Charlotte Bobby Hamilton Preview

Hamilton prepares for much longer, stronger run in Coca-Cola 600 Bobby Hamilton can't wait for a longer, stronger run on Sunday at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C. Hamilton will celebrate his 42nd birthday on Saturday and...

Hamilton prepares for much longer, stronger run in Coca-Cola 600

Bobby Hamilton can't wait for a longer, stronger run on Sunday at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C. Hamilton will celebrate his 42nd birthday on Saturday and then buckle up in the No. 4 Kodak MAX Film Chevrolet Monte Carlo for a NASCAR Winston Cup marathon on Sunday in the Coca-Cola 600. NASCAR's longest race usually takes about five hours to complete, and Hamilton would like nothing better than to run out front for 400 laps on Sunday at the 1.5-mile oval. "Everybody wants to win at Charlotte," Hamilton said. "We got our feet wet last Saturday night in The Winston. We're bringing back a different car this weekend, and it's the same car we finished fourth with at Charlotte last fall. We've got more horsepower for it this time around, so I'm pretty confident we'll do well." Hamilton ran out of fuel in the first segment of last week's The Winston at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Scheduled for 30 laps, the No. 4 Morgan-McClure Monte Carlo ended up making 51 laps because of numerous caution flags for rain and accidents. "We just didn't give ourselves enough cushion," team owner Larry McClure said. "We didn't have the tank filled up, and we did that intentionally so it would pull less weight. We figured if we could go 45 laps that would be enough, and we ended up having to go 51 laps. "We know how many laps we've got to go Sunday, and we know what we've got to do to win. The tires look like they're going to wear out pretty quick, so tire management will be a key. Our motor looked good last week, and I think we've got more horsepower than we had last year. "It doesn't take any magic to win at Charlotte or anywhere else on the circuit, and that's a good thing because we don't have any magicians on the team. We do have some hard-working people, and I think if we can get the car balanced, we'll be hard to beat." Hamilton and McClure agree on who they'll have to beat at Charlotte. Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, Dale Jarrett and Mark Martin will be the favorites, but McClure says that quartet wasn't much better than the No. 4 Kodak Chevy last fall. "It's the same track, and we've got the same car with better motors," McClure said. "I'm not saying we can go in there and beat those guys, but I think we can run with them. "You've got to race about five hours, and Bobby got stronger the longer he went last fall. I'm confident we can run with the leaders." Qualifying will be the first order of business on Wednesday night. Hamilton started fifth and finished fourth last October at Lowe's Motor Speedway. However, starting up front in a 600-mile race doesn't always guarantee success. "I'd rather start toward the front, but I'd much rather finish up there," Hamilton said. "A lot of things can happen in 600 miles at Charlotte. You've got to be fast and lucky. "We had a good test there a couple of weeks ago in the car we're going to be racing, and we ran good there with it last fall. We're going to have to take care of the tires, but I think we'll be in good shape." Hamilton is coming off his best run of the season in the Pontiac Excitement 400 on May 15 at Richmond. He moved from 20th to 17th in the Winston Cup standings with that finish and could make up more ground with a top-10 run at Charlotte. "We're going to give it all we've got at Charlotte," Hamilton said. "We should have had more top 10 finishes in these first 11 races, but we've got plenty of races left this season. Still, we can't afford to wait any longer to make a move. "The competition just keeps getting tighter and tighter, but I think we're coming around. The pit crew did a great job at Richmond, and they're working hard to get even better. We'll get in the marathon mode at Charlotte and hope for the best."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Bobby Hamilton , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Mark Martin