September 3, 2004 -- PPI Motorsports announced today that Bobby Hamilton, Jr. will assume driving duties for its No. 32 entry in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series starting with this weekend's event at California Speedway. Ricky Craven will return to...
September 3, 2004 -- PPI Motorsports announced today that Bobby Hamilton, Jr. will assume driving duties for its No. 32 entry in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series starting with this weekend's event at California Speedway. Ricky Craven will return to the No. 32 entry for one more race, the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event at New Hampshire International Speedway held on September 19, 2004.
Bobby Hamilton Jr. and PPI team owner Cal Wells III spoke with media about the change:
Q&A'S WITH BOBBY HAMILTON JR.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH IN THE NEXT 12 RACES BEFORE THE 2005 SEASON BEGINS?
"We're looking to see improvement in everything. If there is a car we don't like or anything we don't like, we're looking to make it better. This is an opportunity to just go in early and fix any kind of little problems we have for '05. So this was a great opportunity to come here and get a jump start. It's just crazy the way it worked out, but it was an opportunity that nobody could pass up. Harold (Holly, crew chief '05) just jumped on it."
HOW DIFFERENT IS IT TO WALK INTO THE NEXTEL CUP GARAGE COMPARED TO THE BUSCH GARAGE?
"It really didn't sink in until I went to the shop and they handed me uniforms and shirts and helmets and gloves and putting my name on the trailer and stuff and you think, 'Wow, I'm driving the Tide Chevrolet.' You still kind of walk with your head hung down you know, like this morning. You're nobody compared to some of those guys. But the difference is when they get in the race car they're all the same size as me and we're all equal in that race car. You've just got to get after it. Once you get in there and get all this stuff out of the way, you'll get down to business."
WILL YOU RACE ANY DIFFERENTLY AS A ROOKIE IN THE CUP SERIES COMPARED TO A KICKING BUCK IN BUSCH SERIES?
"I look at it this way: I'm a rookie and I don't know what I'm doing, so if I've done it I'm sorry. We just want to run fast and we want to run good."
HAVE YOU TALKED TO RICKY CRAVEN AT ALL?
"No, I haven't talked to him yet."
HOW MUCH DIFFERENCE WILL THIS OPPORTUNITY MAKE FOR YOU?
"It's a building process for '05, that's all it is. We're trying things. We're shooting from the hip. We're just hanging it out. We can use these really for 500 mile tests every week. We had a ton of tests lined up for the winter even if this didn't go through. We're going to use our tests on the race tracks. There could be no better proving ground that here at the track."
DID THIS COME ABOUT MUCH FASTER THAN YOU THOUGHT?
"We expected to do a lot of testing through the winter and just go to Daytona. That's how we were going to get to know the cars. To have this opportunity to run 500 miles every week is an advantage you don't get every year."
HOW MUCH TIME HAVE YOU HAD IN THE CAR SO FAR?
"None. This is it."
ARE YOU NERVOUS ABOUT IT AT ALL?
"No, not really. But you just want to run well. I've got Harold Holly (hired to be the '05 crew chief) on my side. He's been to the shop the last four or five nights getting things set up."
HOW IS IT GOING TO BE TO HAVE HAROLD HOLLY ON THE PIT BOX AND MIKE BEAM CALLING THE SHOTS?) Note: Mike Beam will continue to be crew chief for the remainder of the '04 season. "A lot of people from the outside of the team have asked how that is going to work. It just will. All of a sudden it's just like a puzzle. It just fell into place and it's been working. They're calling each other and saying we need to do this and this and this. It'll all find it's way and it'll all work out."
IS MARTINSVILLE THE ONLY TRACK IN THE REMAINING RACES THIS YEAR THAT YOU HAVEN'T RACED BEFORE?
"Martinsville is the only one. On the whole schedule it was Infineon, Martinsville, and Indy."
HOW MUCH DOES THIS HELP IN MAKING THE TRANSITION?
"It's a whole different ballgame over here. You notice that the minute you walk into the garage. So to get this out of the way is just huge. Going into '05, the pressure will be off. You've been there for a while now."
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO LEARN OUT OF THESE RACES?
"The main thing is just learning the guys and how they are and what they're saying to me. And it's the same thing with me. They need to learn what my loose is and what my tight it and what I mean by this and that. Once they learn that, the foundation is built. That's why it was so important to get this. We can build this whole deal these last 10 races or so and improve our deal for '05. We're already building new cars. All sorts of things have changed. It's a big benefit."
Q&A'S WITH CAL WELLS III
HOW HARD WAS IT TO PULL RICKY CRAVEN OUT OF THE CAR AND PUT BOBBY HAMILTON JR. IN?
"Rick is a good friend. It was a hard decision for both of us. It was a decision we made together. When we decided it was in our collective best interest to do something different for '05, there was a lot of conversation and effort about that. We wanted to do the proper job for Tide, who makes it all possible for us. We really felt we have an opportunity to prove the quality of our team and the quality of our driver during this last part of the season. It just hasn't happened. Unfortunately our performance has remained consistent. And that just isn't good enough. It wasn't good enough for Tide. It wasn't good enough for Ricky Craven. He and I actually got together for breakfast last week and talked about the possibilities of accelerating things a little bit now that Bobby (Hamilton Jr.) had become available. We hadn't planned on that. We had no idea. I didn't want to distract Bobby from his commitment to the Rensi's. When that decision was made and he became available, I think Ricky looked at it as an opportunity for PPI Motorsports and for Tide to get their chemistry going for next year.
"From Ricky's perspective, he obviously wants to remain a race car driver at the Cup level. He's a tremendous race car driver. Eliminating some of the distractions for him and letting us get on with our package for next year is something that Ricky thought would be in everybody's best interest. So we started chatting about it on Thursday before Bristol. We said let's see how Bristol turns out and then we got together Monday after Bristol and came to the collective decision that it would be best for everybody to get our relationship going with Bobby."
WHY ARE YOU KEEPING RICKY CRAVEN IN THE CAR FOR NEW HAMPSHIRE?
"Because it's New Hampshire and it's home and because Ricky and I are friends. That's something that's important to him. And it's important to me. So we're not in any kind of situation with the points that doesn't allow us to make changes on a week in week out basis. I don't like to do that, and I certainly wasn't planning on this one. But with all that said, Stephanie (Hamilton Jr's wife) is ready to have the baby (in about 4 weeks). It's all going to work out for Bobby and it's a great chance for us to take Ricky up there in the Tide ride and prove how good he is. And I'd like to take one more shot at winning New Hampshire with the man who deserves it.
"The truth is, this is hand on heart, Rick and I want the best for each other. We're committed to each other. We're committed to each other's families. We're committed to each other's success. We've had success together. We won our very first Cup race with Ricky Craven and he with us. We won our second Cup race with Ricky Craven and he with us. Ricky will win races with someone else. Right now, or for the next 50 years or so, hopefully we own the closest finish in NASCAR history. We're proud of that. We don't want to trash any of that. So this decision is something that Ricky and I arrived at together."
ON RICKY CRAVEN'S OPTIONS
"It's my job as an owner to put the package around the driver. I haven't been able to get the right package around Rick consistently. We can perform. We've proved that. Tide deserves to be somewhere in the top 20 in points. The top 10 is doable. But it's a tough series. As we look at opportunities for Rick and what he can do, and opportunities for us, all of us have to deliver. I think Rick can for a new team owner who will be able to put the right package around him."
WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO GAIN IN THE NEXT 12 RACES WITH BOBBY HAMILTON JR. AS THE DRIVER?
"I'd like to be able to get through the season finding the holes in the organization and finding where the other problems are that we need to work on. What are we doing wrong? We've eliminated the engine shop as a variable so we can measure ourselves by the Childress cars. They've got one in the top 10. We can eliminate that and we can eliminate other things on the list. Now is the time to find out. By Homestead I'd like to be able to have a pretty big punch list for the winter and know what I need to be working on, that would be the goal so that next year could really be something special."