Bobby Hamilton and the No. 4 Kodak MAX Film Racing Team will be gunning for a third straight top-10 finish on Sunday in the Dura Lube/Kmart 300 NASCAR Winston Cup race at New Hampshire International Speedway. Hamilton, a 42-year-old Nashville,...
Bobby Hamilton and the No. 4 Kodak MAX Film Racing Team will be gunning for a third straight top-10 finish on Sunday in the Dura Lube/Kmart 300 NASCAR Winston Cup race at New Hampshire International Speedway.
Hamilton, a 42-year-old Nashville, Tenn., native has scored back-to-back seventh-place finishes at Darlington and Richmond the past two weeks. He finished 16th earlier this season at Loudon and is currently 15th in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings with nine races remaining.
After finishing 10th last season in his first year behind the wheel of the Morgan-McClure Motorsports Monte Carlo, Hamilton and company had big plans for 1999. He has seven top-10 finishes this season but trails 10th-place Mike Skinner by 252 points with the season winding down.
"We've got things clicking, and we've been having some good runs lately," Hamilton said. "We've got some good tracks coming up, and we're looking for another good run this week at Loudon.
"If Hurricane Floyd doesn't catch us and we can stay dry, I think we'll have something for 'em at Loudon. We're taking a car up there that I really like. We'd love to get another top-10 finish and make it three straight, but a top five would be even better. I think we're capable of running up front at Loudon."
With a little luck, Hamilton could gain some ground in the Winston Cup standings with a strong run at Loudon. He trails 14th-place Ken Schrader by six points and is only 21 points behind 13th-place John Andretti. Hamilton had a top-10 run going late in the race at Loudon in July but ran out of gas.
"I made a mistake and tried to stretch our fuel mileage too far," team owner Larry McClure said. "We had a pretty good race car, and I think we've gotten our race cars better and got a better handle on the chassis in the last few races.
"As Bobby gets confident in the race car, it makes his overall confidence go up. That's what you've got to have to get out there and go after it.
"We've tested a lot in the last three or four weeks and everything is starting to come together. The cars feel more consistent every time we go to the race track, and we're not out in left field with some trick setup. We've gone back to the basics."
Basics have been good enough for Morgan-McClure Motorsports the past few seasons. With top-10 finishes in the Winston Cup standings three of the past four seasons, Morgan-McClure Chevys also have won races eight of the last nine seasons with three different drivers.
Hamilton won last year at Martinsville in dominating fashion in the Morgan-McClure Monte Carlo. With nine races remaining in 1999, Hamilton and company plan to park in victory lane at least once before the season ends.
"Every race is important," McClure said. "We need to be running for the win consistently or at least in the top 10 every week. We're capable, and Bobby is capable. Our confidence level is coming up some. There's not much magic to this stuff.
"We've been trying to build this thing up. A lot of people will look at it and say maybe the grass is greener somewhere else or maybe the money is better. Our big thing is just being in a position to win races, and finally I think we're getting a lot closer to it. One run doesn't make a season, but sometimes people think it does. I have to accept the responsibility for our kind of mediocre performance, but I think everybody's attention is better and our focus is better."
The Morgan-McClure team will compete with the all new 2000 Monte Carlo next season. A recent test with the new Chevy at Gateway International Raceway in St. Louis sparked plenty of interest.
"I don't think it's going to slow us down," McClure said. "I don't think it's going to be a tremendous race car, but it's going to be a good race car. We're running against some good race cars out there now. Ford is coming out with another new one, and the Pontiacs have an advantage with the spoiler and air dam right now.
"I don't see any reason why that new Monte Carlo can't be a winning race car. When we brought out this old Monte Carlo, it was better than the Lumina. We won the first race with this Monte Carlo at Daytona in 1995. The new car needs some work, but we've got time to get it ready."
And McClure said there's still plenty of time left to win in '99.
"I think we can win before the end of the season," McClure said. "I thought that all along this year. We've got some good opportunities right in front of us to show people what this team is made of.
"The last 15 years, our pit crew wasn't that good. We've got a good one now. That's been a big plus, and all those things give the driver confidence. We're all under the gun. You have to put yourself in that position if you want to win.
"We'd certainly like to have a break, but I think you make most of them. Some good luck certainly would be welcomed, but I think we are in a position to win some races now. New Hampshire would be a great place to start. I think our car will be good enough to win there."