GM Racing Communications
Tuesday, April 16, 2002
Bobby Hamilton, driver of the No. 55 Schneider Electric Chevrolet Monte Carlo and winner of last year's Talladega 500, and team owner, Andy Petree, were the guests on today's Winston Cup Teleconference call. The following are highlights of the Q&A's with the media.
Bobby Hamilton has four Winston Cup career wins and 65 top-ten finishes:
Q:On his new crew chief, Charley Pressley
"I don't think it took Charley and I that long to gel. It's been a situation where when Jimmy(Elledge)left, we lost a lot of people. And, anytime you have to restructure it just gets you behind. The No. 33 team not being there on a regular basis has hurt us because we don't have another team to feed off of, and I think that's a must these days with all the multi-car teams. Charlie and I worked real good together when I drove for Larry McClure. And that's why I wanted him. I thought I wouldn't have to go through a big learning curve there, but actually Andy Petree being the kind of car owner he is, and he's a championship crew chief in his day with Dale Earnhardt, so you have three people making decisions at times and we're finally starting to realize what all three of us want and Andy's gotten pretty comfortable with the situation and backed off a little bit and let me and Charlie have our way."
Q:With 49 cars entered in the Talladega 500, what are your thoughts on the idea that some of the well-known teams could go home?
"Well, the thing is, the restrictor plate racing is a weird deal. You can have a car with just a little bit of drag and a real good motor, you're just not going to qualify good, but when the flag drops you can race good. At Talladega and Daytona, the very first race we have is getting into the race. There's people like myself that are far back in the points right now because we got in a big crash at Daytona and we had a couple of bad races. I think I'm sitting 30th in points, and owner points is where they take provisionals. We tested good, but you could have an ignition box go out on your qualifying lap or something like that and you have to fall back on a provisional. It could get pretty ugly back there with as many cars we have."
Q:On NASCAR's penalty for Kevin Harvick
"I think what they did right there is pour the foundation. So many times in different scenarios NASCAR has told us not to let them make the judgment calls. Don't make us have to make your decisions. I think for the big picture it's going to be a lot better deal. Even though we did have 14 cautions, or whatever it was, at Martinsville, it was racing, it was not over-aggressive driving, or people getting ticked at one another. I think it was a good deal. I don't mean that towards Kevin or anything. Me and Kevin had a row at Martinsville last year, and I said he was a great race car driver, the sport needs him, he'll do us a good job, but I think it will help Kevin in the long run and I think it will definitely help all of us in the long run."
Q:Would they have done the same thing if it were Jeff Gordon or Tony Stewart?
"I don't know that they would have up to this point. But I think after they've done what they've done they will do the same thing. It's hard to say this, you don't want to tick anybody off, but can you imagine making Dale Earnhardt sit out for a week. I don't think we want to go do that ever again. Dale done a great job in the way he handled things. The big thing about Dale was that he wasn't real flashy with the media. If he had to do something on the racetrack, he didn't brag about it, he just went and did it, like a lot of guys do. I think what they want is people to act on a professional basis. And they know we're going to have our tempers flare in a racecar. They want us to handle it in a proper way, which is after the race come and talk to them and let them help us get it fixed before the next race."
Q:Should the drivers save their paybacks for short tracks, and are they being more obvious about their paybacks?
"There are a handful of drivers out there like the Labonte brothers (Bobby Labonte and Terry Labonte) that never say anything or do anything and very seldom to they retaliate on anything. It's been a long time since I've seen anything like that happen. In our sport, I'm a firm believer that there's a racing God. What goes around, comes around. If somebody does something to you intentionally, NASCAR will take care of it if you let them take care of it. The worst thing you can do is retaliate on the racetrack at this point for two reasons. It's not good for the sport anymore. Some fans like it, but then again, we're fighting a big safety issue here. We're working our tails off and we've gotten things a lot safer and we don't need to go through another year of what we just went through. And that could very well happen on a high-speed racetrack. At Martinsville, I got spun out the last two laps of the race. And the first thing I wanted to know was who wrecked me. And I was trying to get my car started because I was going to hit him when he came off of turn four. I'll guarantee you that you'll see a lot milder race (at Talladega) than at the shorts tracks when we go back to Martinsville and Bristol again."
Q:If this had been a points race in Cup for Kevin Harvick, do you think he would have taken the same retaliatory strike?
"I don't really know. Kevin seems to work off the cuff, and you've got to respect him for that. When he says he's going to do something, he usually follows through. He don't take anything. You have to have thick skin for what we do because a lot of times you're just having a bad week or a bad few weeks that something happens and the first thing you want to do it think something's intentional.
"The deal that happened to Kevin in that truck race - I don't know Coy Gibbs a lot, I've raced with him - but that wasn't the first person he's run over. I was probably an accident. Sometimes people just get themselves in a position that they're not experienced enough to get out of. And Kevin should have considered the source and figured he was in there truck racing and having fun or whatever the reason he is that he's truck racing because our main goals are the Winston Cup teams. That's the bread and butter. When you put yourself in that position, you have a chance to jeopardize all the people on your Winston Cup team an that's when we have to watch out for."
Q:Looking ahead to Talladega and having respect to your fellow competitor, do you have to forget any retaliation because of the safety issues?
"You need not carry any grudges whatsoever when you walk through the gate at Talladega. The best way to handle this is we need to 'park' one thing. The hardest I've ever hit anything has been at Martinsville Speedway. That's the only time I've been knocked out in my whole career. If you've got a problem with a guy - and NASCAR won't like this - but you need to go out the gate and go to a store or somewhere, and punch him in the nose or something. We need to quit wrecking these racecars. It's other people's money and you can jeopardize taking our three or four other people's equipment that weren't even involved in what the chip is on your shoulder.
"But the big thing is going to Talladega. It's a scary deal. Right now we're having safe races at these places. Even though we had the big one at Daytona, it was a pretty safe race. Nobody got hit real hard. We had a couple of slashed tires and things like that, but the last thing any of us want to think about is going in there with a chip on our shoulder about something that happened at Martinsville because I care about all these guys. I've got some that I like more than others or whatever, but I care about every one of them. I never would do anything like that at a restrictor plate race and I don't think anybody we have racing with us would."
Q:What is the difference between blocking at Talladega and Daytona than other tracks?
"The issue is restrictor plates and when you have to lift, it bogs you up real bad and jeopardizes everybody around you. When you get a run on somebody at Charlotte, you have 800 horsepower, the car recovers good, and you have a ton of downforce. We have the necessary evils at Talladega and Daytona. We have no downforce. If somebody touches you, the car goes around. And we have no power. We really can't afford to let off the gas because we're going to get hit from behind, nobody can stop, you can't be touched and you really can't afford to let off the gas because the thing won't pull back up."
Q:Will some drivers who haven't been happy with Kevin Harvick's driving style take advantage of the fact that he has to keep his nose clean for 259 days or face suspension?
"That's hard to say. I'm not going to treat him any different. It's up to Kevin. If he want to be in Winston Cup racing, which I hope he does because he really draws a big fan base and a lot of excitement, he can still do that without being in trouble. He's just got to put his priorities in line. We've seen Dale Jr. do that some. These guys can drive the hell out of a racecar, so I think they can put everything in perspective and put everything in order and keep their noses clean and go ahead and race. If someone wants to mess with him, you can sort of put yourself in that position and you just have to bite your tongue and wait 'til next year, I guess."
Q:On the IRL taking the lead in softwall technology and the possibility of seeing it at the NASCAR race in Indianapolis
"I knew it was coming. I'm just surprised that it's coming this quick. I guess there's still not a timeframe. But I've been very pleased with the approach that everyone is taking on the safety issues. What I like about what our sport is doing is that we don't make any changes until we know that it's going to help 100 percent. If we can get those things up at a place like Indy, where they have 90-degree turns - at least that's what it looks like in a racecar - I would be a great place to start."
Q:Have softwalls come up in any meetings?
"They've come up a little bit, and I know that they've been testing some walls. Andy Petree gave them (NASCAR) a car that I finished 8th with at Bristol last year to test the walls with. I don't know they've been doing a lot of testing with it during the past year."
Q:Can you explain side-drafting and how it works?
"I never heard of it, but I think I know what you're talking about. When you have a lot of air stirred in, you can be too far away from a car, or you can be too close to a car. But then you can get door-to-door with a car and you can get x-amount of help behind you, or from two or three cars in front of you, you can sort of pull the vacuum off the car and it frees the car up for a minute and you can make a little time. I don't know really how to explain it. It takes very minute changes to make the car inch it's way forward and you have to really concentrate and work with it. And then you've got to have a good partner. I got lucky at the end of the race (last year's Talladega 500) because I had Joe Nemechek behind me and I had Dale Jr. behind him, which are our RAD program cars. So I think it was just a perfect situation for me.
"And then we went back for the second race (fall '01), and than I got hooked up with Dale Jr. and we swapped the lead a lot in what you're calling the 'side-drafting'. But I didn't have the help to really get on by. But you can run side-by-side. It takes a certain car to do that. Some cars like being close to another car, and some cars actually bog down, so it just really depends on your racecar."