Bristol a natural fit for Spencer, Morgan-McClure Motorsports


star staff


  A team and a driver both in dire need of a good Nextel Cup finish. Racing at Bristol Motor Speedway couldn't come at a better time for Morgan-McClure Motorsports and driver Jimmy Spencer.
  "It's a critical track," said Spencer. "To be real good here you have to stay on the bottom (of the turns) and get a lot of forward grip off.
  "You don't put tires on every 30 or 40 laps at Bristol. It's definitely a handling race track. We are trying to keep the Morgan-McClure Chevrolet up there and keep it rolling good. We have Food City on the car, a local company who we have a good relationship with."
  On paper, all signs point to things turning around at BMS for the No. 4 team. Not only did they test here, but history is also on their side.
  In 1990, the team scored a first Cup Series win with driver Ernie Irvan. Spencer himself has a great history at Bristol, winning two Busch races. Both times the sponsor name on the side of the car was Food City.
  "My first ever race here was 1989 when it was asphalt with Herb Nab and we ran really well," said Spencer. "Herb is no longer with us, but he helped me, and we ran fourth the first time I had ever been here. I've always liked it. As a Cup rookie I finished seventh here.
  "It's always been a track that I have ran good at. I don't have a neck, they call me 'No Neck'. That's probably some of the reason I do well here. I just always like to come here."
  While he is no stranger to victory lane in NASCAR's number two series, Spencer is still searching for the keys to victory in a Bristol Cup race.
  "I've never won a Cup race here so I don't know what it takes to win one," said Spencer. "We've came close plenty of times. To me Bristol is important, no matter what I have run in, it's my favorite race track."
  While Bristol is his favorite, both of Spencer's two career Cup Series wins came at the restrictor-plate tracks of Daytona and Talladega.
  "It's pretty awesome to win in a Cup car, no question," said Spencer. "I almost won here a couple of years back in the Target car. I almost did in a Food City car years ago.
  "I almost won here in Dick Moroso's car, Bobby Allison's car. I ran out of fuel two years ago in the No. 7 car. It's been frustrating. I have had some pretty frustrating days here at Bristol."
  The most frustrating had to be one year ago, where Spencer was forced to sit out the race. An altercation with eventual Sharpie 500 winner Kurt Busch the week before at Michigan resulted in a one-race suspension for Spencer.
  Missing the event gave Spencer a greater appreciation of doing what he loves best.
  "It's a privilege every time you race a race no matter where it is," said Spencer. "For me Bristol has been pretty unique. The fans have always treated me really good up here and I've treated them good too. It's been a good relationship."
  That feeling of good will extends to BMS President Jeff Byrd and those who work to take care of the drivers.
  "I like J. Byrd and his staff," said Spencer. "What he has done with this track is incredible. It's one of the neatest tracks. When you drive into any race track, nothing gives you the impact of Bristol does as far as the fans, the suites and the stands.
  "The stuff Jeff does is just incredible. It makes it such an experience for the fans and that's why they keep coming back. It's always an experience here for the driver, some good and some bad."
  Always one of the most opinionated drivers on the tour, Spencer says the sanctioning body went in the wrong direction with a rule change announced on Wednesday.
  "NASCAR needs to look at slowing the cars down not with a gear rule, but a motor rule," said Spencer. "Use stock heads that each manufacturer submits. That would save the car owners probably a million and a half to two million dollars a year.
  "In turn, while we slowed down, it would put us racing two, three and four wide at every race track for the lead.
  "I don't like the stuff where it's all relying on a 2000 pound right rear spring or stuff you've never heard of that the engineers have come up with. By slower the cars down with a motor rule, the fans would see better racing than they are seeing right now."
  Spencer is proud to be called old school. Not only did the aforementioned Nab influence Spencer's early career, but Tim Brewer, another graduate of the Junior Johnson racing shops where Jimmy raced in 1994, is currently the No. 4 team crew chief.
  "Junior was a good guy," recalled Spencer about his days driving the No. 27 McDonald's Ford. "Larry (McClure) and Junior remain good friends. I think you can look at any of the older car owners, Bud Moore, the Wood Brothers, and it's good when you still see them around the race track.
  "It's really tough when you don't see guys like Junior and Travis Carter still involved in the sport. Guys who race their whole lives and that's all they know to do, you want to see them race."
  While looking at the past brings back good memories, the former two-time NASCAR Modified Champion sees progress being made by the team he currently drives for.
  "We've made a lot of gains in motor, chassis and aero," said Spencer. "We need money, that's our biggest problem right now. It costs Larry a lot of money to keep racing. We need to find more sponsorship, some help to keep us going and to find a good full-time deal next year."
  While the desired results haven't been achieved lately, Spencer is optimistic that could change at Bristol.
  "We ran really well at Indianapolis, at Pocono and at New Hampshire the week before that," said the Berwick, Pa. native. "We have just had problems. At Indianapolis we broke a carburetor bolt and it cost us about 35 horsepower. At Pocono, we lost third gear in the transmission. At Watkins Glen, we lost the transmission and blew the motor up.
  "There's just been a lot of things beyond our control. It hurts when you have good cars. Hopefully it is all behind us. We hope to have a good run at Bristol."