Bobby Hamilton Atlanta Preview

Bobby Hamilton expects a fast pace and another chase in the 1999 NASCAR Winston Cup season finale on Sunday in the NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. "If you're going to run with them, you've got to go fast at Atlanta," said Hamilton, driver...

Bobby Hamilton expects a fast pace and another chase in the 1999 NASCAR Winston Cup season finale on Sunday in the NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

"If you're going to run with them, you've got to go fast at Atlanta," said Hamilton, driver of the No. 4 Kodak Max film Chevrolet Monte Carlo. "Since they gave us these big spoilers, it's widened the race track back out at Atlanta. It made it where you could get two wide easy and three wide sometimes.

"It made the race track a lot bigger because it gives the cars more stability. I think that's the way it's been everywhere. When they gave us the downforce back, they've had better races instead of follow the leader."

Hamilton started 28th and finished 12th earlier this season at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Jeff Gordon won that race, and Bobby Labonte finished second in a Pontiac. Labonte finished second behind his rookie Pontiac teammate Tony Stewart last week at Homestead.

Stewart has won back-to-back races in his Grand Prix, and Hamilton says Pontiac will be the car to beat again on Sunday at Atlanta.

"The Pontiacs are killing us now, and we know how the 18 (Labonte) runs at Atlanta," Hamilton said. "He toys with everybody, so we've got our work cut out for us at Atlanta."

Car owner Larry McClure agrees with his driver on the Pontiac issue.

"Everyone is aware of how the Pontiacs are running, and everyone says it's too late in the season to make a change," McClure said. "I guess it is, but it's obvious to all of us. Being competitive and being in a position to win a race is very important to all of us.

"It makes a big impact on your people and your sponsor. There needs to be a change. I think they're going to do some extensive testing in the off season to try to even things up. Everybody needs to win, but Pontiac doesn't need an advantage.

"Five top Pontiac teams are against all the Chevrolets and look how successful the Pontiacs have been the last 10 weeks. Six Pontiacs were in the top seven in qualifying at Homestead, and the first Chevrolet was 10th. We're not the best Chevrolet. We're 13th in points and some Chevrolets are ahead of us. I can't squeal but so loud. I need to get in the top 10."

Hamilton won a race and finished 10th in 1998, his first season behind the wheel of the No. 4 Morgan-McClure Motorsports, Inc., Chevrolet. Hamilton has one more chance to park the No. 4 Kodak Max film Monte Carlo in victory lane this season.

"I know it's the last race of the year, but I don't look at it like that because we don't really have any time off," Hamilton said. "It's only a few weeks until we go to Daytona for the Daytona 500."

Although Hamilton hasn't won a race in 1999, he says it hasn't been a frustrating season.

"I've had much more frustrating seasons than this one," the 42-year-old Nashville, Tenn., native said. "The first year I won a race with Richard Petty's team, we ended up 16th in points and we finished ninth the year before. We haven't won a race this year, but we robbed ourselves of three. We weren't in contention to win three races last year. We've taken ourselves out of probably three races this year, and definitely two.

"Richmond was one of them, and we were killer fast at the first Rockingham race before the power steering line broke off. We've got some stuff cooking that's pretty neat that's going to benefit us for next season. We're looking forward to that.

"I don't feel bad about this season. I don't feel good about it. It's just been a decent season. How many good race teams are we ahead of in the points? We hadn't led many laps, but we've finished races."

The Kodak Max film Chevrolet team would like to finish ahead of 42 other drivers at Atlanta on Sunday. Although their backs are to the wall, McClure said his Abingdon, Va., outfit is up to the challenge.

"Bobby runs well there, and going into Atlanta, we'll have the best motor we've ever had for that track for qualifying and the race," McClure said. "We' ve been more consistent the last eight or 10 races. We've had several top 10 finishes and have been in position to have even more.

"Sometimes the luck is with you and sometimes it's not. It would mean a lot to us to go down there to Atlanta and have a big effort. That's what we're trying to do. You'd like to end up on a good note. It motivates people on into the next year.

"I don't think we've had the season we had last year, but we've been through some extensive research and body configurations. We had to change from the 18-degree engines to the SB-2. Our program is a lot better than it was last year even though we're 13th in the points.

"I don't think it was as difficult to have success last year. I think we'll be in position to step forward and step up next year. That's what Kodak, General Motors and Larry McClure would like to see happen. With our testing and research and our people, we've got some continuity going. I think we've got more focus going, and Bobby is doing a lot better job for us. He realizes he's with a good race team.

"It's been frustrating, but you can't get out here in front of the camera and blow up. That's just going to frustrate the people around you. You can be a little bit off from winning a race, but that little bit is a long way. You can look around and the competition is a lot keener. We've just got to step up a notch to keep up with them."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Bobby Hamilton , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart