Hamilton looks to conserve tires at The Rock ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Feb. 18, 1999) Bobby Hamilton has a piece of The Rock. Now he wants another chunk heading into this weekend's Dura-Lube/Big Kmart 400 at North Carolina Speedway. The 41-year-old...
Hamilton looks to conserve tires at The Rock
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Feb. 18, 1999) Bobby Hamilton has a piece of The Rock. Now he wants another chunk heading into this weekend's Dura-Lube/Big Kmart 400 at North Carolina Speedway.
The 41-year-old driver of the No. 4 Kodak MAX Film Chevrolet team won the 1997 ACDelco 400 at Rockingham. Hamilton says "The Rock" is a tricky 1.017-mile track that takes a toll on man and machine, but the key that unlocks the door to Victory Lane comes in the form of tire conservation.
"Rockingham literally tears the tires off the car," Hamilton said. "Goodyear works hard every year to try to get a better tire there, but the track is so abrasive because of the weather. The sand that blows across the track tears up the asphalt real bad. It's like a real coarse sandpaper. It's really hard on the tires.
"The man who can qualify for a pit stall on the front straightaway and the man who can keep the tires on the longest is the man who will win the race."
Hamilton is most concerned about Bud Pole Qualifying on Friday. With only 31 pit stalls on the frontstretch, nailing down a starting spot in the first round would bring smiles to the entire Kodak team.
"Qualifying is the only question mark for me there," Hamilton said. "Sometimes I don't qualify good, but I always race the same. You've got to be pitting on the frontstretch to win, but you don't have to be to get a top-10. Some of my best runs have come from the backstretch pits, but I think you need to be pitting on the frontstretch to win."
Morgan-McClure Motorsports engine builder Runt Pittman supplies some of the best motors in the business, but Hamilton says a track like Rockingham doesn't require superior horsepower for the race.
"We use a good motor to qualify with, but you can be down 60 horsepower and still win the race," Hamilton said. "When I won the race there in Richard Petty's car, it was the worst motor we had in the stable because it wouldn't spin the tires easy. That's what you look for there, something that will come off the corner real smooth.
"You don't have to drive the car real easy. It really reminds you of the way North Wilkesboro used to be. You'd run the car quarter throttle all the way around the track to make time. You just don't use a lot of motor at that place."
With larger spoilers required on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series cars on Sunday at Rockingham, Hamilton says side-by-side racing should provide plenty of excitement for the fans.
"You'll see multiple grooves at Rockingham: Low, middle, halfway past the middle and all the way up against the wall," Hamilton said. "The last race there, Jeff Gordon and I ran on the bottom in (Turns) 1 and 2 and right up against the wall in (Turns) 3 and 4. It really just depends on what the driver is comfortable with and what the car is doing. Usually I run high there a lot.
"We'll go in there and start running 23.50 laps. Within 10 laps, you're running 26 seconds. It's not like you fall off three tenths. You fall off seconds there. We don't like it much halfway through a fuel run, but we like it when we come in and put fuel in and get a new set of those Goodyear tires.
"I rode around fifth or sixth place and at the end, we went up there and led it. That's what you've got to do. You've got to take care of your equipment. It's not hard for me to do. My background was Nashville, and that speedway is hard on tires. The slicker race tracks always favor me, and I think they favor a bunch of guys, but it's hard for people who like to drive hard.
"I've got a good setup for Rockingham. We've always finished top four or five there, so we're pretty good there. It always turns out you've got to beat the same people there. I think Dale Jarrett has finished second the last five or six races there. It'll be Jarrett, Terry, Ricky, Jeff, any of the slick track drivers. There's about 10 good cars there every time, and I know the Kodak Chevy will be right in the thick of things when they drop the green flag."
Source: NASCAR Online