CHARLOTTE, N.C., (Oct. 31, 2001)& ...
CHARLOTTE, N.C., (Oct. 31, 2001)– Square D driver Bobby Hamilton has won at NASCAR’s biggest track, Talladega Superspeedway, as well as its smallest, Martinsville Speedway. He’s also won at in-between tracks, including the one-mile, high-banked oval at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, North Carolina, where the NASCAR Winston Cup series returns for this weekend’s Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400.
In fact, the statistics show that the speedway known as "The Rock" is one of Hamilton’s best venues. He has posted six top-10 finishes in his last nine races at Rockingham, including his victory in the 1997 AC Delco 400. This past February, in only his second start in the No. 55 Chevrolet, Hamilton finished a strong 13th.
"I’ve won in Rockingham before and just like any of these other 42 drivers, I’d love to win again, Hamilton said. "Racing there will try anyone’s patience. It gets so slick. The whole time we’re racing, we’re thinking about preserving the tires. You have to drive the track, not other drivers."
Crew chief Jimmy Elledge and Hamilton met Tuesday to discuss this weekend’s race which eventually led to a conversation about their achievements in 2001. Hamilton recalled, "I walked into the shop and Jimmy handed me the qualifying setup sheet. I looked at him like he was crazy– I mean a driver making his own setup for a race? We sat down and talked about the last time we were there and how we could capitalize on our performance this time." Hamilton and Elledge ended up working out the qualifying setup together.
Elledge reviewed with Hamilton the things he could control on the 1.5-mile oval: "If there are a lot of green flag runs and you’re losing time to the leaders, you can force their hand to pit. They can’t afford for you to be out there with newer tires for 10 laps longer then they are because you can make up so much ground. You really have to think about the racetrack, the strategy and everything about it."
As for the season, Hamilton said, "We agreed that we’ve come a long way this year. At the start of the season we had goals in mind. Some we’ve made and others we haven’t. If we didn’t make a goal, we didn’t give up. If anything, it only made us stronger.
"It always helps to be with a team that you get along with so well. Communication is a key factor," Hamilton continued. "Somewhere in the middle of the season we seemed to lose that and our finishes showed it. Andy (Petree, car owner), Jimmy and I sat down and discussed how we could be better and did whatever it took to make it work.
"After that our finishes got better and the team got the morale booster they needed. Our engine program stepped up to the plate," Hamilton said. "Everyone, including myself, started looking at ways they could make this Square D Chevy go faster. It’s made the difference.
"We have been strong week in and week out lately," Hamilton concluded. "We’ll try our best to put the Chevy in victory lane again before this season’s over. We’ve come close a couple of times, but we’ll get there again– it’s just a matter of time."
The Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400 airs live on NBC Sunday Nov. 4th at 1 p.m. EDT.