CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Nov. 6, 2002) -- "Roll 'em," were the first words that Schneider Electric driver Bobby Hamilton heard when he drove around Phoenix International Raceway's one-mile oval for the first time 13 years ago. Hamilton's NASCAR Winston...
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Nov. 6, 2002) -- "Roll 'em," were the first words that Schneider Electric driver Bobby Hamilton heard when he drove around Phoenix International Raceway's one-mile oval for the first time 13 years ago. Hamilton's NASCAR Winston Cup series career began as part of the cast, driving the racing scenes for actor Tom Cruise, for the "Days of Thunder" stock car racing movie at PIR. Seven years later Hamilton won his first Winston Cup series race at the same flat race track surrounded by beautiful canyons.
On top of his victory, the 45-year-old Nashville, Tenn., native has one pole starting position to add to his record at Phoenix. And with only two races left in the 2002 season, Hamilton wants to add another pole or victory to his belt. The Schneider Electric Racing crew members are doing everything they can to help out their driver by testing Phoenix only three weeks ago. The team hopes what it learned from the two-day test session will give it an advantage in this weekend's Checker Auto Parts 500.
Bobby, after testing in Phoenix and learning some things about this new car that might help there, what do you hope to get out of this weekend's race?
"I said this last week to somebody, but I'm going to say it again. I want to get a top-10 finish. I think we could have done it in Rockingham last week, but we never got a chance to try. Our team is due and we want to finish this season out on a high note.
"If I get a top-10 finish in Phoenix this weekend, then I'm going right out there on the track at the end of the race and doing a burnout across the start/finish line. The winner might wonder what I am doing out there and NASCAR might question me why I did it. But I would just say, 'We got a top 10 and right now that is like a win to me!'
"This season has been tough for all of us. Our team needs a chance to prove that we still have it in us to get a win or a pole position. I'm not making any excuses, but we had our fair share of mishaps that have cost us a lot this year. I got hurt, we picked the wrong car to take to a track, we've missed setups, we've been in wrecks, I mean the list goes on and on. I'm sure there are other teams out there that say the same thing. So we want to overcome that and finish this season off right. We deserve some good to go with our bad."
How did the test session go? What did you learn?
"Now we can't reveal everything we learned or we might not have an advantage -- right? We did several different setups for Phoenix and tested them out on this new Penske car that we bought. It tested well there and I felt like it really adhered to the race track's surface. I think Jimmy (Elledge, crew chief) was happy with the results too.
"This track is finicky with the slightest change in weather. If the clouds roll in, then the car pushes through the middle. If the sun comes out, it's loose off the corners. Our challenge in Phoenix is to make the car easily adjustable so we won't be affected by any of that. Lucky for me Phoenix is a track like Richmond except flip-flopped around. There is a dog leg in the back of the track in Phoenix, where Richmond has a dog leg in the front of the track. I love racing on tracks like Phoenix and Richmond, so we hope to be pretty good there. "