CHARLOTTE, N.C. (March 6, 2002) -- This weekend's MBNA America 500 will be one of the hardest racetracks on the circuit for the Schneider Electric Racing Team's engine program. But 44-year-old Nashville, Tenn., driver Bobby Hamilton and his team...
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (March 6, 2002) -- This weekend's MBNA America 500 will be one of the hardest racetracks on the circuit for the Schneider Electric Racing Team's engine program. But 44-year-old Nashville, Tenn., driver Bobby Hamilton and his team are up for the challenge. After a cut tire forced the No. 55 Chevy out of the running in Vegas, Hamilton and the team are eager to show their hand this weekend on the 1.54-mile quad-oval.
Atlanta is a grueling racetrack for motors. Is APR's engine department ready for this test?
We're so hard on motors in Atlanta. We run 500 miles of unrestricted racing and keep our RPM's pushed to the max the whole time we're on the track. It'll be easier for a motor to break in Atlanta versus another one on the circuit. This weekend and Michigan will be a true test for our engine department.
We did two separate test sessions over the winter with our engines and they pushed them for several hundred laps over what we normally race. We'll be fine. Jon Dysinger (Chief Engine Builder) and the engine department at APR have really stepped up in getting things to run faster and withstand the challenges we put them through. Our team does a great job of staying on top of the new challenges we face every week. I have the confidence in them to keep this team in the race.
Yesterday NASCAR mandated a new seat belt rule stating several guidelines for the placement and the mounting of the belts. Does that affect the way APR has previously mounted its safety belts?
No, actually it doesn't really affect our car. Charley (Pressley, Crew Chief) was given a heads up on Monday and checked everything that we have in the car. We were already using that particular lever to lock the belt in place. I'm glad NASCAR is mandating some kind of rule that will help increase the safety in the car though. With the new safety program they've instated, we've seen that they're already increasing our awareness for things in the car that could help us. It's important to make us feel safe when we're driving at the top speeds.
Last weekend in Vegas APR broke its no DNF (did not finish) streak at 40 races (42 for Hamilton). What is the new goal you have set your sights on for the Schneider Electric Racing Team?
I'm so proud of the fact that we went that long finishing all the events we did. It says a lot for this program and the teamwork that backs me up every week. It was disappointing to us all, but that is the nature of our sport. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. It was a lot of pressure on us every week and now we can focus on running up front again. It doesn't mean we're going to slack off any if we wreck. It just means that we will push harder to climb back up in the points race. I think now we should set our sights on making top-fives instead of just finishing the events.
On top of his race duties in Atlanta, Hamilton will make a special appearance on Friday with drivers Mike Skinner and Shawna Robinson at the Grand Ole Opry. After their qualifying attempts, the trio will fly to Nashville to be guest hosts for the evening on the Grand Ole Opry stage. Hamilton, Skinner and Robinson have agreed to do a little extra picking and grinning for entertainment while they're in town.