Bobby Hamilton Clinches Dodge's First NCTS Drivers Championship!
* The last Dodge driver to win a championship in a NASCAR series was Richard Petty (No. 43 Dodge -- 1974, 1975).
BOBBY HAMILTON (No. 4 Square D Dodge Ram)
"Obviously I'm pretty proud of all my people. I've done this stuff for a long time, and I've driven for a lot of other people. I know that if you don't have good stuff, or if you don't have good people to make this happen, it doesn't happen very easy. I always tell people, 'You can pull a rope easier than you can push it.' And, trust me, if you don't have good people, it's like pushing a rope. I have a philosophy that I've never even mentioned before, but I call it the three P's. It's People, Product and Performance. And if you don't have the first or the second, then the last one don't happen. So, that's sort of what we've built our race team off of.
"We pretty much knew everything that was going on. The engineers got together and actually wrote a program that they could just punch a button if Dennis led a lap, which he did, where I'd have to finish at. When he made a position or five positions they could punch it and they'd let me know where everybody was and what we had to do. Right there at the end they got a bunch of people a lap down and it got pretty wild on the restarts. So, I just fell to the tail end of the longest line because I had him (Setzer) five or six ahead of me. I think I was at 12th at that time. We had a good Dodge. Right there at about the end of the race my crew chief about fell off his seat. We ran like a 31.70 (sec.) or something at the end of the race, and the leader was running a 32.20. So, we had a good truck, but we just tried to use our head and stay out of trouble.
"These Dodges, they make a ton of horsepower, and the Chevrolets get like four or five more laps to a tank of fuel than we did. So, we made up our mind when we got like 15 or 20 laps in that we would stop and put gas in it. So, that put us in the back. Then we just started having to take care of stuff. We knew that's what was going to happen.
"When Kasey got to me to lap me, I was concerned because I had right-front going down. We just didn't want to advertise it, because a lot of people would scan it or whatever and try to take advantage of it. Then Kasey, being a team truck, or obviously a Dodge truck, he backed off a little bit. It wouldn't have made any difference because he had to come in for gas in the next five laps and the other truck was 15 seconds behind me. But, the caution probably helped us from not having a tire go all the way down. It was only two pounds low, but it had a place cut where I'd hit something on the racetrack.
"I'm real light when it comes to a driver. That's what I do to have my fun. I know I sound like a broken record, but it's the truth. If I had to go talk to a sponsor and tell him I really cared about winning championships then I'd be lying. It's all about the people and Dodge. Dodge hasn't won a championship since (1975). To keep all of this stuff going, they've been back in this sport for three or four years now. It was huge to win their first championship, for somebody to win it, and I just wanted to be the guy to go out and win their first championship.
On being conservative, and dropping down to the bottom of the track...
"I would just pull over. It's legal to pass to the right-hand side, so I didn't want to take a chance to mess up anybody behind me. I didn't want to go to turn one right off the gas, so I'd just pull over and let them pass me on the right side, where it wouldn't get them in any kind of trick, rule-wise or anything. I was just trying to be respectful and safe at the same time. It's easy to get hit in the back on restarts. So, I was just trying to keep from having that happen too.
"The emotion is a happy emotion. Last week was a disappointing emotion. I ran over my kid and wrecked him. Even though it was him missing a gear or whatever, you still don't want that to happen. I had somebody ask me the other day, 'Why did you feel this way?' you know, they were trying pick it apart. And I said, 'He's my kid. You'd feel the same way. Trust me.' It's a different emotion. It just hasn't sunk in for me. I mean, I know that I won the championship, and I knew going in that I was racing for the championship, but I've wanted it so bad so long for other people besides myself. You know something? When I'm about half drunk tomorrow night after the banquet it'll probably sink in, and I'll be too drunk to cry about it. I'll be just having a good time.
"Probably half of them (race championships) I've won as an owner. That's obviously a smaller series or whatever, but it really is the same thing. I think the biggest gratification that I had out of tonight was walking out on that stage and talking a few minutes with Mike Helton and him presenting it to me. I've always been a huge fan, and I've had my problems -- everybody in racing has had their problems with the way NASCAR does things at times -- but I've always been a big fan of Bill (France) Jr. Just some things he said to me back when I drove with the McClures or even the Pettys. He'd walk up and give you a pep talk, you know?. It's just a vision that the family has had. And even though we get irritated with it sometimes, like Kenny Schraeder has said, it's better than having a real job. Trust me. I was standing on the stage and I had just won a NASCAR championship, and I had my son, my grandchild, all of my guys. It's almost like you write a script for it for a movie, and all of a sudden it lands that way. So, that's a soft spot with it. But again, the championship deal is just icing on the cake for somebody else.
About being a driver and team owner in this series...
"It's as difficult as you think it is, I guess. I've had some tough times. We hadn't won all the races, so it's not easy. They told me up on stage that I was the first guy since Alan Kulwicki to do it. And I think he and I are the maybe are the only ones in the modern era to do it. That's weird how that had come full circle because Paul Andrews was hanging around in the pits, and he was the crew chief with Alan. So, you surround yourself with good people. I know this isn't a good example, but Hendrick Motorsports has got a lot of great people that makes that race team what it is. And Bobby Hamilton Racing has a great support system with the people it has. My deal is structured very, very simple. I walk in there on Mondays. I hang around in the shop. I help design the chassis. That's what I do for fun. On Tuesdays I sign the bills and talk about what we've got to do for testing and stuff. On Wednesdays they leave me alone -- they do their job. And on Thursdays we're going to the racetrack. That's the way it's been all year long. And basically all I did was took the middle people out so nobody could say, 'Well, so-and-so told me this, or they didn't tell me this.' Then they have to come to me about everything. I've got 40 people. It isn't that hard to juggle 40 people a week. It just isn't that hard when you have people that do your travel, and crew chiefs that handle their people well."
"Believe it or not I don't even have a sponsor for next year. But I did win the championship, so I do have a resume to carry to somebody now. I just thought of that. That's pretty cool about winning a championship. We're really close on some things for the No. 4 truck. The No. 18 truck is done. It's got probably the best sponsor it's had since I've been in business. It's a factory-backed team too. Chase Montgomery is going to drive it. And we're putting together a deal with Ray on the No. 8 truck for some other people to run it some. We're trying to get Chad located in the No. 59 truck. I don't know if that's going to work out or not. We're still talking to Jim Harris about that. I told Chad that he could talk to other people. He's talked to other teams at this time. But as far as sponsorships at Bobby Hamilton Racing, we're going to be okay. I'm pretty sure.
On Dodge's commitment to the NCTS
"Dieter Zetsche is in Germany, and he runs this whole thing. They've been wanting a championship. Dodge has been in this thing as long as Chevrolet has or Ford. There's been eight championships won until now, and none of them had been Dodges. This is a performance business and they put a lot of emphasis on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series because they feel like they sell a lot of vehicles by doing that. So, in return, they deserve a championship. You can't give them a championship, you have to go out and earn it. So, saying that they deserve one, that's not like you're just going to give them one. It's just took them this long for all of the teams to finally be spokes in a single wheel instead of being spokes in four different wheels. This is the first year that all of the Dodge teams have really worked together and shared information like you should do it.
On Kahne jumping in the No.2 for two straight wins...
"I think it's great. I think there's a truck being designed for some Cup drivers to come drive it. I like it as an owner because I think when we have Cup drivers, the ticket sales go up a little bit and it draws a little more interest to the series. So, I like it. It doesn't bother me none. When you have good stuff you can outrun Kasey. We were going to beat Kasey last week, and he ended up winning the race because I ran over Bobby Jr., or whatever. It makes no difference to me. When I ran Busch, when the Cup guys come... I loved it when Dale Earnhardt, Sr., came and run Busch Series because if you ran with Dale Sr., you draw a lot of attention.