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Spencer thinks that dog Mongo can bite

Brace yourself.

Here comes Mongo.

Television analyst Darrell Waltrip was plumb tickled to name the dog in the logo on Jimmy Spencer's hood Mongo, after the destructive but lovable galoot from Blazing Saddles. Any time something happens, Waltrip said, Spencer can blame it on Mongo.

So, does Mongo get credit, too?

Spencer finished seventh Sunday in the Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, his first top 10 in Ultra Motorsports' No. 7 Dodge. It won't be his last.

Mongo is hungry.

"This is not a fluke," Spencer said. "I know it's not."

Spencer and crew chief Tommy Baldwin are a perfect match. Each is coming off a bad breakup with his previous employer: Spencer was fired by Chip Ganassi, by way of a phone call, and Baldwin has been vilified by Bill Davis since cleaning out his office on a Monday morning. They are scorned men with reputations to defend.

"Every team has good people, but you've got to be able to get along with one another," Spencer said. "I'm excited about this year. I have a lot of inner energy and it means a lot how people treat you in your organization. You can see it. It's not fake. I've got a good bunch of boys."

Think how much fun it would be to have Ol' Spence running up front now and then. Spencer is a Mel Brooks movie: outlandish, politically incorrect and brazenly funny.

Now that reigning Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart has gone all tactful on us, NASCAR needs Mr. Excitement. Someone not afraid to speak his mind. Someone real.

Someone old school.

On Sunday, Spencer overcame an unscheduled pit stop for a bad brake rotor that put him two laps down. He was one of only nine cars on the lead lap when Bobby Labonte won the 500-mile race.

That takes more than luck.

Yet, Spencer has not won since 1994, a string of 276 races. Among Winston Cup regulars, only Ken Schrader's 378-race drought is longer. So, imagine the scene in Victory Lane if Spencer were to pick up his third career victory in a car no one expected to go terribly fast.

"Earlier in the year, we said we were looking forward to having a top-15 car," Spencer said. "I quickly changed my mind to where I think we can win. I don't think it'll be long before we're contending for a win."

Mongo is coming.

CART CANCELS: The Champ Car World Series will not race at Road America for the first time since 1982 because CART did not receive the final installment of the sanctioning fee for last year's race or the first for the race scheduled for Aug. 3.

CART sued the road course in Elkhart Lake, Wis., in February. According to court documents, the sanctioning fee for this year's race was $1.75-million. The first installment of $262,000 was due Jan. 1.

The Road America event is the second CART has lost this season from its original 20-race schedule. It also canceled a May race at Chicago Motor Speedway, though CART hopes to return to the city in 2004.

A CART spokesman said the series would consider returning to Road America in the future "providing a satisfactory and professionally responsible business arrangement can be reached."

Also, CART bought the Miami-based company that was the promoter of the Grand Prix Americas race in Miami and now holds rights to stage that event for 15 years.

MARLIN OFF PACE: This time last year, veteran Sterling Marlin was in the midst of leading the standings for 25 consecutive weeks. Hoping to pick up where he left off before a cracked vertebra sidelined him late last season, Marlin is struggling.

He is 20th in points, 195 behind leader Matt Kenseth.

"We're not where we need to be right now with the 40 car," team manager Tony Glover said. "Until we can be the best Dodge week in and week out like we were the past two years, we can't worry about what other folks are doing. We've just got to get our stuff better."

KEEPING THE PEACE: With his 20th career win, Labonte pulled to within one of his older brother, two-time Winston Cup champion Terry Labonte. Bobby will keep that statistic to himself.

"We're really not competitive," Bobby said. "And he's struggled a lot the past few years, so I won't bring that up."

_ Information from Times wires was used in this report.