Bobby Hamilton Talladega race report

Andy Petree, owner, No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "What a great day for our company, what a great day. I can't say enough about it. Bobby, Joe, the whole team - all the guys in the shop - this is unbelievable. We've worked so hard.

Andy Petree, owner, No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo:

"What a great day for our company, what a great day. I can't say enough about it. Bobby, Joe, the whole team - all the guys in the shop - this is unbelievable. We've worked so hard. This is our fifth year now and I'm in a dream world. It's unbelievable."

The teamwork really shows, doesn't it?

"That's right. And that's something. You know, I think these guys have really come together this year. The teams have been more cohesive than ever, and this just proves it out."

<B>Jimmy Elledge, crew chief, No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo:

"This is the same car that Kenny Wallace drove to a second place finish here in the fall, and we brought it back for that reason. We were hoping we could pull it off, and we were able to do it. Bobby Hamilton did a great job. It was a great race for APR (Andy Petree Racing).

Did you think you could do it from the outside?

: "They were all running down on the bottom and they were just determined to be on the bottom, you know. Our car was pretty good up top and it was real free. And I just told him if they want to run on the bottom, get 'em on the bottom and make 'em earn it."

Bobby Hamilton, No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo:

When did you make up your mind that the only chance you had was the outside lane?

"Fifteen to go. I knew what I was going to do, I just didn't want to do it too early. I didn't tell them and I could hear the concern in their voice. But I said 15 to go because if you look back at the tapes, with 15 to go, I could get right up there with the leaders. So I said 15 to go."

How much did your teammate mean to you during those last few laps?

"I couldn't have won it without him (Joe Nemechek, No. 33 Oakwood Homes Chevrolet Monte Carlo), and I appreciate that. Joe hadn't had that good a year, but it's a real good race team. We're working so close together and we're utilizing what a two-car team's about, and I think today showed that."

What did you try to do during the first part of the race?

"Get the hell out of everybody's way to see how safe it was going to be. But everybody was real safe, and I'm real proud of them."

Tell us about your car

: "We knew we was good in practice. The motor we qualified with wasn't as good as our race motor and we knew we was going to be a couple tenths better in the race. And then me and Jimmy (Elledge) talked about some shock changes, and that was it. We made the changes and the car run good.

"We got shuffled back. And the plan was we shuffled back just to ride back there for a while. I seen DJ doing that and I went back. I just didn't want to go back as far as he did because I knew my car was pretty spunky off the corner. And about half way through the race we thought let's go up front and we was able to go up there and lead. I learned some stuff in the fall race last year by watching Dale (Earnhardt) Sr. And it worked real good on the car I was driving last year. I used it a couple times and I thought this is the cat's meow right now. Nobody else is doing it. So I'm going to put it in my glove compartment and wait 'til it's 15 laps to go. Jimmy told me 18 laps.....17 laps, 16, 15...and we took off. We got lucky that Joe (Nemechek) was behind us. I'm not sure that we could have won the race if we was fast and Joe helped us up through there."

Comment from Andy Petree about the win

"This track's been really, really good to me. I got my first win here in '88 as a crew chief for Phil Parsons. Got my first pole, I think, with Schrader here. This has really been a big race track for me. Along with Harry Gant obviously, as a crew chief, and Earnhardt, I don't know how many times. But this is the sweetest one yet. This means more to me than any win I've ever had. And to come here was almost appropriate with all the things' that's happened."

Bobby, can you talk about the last 5 or 10 laps of working of the aerodynamics of the other cars?

"Really, we was just good on the outside. I'm not that smart of a drafter so I don't know. We just had a good car. I don't know if there was any aero advantage or not, but we were good on the outside and there was other people on the outside that couldn't hold on. I was just fortunate to have a good car to stay out there. I didn't do anything different, I was just riding on the outside of them. I think the big key was when Joe came up there in the Oakwood Homes car and he pushed me up there and that helped a lot."

What did you learn from Earnhardt about this?

"I'm not going to tell."

Having worked all these years for your fourth victory, are you really as calm as you seem?

"I got pretty emotional in the racecar, and I was so damned tired I couldn't even make tears come up. And I said, 'If I start crying, I ain't going to be able to talk and I ain't going to be able to stand up. I got out of the car and couldn't stand up anyhow, so I might as well have went ahead and cried. Oh, this is an emotional victory.

"The media has really been hard on me with restrictor plate race because they more or less said I sucked. I guess when you get in the No. 4 car, you're supposed to win all the restrictor plate races. I think I got into it when they were beat down a little bit. And right there at the end of the year we were strong at the restrictor plate race tracks. So I think my confidence was beat down. It's hard to explain, but when you get with a certain type of person or a group of people, you have confidence in one another and it just gives you a different outlook. Right now, I think we can go anywhere and win. I had people ask me what I wanted to go to the No. 55 car for and leave the car you got. First off, I'm a rich head and always liked to build my own stuff. I seen what type of equipment come out of his (Andy Petree's) shop. And, I felt like there was this lack of communication and I never will forget when I asked Andy when we talked why he hadn't won races. He answered me and we've put that to rest now."

Are you looking forward to racing on a road course?

"We're going to Sears Point on Monday to test. I was like, why are we going there? I'd rather go to Charlotte. Andy explained to me that I was going to Sears point and Joe was going to Watkins Glen. But now I understand and I appreciate it because after winning here at Talladega, which is the biggest win I've ever had, it's only appropriate to win a road course race. And I did run second there and led a lot of laps there one time and got beat by Gordon. The only way to get better is to test there, I think."

Can you talk about your last 15-lap run to the front?

"I was by myself, but I could hold on. I think when you've got a restrictor plate car that will get on the inside or outside and hold on on it's own, that shows you've got a pretty stout racecar. Basically all I did was waited for some help. I think the No. 32 car was back there and the No. 7 and all of a sudden I seen that white hood with that big apron on it coming and they said here comes some help. Here comes the other dog. So, I mean you had a good partner - somebody that you could trust. There was a couple times where I pushed up, and he could have got in between us you know, but he did a real good job sticking with us and that's what won the race."

How important was it to have a safe race like today?

"To dodge a bullet from the media you would think would be a big task. But I think we need to know ourselves that we can do this and not wreck going straight. And I think that proves it today. And the fall race proved it. NASCAR knows that Daytona is a little bit different animal. Seven or eight years ago Daytona and Talladega was identical. But now, with the way the cars drive and everything, Daytona's different. So I think they're going to start testing and probably come up with different rules for there or maybe for both of them at both race tracks. Last fall was a safe race. Me and Mark (Martin) wrecked coming into the pits and I think that was the only big thing that happened last year. So I think the way it's happened and everything, it just lets us know that we don't have to run over each other on the third lap. It got pretty hairy there three or four laps to go between two or three of us. But that's when it's crunch time. Let's have 43 cars running at the end."

Did you give it a little more attention at the drivers meeting when Mike Helton talked about staying in line?

"I did. Let's just face it. David does all the drivers meetings and when Mike steps up, it's pretty serious. And I'm glad he did. I wish he would do that stuff every time we come here. Last year if you remember, we changed restrictor plates here because we was going too fast last fall. And we all got together and we talked as a group. I think that really helped. I thought we should have done that this time because practice was a little wild. And then they called a couple drivers into the trailer and took care of that. And then when he came in and stepped up and said that, I thought it was pretty cool. People listened. And it makes you really proud to be associated with a group of guys like we had today."

When you passed Tony Stewart with two laps to go, were you confident you could stay in front?

"I was three or four car lengths out there and when one line started coming to me I pulled down and got the other line. So I just swapped-up. I felt like unless my car pushed real bad or something, I had a pretty weird line fitted out on the race track to keep it straight off the corner. And what you do in a situation like that when you break away, you just pull both lines. I went out one time and grabbed Joe one time and pulled him a couple car lengths, and then you fall back down and pull the inside group to keep them tied up to make it back to the line. It's pretty simple."

Can you talk about getting below the yellow line?

"I was for putting ripple strips up there. We would wreck if we hit 'em though. Or, line a bunch of cones up or something and if anybody knocked them over they'd get black-flagged. I think they got a couple of people today and that's well-deserved. You know, they told us last fall and there was still some passing that went on there. When Mike stepped up there and said that, they made an example of a few of them. My spotter said don't get below that yellow line because they're black-flagging them. And that's just letting us know that they're serious about it now and that's good."

Did knowing that your car finished 2nd here last October help your confidence level?

"I just knew it was a good racecar. And we had a good racecar at Daytona. We could have finished probably third or fourth there. And if circumstances would have worked out, we would have had a shot at winning that race too. That was a new car. I really let these guys have the judgment call on what they want to bring. And I have the utmost confidence on what they bring. We haven't unloaded a bad racecar. We had a real bad race in Vegas and me and him done that together and we know what that was. It didn't have anything to do with the racecar. This is a good racecar. It was good in the wind tunnel and it has run good everywhere they've carried it. But the other car's a good car too, so I don't think it made any difference."

For Andy as an owner and Bobby as a driver, how hard has it been to be patient and let things come together in their own time?

"For me, it's pretty tough. I'm not a real patient guy. And that's one thing he'd brought to the table is a confidence level. I felt like we were in a good position to win Bristol and Martinsville and we were getting so close. It could happen anywhere. It's just come. It happened and it could happen anywhere and that's what we always thought.

"One thing about the car I wanted to bring up. It was a show car in 1999. We took it to the '99 Daytona 500. It had a bad body on it and we really just had a lot of bad luck with things. We made a show car out of it and it was on the show car circuit the entire year in 1999. We resurrected it from the show car department when they changed the rules back. And now it's back on the track."

Bobby: "Andy was talking about that he's not very patient. But one thing he's done that I think is very unique and it's tough on an owner because I own a truck team that's got two teams is that he lets this kid (Jimmy Elledge) over here run that race team like it's his. I've never seen a car owner do that. They always got to have their hands in it just to show their authority. I go to the race shop quite a bit. The No. 33 is on one side and the No. 55 is on the other side. He trusts Jimmy's judgment. And they communicate and all. They have their Monday morning meetings and all that. But when you have that kind of confidence in your people, it makes your business go a lot better."

For Jimmy: Is this your first win as a crew chief?

"Yes, it is. It hasn't really all sunk in yet. Like Andy said, we've had a fair amount of success here in Talladega. When he was working with Childress and winning races with Dale Earnhardt, I was on that team also. To come here and run second to him (Earnhardt) last year, I almost felt like we won. It was a real neat deal. To come here today and to win it is just pretty unbelievable."

Can you talk about the rules for Daytona and Talladega?

"The bottom line is we have a closure rate problem. On this racetrack, it's not as severe. When they decided to come off the one-inch plate and go to a 15/16-inch plate, that took care of 98% of it. So we got a lot of control of the closure rate. At Daytona, it's more of a chassis track. The tires go away and you just need a real good handling racecar. What happens, is nobody has a perfect racecar. At Daytona they lift a lot. And when they get back on the gas because another car lifted or whatnot, the closure rate it a lot greater. Same horsepower, same car, but it's a lot greater. And then when you run up on 'em 'cause they had to lift, it causes trouble. I think what they're trying to do it come up with another rule. What they did here when they done it, you could just get run over. Coming off (turn) 4 last year I had Skinner hit me here last year wide open. It almost takes an idiot to spin 'em out right now. And I think they're trying to get more drag on them, more downforce, they'll drive better. Then you won't have to lift as much and they can control the power end of it."

Andy adds: "I've been a big proponent of keeping the rules where they are. The rules don't cause these big wrecks. It's always a mistake by the driver and we saw that in the Busch race yesterday without these rules. So the entertainment value in the rules they have now outweighs any potential of a safety issue. I don't think there is a safety issue. I think it all lies with the drivers and they proved it today that they can do it. If I get a vote, I want to keep it like it is."

As your first win in three years, what does this mean to you?

Bobby "Without stepping on anybody's toes, I like going somewhere. I mean, we get paid a lot of money to do this. And I want to earn my keep and thought it'd be cool to win Andy's first race. Not to take anything away from Joe or anything like that 'cause if Joe would have won Andy's first race I would have been proud for that too. But it's the same thing for Richard Petty. It made me feel real good to win Richard Petty's first race as an owner. That was pretty special for me."

On the radio, you asked about the checkered flag. Did you not see it wave or did you not believe it was waving?

"I think I was so in tune today, that if this was Rockingham, and I'd have had the same feeling, I'd have told the guys we were going to win the race. And I felt that confident, but I didn't want to say anything. I know when you have a car to come off the corners as good as mine did, I've got a pretty good horse under me. It was just one of those situations that I didn't want to get them all upbeat about it because they were so pumped up about wanting to win a race that I just kept it to myself."

For Andy: Is today just an evolution of 4 or 5 years with your team or did you just finally get the right people in the right places

"We've got the right team in the right places. This team is just now got mature enough to win and bringing Bobby in has really upped that. I think it does take time. It's not something that's going to happen overnight. I don't know how much I had to do with all this 'cause like you said I let Jimmy run this team. I made the decision to hire Bobby Hamilton - we kind of made it together, me and Bobby. I tried to hire Bobby for two years. It made a big difference for us."

Bobby: "I want to add to that. When you go to Andy Petree Racing and look at the facilities -I don't care about those shiny floors and all that stuff - they build everything in-house. There isn't but two or three race teams that do this. They build everything in house except for the front spindles. Everything is hand made at Petree's. I think for somebody to be brave enough to start a new team and up and do that right off the bat, there is a building process. That's a riverboat gambler to me. And then to turn around and win in that short of time shows a lot for Andy Petree Racing."

Somebody said that Michael Waltrip spoke during the drivers meeting about safety. Can you comment on that?

"Mike Helton was talking about driving below the yellow line and then Michael spoke up. And he said that Darrell Waltrip always spoke for us but that since he wasn't here, that he would do it. He said, and these are my words, 'Let's just put a show on for the fans. They're here to see a show. We don't have to do stupid stuff with 20 laps to go. I'll give you my word. I'll take care of y'all if y'all take care of me.' And there was just silence."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Bobby Hamilton , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Joe Nemechek , Kenny Wallace , Richard Petty , Andy Petree , Mike Helton , Harry Gant