the front office. You walk into the doors at Ultra Motorsports and you're greeted with smiling faces, and that's because we're just having a heck of a time. These guys just keep working harder and harder, and before you know it we'll be a top-10 team."

Spencer is steering the same car he drove to a 17th-place finish last week in the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The Baldwin-led team went wind-tunnel testing with a new car on Monday, only to leave there feeling its chances were better with the car it just raced at Vegas.

"The best thing we've got going for us is people, and that is the most important ingredient on a race team," Baldwin said. "We're doing this without an engineer, without a two-car effort; we're doing this all on our own. I still think we need another three or four weeks to learn about each other before we can really come to the race track with a game plan. But right now we're on the upswing, we're making the cars better, and Jimmy has a lot of confidence in us. We want to make this a top-10 team, and at the same time get more subscriptions for SIRIUS so we can continue building our relationship with them."

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