Hamilton gearing up for plenty of practice under the Florida sun Bobby Hamilton hasn't had a lot of experience at the Homestead Motorsports Complex, a 1.5-mile oval track in Homestead, Fla., hosting its first and the penultimate NASCAR Winston...
Hamilton gearing up for plenty of practice under the Florida sun
Bobby Hamilton hasn't had a lot of experience at the Homestead Motorsports Complex, a 1.5-mile oval track in Homestead, Fla., hosting its first and the penultimate NASCAR Winston Cup race of the 1999 season on Sunday.
But the 42-year-old driver of the No. 4 Kodak Max film Chevrolet Monte Carlo won't leave The Sunshine State until he's logged more than 1,000 miles at Homestead. Winston Cup drivers will practice five hours at the new track on Thursday before practice and first-round Bud Pole Qualifying on Friday.
Hamilton also plans to compete in the 300-mile Busch Grand National race on Saturday prior to the Pennzoil 400 NASCAR Winston Cup race on Sunday. If he hasn't hit 1,000 miles by then, he'll continue making laps on Monday and Tuesday testing the 2000 Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
"We should know the track inside and out by the time we leave," Hamilton said. "I've run on both configurations at Homestead in All Pro races. The first race on the old configuration I ran fourth, and the second race with the configuration as it is, I ran second.
"It's a nice facility. I don't know how Cup cars will race there, but I'm sure it will be a good show. It's just a real fast, real flat race track. It's going to be hard to pass, but you've got long straightaways so you've got time to work with it.
"I raced 2800-pound cars with restrictor plates there because they were so fast, fiberglass bodies, straight-rail cars. The Winston Cup cars will be a lot different, but you still have that time on the race track. It's no mystery to you. If it's nothing more than knowing where the garage is and how to get down pit road, it helps.
"It's a good idea for us to go in a little early (Thursday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.) and get a handle on the tires and cars and things like that. The truck series does that a lot, and it helps. It saves money for extra testing and things like that."
Some Winston Cup drivers have competed in Busch Grand National races at Homestead and compare the track's smoothness to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Hamilton agrees with that comparison.
"Homestead is very smooth," he said. "The surface is probably as smooth as Indy. You'll see people with more Daytona-style stuff, real stiff shocks, real soft springs for qualifying to get the car down out of the air. It's not real equal for everybody because some people have tested there a lot before.
"I think the Penske cars have been there two dozen times. Other teams have been there, too. Probably 10 or 12 others have been down there, too. It was a good test facility for places like Indy and New Hampshire.
"The guys who have run the Busch cars there might have a leg up, too. I drove Terry Labonte's Busch car there one year when he was hurt. We had a flat tire when we were running 13th, and that was the end of that.
"Bobby Labonte runs good there. The Pontiacs just have more downforce. It has a lower nose and more spoiler. The Ford has a little better car (aerodynamically) than we do right now, but that's why we're updating our Monte Carlo."
Hamilton and the Morgan-McClure Motorsports, Inc., Racing Team have tested the 2000 Monte Carlo twice already at St. Louis and Talladega. Hamilton had one of the quickest Monte Carlos at Gateway International Raceway in St. Louis and is taking the same Chevy back to test at Homestead.
"The potential for the new Monte Carlo is really up to NASCAR," Hamilton said. "NASCAR is trying to keep the competition level. Everybody has got good enough race cars, and I guess you'd call the body a tool. You've got a good enough tool to work with if they give you the measurements of the wing.
"We really run an airplane wing, but it's straight. The more they let you do to that wing, the faster the car is going to be. A sprint car has got a wing on top. Our whole car is a wing. How you tune that wing is how fast the car will run. They control what you can do with that wing. You look at a Winston Cup body as a single wing with stuff added to it to make the wing work.
"Homestead is a fast, flat track, and that's where you need maximum downforce. If we get it where it drives good at that place, then it'll go to a banked track and run good, too. Being so smooth, we can monitor more at Homestead. The computer can work with a lot more data.
"I'm a little more involved than some drivers are with the cars. I'm really almost too much of a perfectionist with the way I like the car to drive, and it bites us sometimes. I like for them to drive perfect, and that doesn't happen all the time. Sometimes when they're perfect and drive good, they're not as fast as they need to be. Across the board, a good race car will pay dividends for you."
After back-to-back top-10 finishes at Talladega and Rockingham, the Nashville, Tenn., native was headed for his third straight top-10 run last week at Phoenix when engine problems slowed the No. 4 Kodak Max film Monte Carlo late in the race.
Hamilton scored his first career victory at Phoenix in 1996. He hasn't won this season, and it's been 57 races since his last win in '98 with the Morgan-McClure team at Martinsville. Currently 13th in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings, Hamilton says he isn't concerned with top-10 finishes in the last two races.
"I want to win," Hamilton said. "I've got two more chances to win, and that's all I'm concerned about. We've got some top 10s lately, and I'm proud of that, but if I'm good enough to win, that'll be a top 10 and everything will fall into place. We're not here to finish in the top 10.
"We're behind from last year, but not that bad. We've had a lot of stuff that's set us back, and we've had to overcome a lot of stuff. I think we've done that. I think we'll get the handle on these new cars, and we'll be ready to roll next year."