Hamilton's Talladega show car to race car

TALLADEGA, Ala. (April 22, 2001) - Bobby Hamilton drove what was formerly a show car to victory lane in the Talladega 500. It was the first win for crew chief Jimmy Elledge, team owner Andy Petree and sponsor Square D. Hamilton won the race by...

TALLADEGA, Ala. (April 22, 2001) - Bobby Hamilton drove what was formerly a show car to victory lane in the Talladega 500. It was the first win for crew chief Jimmy Elledge, team owner Andy Petree and sponsor Square D.

Hamilton won the race by passing Tony Stewart with one lap to go. Hamilton, whose skills as a restrictor plate race had been questioned, then held off a hoard of racecars during the final lap to silence his critics and capture his fourth career victory.

Spotter Bart Creasman, guiding Hamilton on the final lap, told him on the radio: "Keep digging Bobby, this dog will hunt. Bring her on in here to mama." As Hamilton crossed the finish line, the team leaped from pit wall.

"Right now I think we can go anywhere and win," an exhausted Hamilton said in the media center as he sat next to Petree. "People have been hard on me when it comes to restrictor plate racing to the point where I think I got beat down a bit. I had people ask me why I wanted to go to the No. 55 car and leave what I had, but I felt like the difference for this team and I would be a new start. When I first talked to Andy he asked me if I had any questions for him about this team. My question was why he hadn't won any races. I guess this win here both answered that question and put more confidence back in my restrictor plate races."

This victory enables Hamilton and the No. 55 Chevrolet to compete in The Winston at Lowe's (Charlotte, N.C.) Motor Speedway on May 19. The win also moved Hamilton up three positions in the NASCAR Winston Cup championship points battle to fourth.

Petree said the Chevy that Hamilton drove Sunday was a show car less than two years ago. "We took it to the '99 Daytona 500," he said. "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." When NASCAR changed restrictor plate rules, "we resurrected it from the show car department," he said.

For Petree, it has been tough staying patient as he worked and waited for his first win as a car owner, but he has always believed that the addition of Hamilton to the APR program was positive.

"I'm not a real patient guy. And that's one thing that Bobby has brought to the table is confidence," an ecstatic Petree said as he waved to hollering fans who stood outside the press box window. "I felt like we were in a good position to win Bristol and Martinsville and we were getting close to our first win. It could happen anywhere. This team has just now got mature enough to win and bringing Bobby in has really upped that."

Hamilton's victory was yet another top-10 finish for the Square D Racing Team, the fifth of the first nine races this season. He led only three laps.

As Hamilton drove the car down pit road following the 188-lap event he was greeted with handshakes and high-fives from his Square D Racing Team and members of other teams. Petree, overcome by emotion, jumped on the hood of the car. In victory lane, an exhausted Hamilton climbed from the car and was greeted by a tearful Elledge and APR teammate, Joe Nemechek.

"It really hasn't all sunk in yet," said Elledge, overwhelmed with joy. "To come here and run second to Earnhardt with this car in the fall race last year, I almost felt like we won. To come here today and win, it's just pretty unbelievable."

Hamilton was followed to the start-finish line by Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, Mark Martin, and Bobby Labonte respectively.

-LS

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Joe Nemechek , Andy Petree , Mark Martin