Fontana: Bobby Hamilton preview

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (April 23, 2002) -- The NASCAR Winston Cup Series heads out west for the first time this year to California Speedway for this weekend's NAPA Auto Parts 500. Before the Schneider Electric Racing Team makes the across-country trek,...

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (April 23, 2002) -- The NASCAR Winston Cup Series heads out west for the first time this year to California Speedway for this weekend's NAPA Auto Parts 500. Before the Schneider Electric Racing Team makes the across-country trek, they had to get their game plan in order. Driver Bobby Hamilton and Crew Chief Charley Pressley agreed to take the same car they raced in Atlanta and Texas earlier this season. Hamilton feels that particular car from the Andy Petree Racing fleet will be the key to success in Fontana.

The 44-year-old Nashville, Tenn., native compares the two-mile oval in California to Michigan Speedway, where the series will travel later this year. The two-groove race track lends itself to be a challenge for the Schneider Electric Racing Team. But by using last season's notebook and this year's knowledge, the team hopes to rejuvenate its racing program.

Take us on a tour around California Speedway. What is that race track like to run on as a driver?

When you start out there you try to get on the lower groove as quick as you can. But as the race goes on, it generally makes two grooves on the track. It gets just like Michigan where the teams usually pick the low groove to pass, but sometimes you can get backed up there. In that case it helps to roll outside to pass. I try to keep my car on the bottom of the track just because it's the quickest way around. But you'll see some passing going on in the high groove.

Pressley took the car that Hamilton will race in Fontana to the wind tunnel last week. According to the results, the car is better than the rest in the shop, thus giving the crew chief some comfort.

Pressley adds, "When we took it to the wind tunnel, we saw that the numbers made it the best car we had in the shop. That's good to know going into this weekend. We've raced it twice this year, so we've got a history with it. I know how it reacts to certain things on the race track and that makes me feel more comfortable."

On top of Hamilton's high-risk job, he travels every weekend via personal plane or car. In view of Jack Roush's accident, what necessary precautions have you taken to protect yourself?

It's a wake up call for the NASCAR community, with what happened before Daytona with the helicopter crash and what happened to Jack Roush last weekend in Talladega. I'm sympathetic to each of those people, their families and their teams. We're involved in such a high-risk sport that we have to be on our toes in case something happens at any given moment. I've worked with my pilot so I can learn how to land my plane in case something happens to him while he is flying us to a race track. You never know when he could have a heart attack or something while flying. I feel like if something happened in that case, I could get us on the ground. You just hope that never happens though.

On another note: Due to the tremendous response from Square D being on the hood of the No. 55 Chevy last weekend, it will stay on the hood of the car until further notice.

-bhr/se-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Andy Petree , Jack Roush