Rockingham - Hamilton Likes Returning as Winner

Hamilton likes returning as winner ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Feb. 16, 1998) Bobby Hamilton returns to North Carolina Motor Speedway in Rockingham this week as the last driver to have won a NASCAR Winston Cup Series race at the 1.017-mile speedway.

Hamilton likes returning as winner

ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Feb. 16, 1998)

Bobby Hamilton returns to North Carolina Motor Speedway in Rockingham this week as the last driver to have won a NASCAR Winston Cup Series race at the 1.017-mile speedway. Driver of the Kodak Max Film Chevrolet, Hamilton drove to victory in Richard Petty's Pontiac last October.

A native of Nashville, Tenn., Hamilton, 40, began his association with Morgan-McClure Motorsports this past week in the Daytona 500. He took the Kodak Max Film Chevrolet to a solid, 12th-place finish in the 500, setting the team in great position for the 33-race seasonal points battle.

The 1991 NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year began his career as the driver of Paramount Pictures' "movie car" for the movie "Days Of Thunder." Hamilton drove for several car owners before joining forces with Petty in 1996. He won a race each season with Petty Enterprises, at Phoenix in 1996 and at Rockingham last year, and was the first driver not named Petty to win for the team since Buddy Baker in 1972.

A year ago, Hamilton finished 11th in NASCAR Winston Cup miles led and second among Pontiac drivers in that category. Known for "bringing the car home," he completed all but 411.9 of a possible 12,715.08 miles last year.

The thoughts of the Kodak Max Film Chevrolet driver heading into Rockingham:

"It's a pretty nice feeling going back to a place where you won the last time you were there. When you think about it, nobody has won there but me in a year. That's the kind of streak you'd like to keep alive.

"We're certainly capable of winning at Rockingham. This team is capable of winning anywhere it races. They went through a streak of bad luck last year but I'd say that's all over and done with. You make a lot of your own luck in this sport.

"Circumstances can mess you up, but a lot of things really boil down to this: if you're running good consistently, you don't have that much `bad luck.' This team can run good consistently, and I think it's going to.

"We didn't do what we wanted to do at Daytona, but we weren't going to do what we wanted to do unless we won the race. That's what we went there for. We spent some time learning about each other and what each other likes and doesn't like, and that's going to happen any time a team has a new driver. But we knew more about each other and knew better how to communicate by the end of the two weeks down there than at the beginning of the two weeks. There were some teams down there that didn't learn a thing about each other over the entire two weeks, and you know those guys are going to be struggling at the end of the year the same way they were at the first of the year. That's not going to happen with us.

"This is a good race team. I wouldn't have come here unless I really believed that. There is a tremendous amount of potential here and I think we're going to be able to take advantage of that. They've always had good cars. With a guy like Runt Pittman and the guys in the engine room, you know they are going to have good engines. With the luck they had last year, I figure they are due so you know they are going to have good luck. With a break or two, and by running consistently well all year, we could get this Kodak Max Film Chevrolet team right back to the top.

"I've been pretty good on the flatter tracks and on tracks like Rockingham. I was able to win the race in October and had a really good shot at winning this same race two years ago, until somebody decided to move me out of the way. So if things had gone well in this race two years ago I could easily be sitting here having won at least two of the last four races at Rockingham. Now, put that with the cars this team has had at Rockingham over the years, and you'll see why I'm excited. They've run really well at the tracks like Rockingham and Darlington.

"They've won before at Darlington and they've run strong at Rockingham. I've won at Rockingham and run strong at Darlington. We just need to put our strengths together.

"Half the battle at Rockingham is fought Friday afternoon. Pole qualifying can easily determine who wins the race and who doesn't. A lot of cars can get in the frontstretch pits now but not everybody does. If you end up pitting on the backstretch, you can pretty well kiss winning goodbye. I guess it can be done from back there, but it's awfully difficult. I just don't see how you could, especially if there were many cautions in the race. You just can't beat anybody out of the pits back there, no matter how good your pit stop is.

"But the qualifying is more than just frontstretch and backstretch. You need a good pit on the frontstretch, down towards the first turn. The further down you are, the better off you are. There's an advantage to being at the far end of pit road too, and you want to be able to do that.

"The race itself is tough and demanding. You have to be smart, have a good car, have good pit stops and, all in all, have a pretty good day. But you can really give yourself a boost by qualifying really well on Friday. That can get you a lot closer to where you want to be on Sunday.

"And this Kodak Max Film Chevrolet team wants to be in Victory Lane."

Courtesy of NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Richard Petty , Buddy Baker