NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Teleconference Transcript with Bobby Hamilton (owner of Bobby Hamilton Racing) and Bobby Hamilton Jr. (Driver of the No. 18 Fastenal Dodge, currently ninth in points). The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series returns to...
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Teleconference Transcript with Bobby Hamilton (owner of Bobby Hamilton Racing) and Bobby Hamilton Jr. (Driver of the No. 18 Fastenal Dodge, currently ninth in points). The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series returns to action on Friday, May 19 at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Q: You have two consecutive top-10 finishes and have moved up to ninth in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series points standings. What kind of momentum will that give you as the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series starts on a nine-race stretch with Charlotte?
Bobby Hamilton Jr.: Martinsville we got our first pole and we ran well. At Gateway, we didn't get to qualify. We really wanted to qualify. We were looking for another pole, but during the race we really ran well. I think what it does is really right now we have our hands full with the Toyotas, so we really need something as far as to stick our chest out. Just by how the guys were acting after the race, by the way they were joking. As a matter of fact today, I bought them lunch. We were out eating and cutting up about everything. We got to talking about racing and you can just tell a different light in them. They're eager. They're ready to go. And that's really, really important. If they're really eager and ready to go, they don't mind spending extra hours at the shop. They are really fine-tuning the details. Everything right now is going the way we need it to at BHR with the 18 truck.
Q: You and the 18 truck tested at Lowe's Motor Speedway with the Goodyear Tire Test. How did that go and how will that help you when the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series comes back to race in Charlotte on May 19?
BH Jr.: That will really help a lot. From the get go, we will know what type of springs. They are going to change the tire on us from what we tested. They told us that before we left. They are going to look at a slower tire. I think I ran 25 laps straight wide open without having to lift in any part of the corners, so that was a little bit too fast for them. But I think the big thing is that it gave the crew just a little bit of an idea of what to start with, what we needed, trends in the track would want, trends in what the truck would want in the middle of the run or the end of a run and confidence as far as myself in what to expect when we unload. It was a big, big, big help. When we go down there we will already be 100 percent ahead of any guys that unload. But like I said, they'll have the open test on Thursday. They'll get caught up to us, but we have a whole day more of notes than anybody else. No matter how we wind up, it's going to benefit me and the team. It was a great honor to do that for Goodyear working with some great people. The way they did the race track is incredible. It's as smooth as ice and as grippy as anyplace I've been. So, I can't wait. I still wonder how it's going to be on the outside, but with the Craftsman Trucks and how wild these guys are I guarantee they'll be three or four wide around there easy and wide open. It'll be a great race.
Q: How are you feeling?
Bobbby Hamilton Sr.: Well, today's been my better day. I went to St. Louis and felt like a million bucks. I don't know if it was where I was around so many people. The race fans have been so gracious to keep up with what's going on with BHR. They've really been rooting Bobby Jr. on. Of course, me being out of the truck, I sat out at the back of the hauler and signed autographs and shook hands, and did exactly what the doctors told me to beware of. The weather was bad out there, and I'm sure there were people out there with flu-like symptoms, and I caught something. I actually had to go to the emergency room Sunday my temperature was so high. I just got out of bed this morning, and decided I just had to get out. The doctor wouldn't give me my chemo this week. They told me to lay at home and sweat it out. I feel pretty good today. It's the first little bit of a setback that I've had. I've been doing my radiation and staying close-knit with everyone at the shop. That's something I have to brag on Bobby Jr. about. He's gone way beyond just driving a truck. He's been going in and out, checking on things -- working with Danny Gill and Danny Rollins and even the other drivers. He's been trying to help me do everything. I feel better today. I said the other day that if this is what it feels like I don't think I'll live another 12 minutes. I knew it wasn't the treatments because we went and had my blood count done and my blood count is actually higher than Timothy (Peters) is and he is 20-some years old. The thing about treatment is that it gets your blood count down. It makes you susceptible to infection. Come to find out, it was just a bad stomach virus going around. But I have never felt so miserable as I felt Monday. But right now I'm out driving around. We're actually sitting in a parking lot right now, eating a chili dog. So, I'm moving along well right now.
Q: Talk a little bit about the 'Craftsman For a Cure' charity benefit coming up that will benefit the American Cancer Society Relay for Life and the Victory Junction Gang Camp. More than 33 drivers are participating. What does it mean to you to have all these drivers support this event?
BH Sr.: The numbers never did a lot for me until I realized how much bigger this was going to be than most events. We don't have pull any punches here -- Victory Junction Gang has been such a huge thing that we have all tried to support whenever we could. There have been people who have been a little bit more fortunate to do more for certain things than others. I have always been one of those guys that I just do what I can. Do be on the flip side of it and to know that someone like Craftsman came along because I was one of the less fortunate ones to be diagnosed with a pretty common disease just totally overwhelmed me. To know that I can pick up the phone and I called Jeff Gordon's people and Jimmie Johnson's people. Then I picked up the phone and I called Kasey Kahne. The man is in between practices calling me back, saying 'Ok, give me some times. This is what I would like to do. I'll do an hour here, an hour there. I'm going to call you after the next practice.' And he'd run and call me back. Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman stepped up right off the bat. I can't even spout off half the names. A ton of our NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series guys have really stepped up as well. Jon Wood called me. The Wood family has been close to me my whole career. You really hate to throw names out there because we have so many participating. We have a whole field of drivers almost that could make a whole race. I cherish everything that every one of them has done. And I don't have to tell you how I feel about Ken Schrader and Michael Waltrip who have stepped up. It just goes on and on, and the people just want to keep doing more. You just can't believe what a feeling it is when you are on the other side of it.
Q: Bobby, what is your prognosis for returning and what is the cancer that you have?
BH Sr.: My cancer is called head and neck cancer. Cancer is a strange deal. We've learned when it starts up around the head area it travels downward toward the right side of your body. So it never made it to my head, just started in my neck. About 50% percent of head and neck cancer is that exact thing. It sort of embedded in the right side of my neck. It froze there. I have been very fortunate that it didn't move anywhere. I've had so many biopsies just to make sure. I've had lung washes, and I have nothing in my lungs. Still at this point, it doesn't even show in my blood work. We were able to surround ourselves with good people, and get started early. We don't know if we're ahead of schedule or behind schedule. We took a very slow step forward as far of regiments of treatment, and it wasn't working quite as fast as we wanted it to. So, I wasn't even set up for radiation until May 30, and I'm on my second week of radiation. Almost by the time was going to start radiation, I'm going to be done.
As far as my return, I said in my press conference in Atlanta that I would love to make my comeback the last race of the season. That would just mean so much to me and this is the first time I've said this...the rehab for this thing is two to three months. Until this past week, I probably could have raced every week -- there haven't been that many races, I wouldn't have had to step out of the truck. But for the safety of my competitors, the welfare of my business and my race teams and all the people surrounding me, I just felt like the best guy to do the job would be Bobby Jr. The next best thing for me, when I get done with all these treatments and they say everything is ok, is that I would love to come back at Atlanta where I got out of the truck.
Q: What has this meant to you to step into your dad's truck? Does it help him that you are driving it?
BH Jr.: I'm sure it helps. The biggest thing having to overcome is that these guys are so used to working with my dad. Fastenal signed on to be with my dad. That was the hardest part for me. In my eyes, I thought that was going to be the biggest challenge. But the minute we went and met with all the Fastenal guys, the first thing they said was 'This is a no-brainer. Welcome to the family.' Danny Rollins and Danny Gill did my ARCA program when I was ARCA racing. A lot of new guys were uneasy about things; they didn't know what was going to happen. But we were fortunate enough to go out and run well. It's really been an emotional ride. The circumstances you don't like at all, but at the same time that's what was thrown at us. It's been different. A lot of things that I never thought I would have to do, I'm doing. There's a lot of stuff. I worry about my dad. On top of that, I've never had to feel the pressure as far as saying 'We have a sponsor for this year and next year. If things don't work out good, if we go out there and flip flop around like we don't know what we're doing, if I don't take the initiative and the guys don't take the initiative to go out there and perform like Fastenal is expecting, we may not have anything in two years.' So then we have 60 some odd employees wondering what is going to happen. So the pressure is just unbelievable. And at the same time, it makes me more determined than anything. Seeing my dad smile after we run good or seeing that he is enjoying how the shop is doing what it is supposed to be doing. With him being there and sitting back in the shop and tinker with things and work with the guys, that's really what's keeping everybody going. At the same time, there's a lot of situations that you don't like as far as not having our leader there driving the 18 truck. But we've got to man up, take care of it and do what we've got to do.
Q: Has battling cancer changed your perspective personally or in the business itself?
BH Sr.: It makes me understand the business a little more. It makes me understand how race car drivers are. When Bobby Jr. was in Charlotte at the tire test, I had one truck at the wind tunnel, and I had another truck at an in-line test, so all three teams were gone. I took Timothy and loaded up a back-up truck in a test transporter and went to Kentucky and worked on spring combinations that I had come up with just back there tinkering around. I was messing around. I have a good sense of this race track and if we unload like we usually unload at Martinsville, Bobby Jr. is good there; he just hasn't run that many times there. I said, 'He'll probably sit on the pole if I can make this work.' About that time the phone rang, and it was Michael Waltrip. He said, 'What are you doing in Kentucky testing? Why aren't you back taking it easy?' I told him I was just up there having fun. Then Jack Sprague called. Then after Sprague called, John Andretti called. John Andretti said he just didn't want to call, he didn't know whether he should bother me or not. I said, 'Let me tell you something right now. The people I thought would call, have called. And the people wouldn't call, haven't.' And basically all it is that people have different personality and temperament. I'm not upset at one person who has not called me, but I cherish the people that do call me -- but I don't hold it anyway. I remember the day we lost Dale Earnhardt. I mean I walked up to Michael Waltrip and congratulated him on winning the Daytona 500. Drivers carry a shield around them, and they are afraid if they let that shield down, then that's a little bit of a weakness.
There is one thing that I have learned about all of this. Everybody is going to deal with this at some point in their life. It's such a big thing. Everybody on this phone, I guarantee, knows somebody or has had a family member go through it. It just makes you think of things different. I don't look at the sport that different. I look at human life different. I see people at the hospital. I talk to patients everyday. I had the hospital call me and want to give me VIP treatment because they had race fans as patients talking about me. They called my house and said 'We'd like to bring you in the back door. We have a CEO room.' I said, 'I don't want you to touch me. I want to sit right out there with them. Leave me alone. I'll learn a lot. I just want to sit with the rest of the folks.'
I think I have learned to cherish anybody's life. We're all human beings. We all have a life. Do some of us live them right? Probably not. Do all of us live them right? No. Do all of us live them half-way right? Probably so. There's so many different ways to look at it. You know, somebody will get bad on the highway and say, 'You blankety-blank.' That's not me anymore. I tell people all the time. Somebody will call or stop by and say, 'Is there anything we can do? We're praying for you.' And I'll say, 'That's all I need, just keep doing that.' And I'll turn around and tell them 'Don't forget to hug your wife or your kids or your grandkids tonight and tell them that you love them. Make sure you do that every night.' That's just the difference in what you learn going through something like this.
Continued in part 2