Saturday, June 12, 1999 Michigan Speedway Kmart 400 Chevrolet notes and quotes KEVIN HAMLIN (Crew chief No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet Monte Carlo) NOTE: Hamlin, a 39-year-old Michigan native, celebrates his ...
Saturday, June 12, 1999 Michigan Speedway Kmart 400 Chevrolet notes and quotes
KEVIN HAMLIN (Crew chief No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet Monte Carlo) NOTE: Hamlin, a 39-year-old Michigan native, celebrates his first season with driver Dale Earnhardt on Sunday at Michigan. He talks about working with Earnhardt, growing up in Michigan and moving south. "I probably started working on cars when I was about 14. I raced seven or eight times one year, but that didn't go well. I think after about the seventh or eighth time I flipped the car and destroyed it. My racing was pretty much done then. Butch (Miller) got me a ride with this other guy and I raced that car three times. The fourth time I drove it I flipped it and that was the only time I've ever been knocked out in my life. That's when my racing career ended. We were going to build a brand new ASA car and go racing. Butch called me that winter and said maybe I should just come back and turn wrenches for him the next year. I was a good driver. I was just in the wrong spot at the wrong time, bad circumstances. For only racing that many times, I actually did pretty good. I was real low on money. I won a lot of heat races, but I never won a feature. "I started working for Butch when I was about 14. He was driving late model Camaros. We raced Toledo, Grand Rapids, South Bend, everywhere around here. Butch owned his own car for quite awhile. He started driving for somebody else, and that's when everything took off good. This is pretty big racing country. In Wisconsin, you can race every night of the week if you want. It's not that far away. It's just on the other side of the pond (Lake Michigan). "I get to see my family when I come up here twice a year and I get to see them at Christmas time. It was a pretty big change moving south. It was pretty scary at first. When Butch and I did that deal it was like we knew that could be the beginning of the end of him and I racing together. We'd been together for 15 or 16 years at that time. We both knew that I might not be able to make it down there or he might not be able to make it. It ended up that Travis Carter had to release Butch, but Travis wanted me to stay. I had to have a job so I just went ahead and stayed. I had to have a job, but I really like living down in North Carolina. We're both so busy that I don't get to talk to Butch anymore. "Butch moved into my neighborhood right next door and that's how I met him. I was probably 14 when I started working on his stuff, and before that I didn't know anything about stock cars. I was into drag racing. I always wanted to be a drag racer. All my buddies and I messed around with cars. My mom and dad would take me up to the local drag strip and drop me off and come back and pick us up at one or two o'clock in the morning when the drag races were over. I always figured I'd be some kind of racer, although my mom (Nina) said I could never make a living racing. She's pretty happy about it now. My father (Tom) is pretty proud of me. He's pretty happy about it all. They still live in Portage (near Kalamazoo). I went to Portage Central High School. It's a little bigger than Welcome, N.C. "I played junior varsity football at Portage one year. I didn't know anything about football when I went out. I just thought it would be cool because all the chicks liked football players. It was the stupidest thing I ever did. You go out there and beat the crap out of each other in practice. I broke our center's leg and I busted some other guy's shoulder in practice. I just didn't understand why you'd want to hurt your own players. "I didn't know anything about football. Me and one of my buddies rode to practice one day on our bicycles. The coach asked me if I had a physical card. He gave me a card and said to get a physical and come back tomorrow. I came back the next day and gave him the card. He asked me what position I wanted to play, and I said, 'I don't know, what positions are there?' He looked at me like, 'oh, boy.' I didn't know anything about it. I hardly ever watched football on TV. "The coach starts naming positions and he gets to guard. I thought that was cool, so I said, 'OK, I'll play guard.' I was tall, but I weighed about 125 pounds. I was the second lightest kid on the team. It wasn't a good position for me to be playing. I was good at baseball, but baseball conflicted with racing season. I was going to play high school baseball, but they already had a catcher, so I didn't play. "Anyway, I played offensive guard on the 10th grade football team, but in practice I played linebacker. I was the second fastest kid in our high school, but our coach didn't know anything about that. The last game of the season the coach put me in in defensive end. We were killing this team, Kalamazoo Central, so he decided it was safe to put me in the game because we had a big enough lead. He told me to play defensive end, but I didn't know what to do. He told me to just kill the quarterback every single time. I could squirt through there pretty good, and I hit the quarterback every time. Then they did this trick deal, a double-reverse or something. I hit the ground and when I got up this guy was running around my end. He's hauling the mail. I got up and I just about caught this kid just before he scored. Our varsity coach happened to be up in the stands watching. The next Monday in physical ed class, the coach came over and asked me why I was playing defensive. I told him that was the only time I ever got to play. I told him I really played guard. I was probably a third-string guard if we had a third string. I probably played four or five games the whole year, but it was always at the end if we were way ahead or way behind. "I told him I didn't know anything about football. He told me I was going to be his running back the next year. He asked me if I could catch the football, and I said heck yeah. He said I might even be his offensive end. I said, 'you've got a little problem with that because I'm not playing football next year.' He said, 'oh yes you are.' I explained to him about hurting those guys and told him it was the stupidest sport I'd ever played. Besides, in Michigan, when you start practice, it's hot as hell. When you finish the season up, it's snowing. It's no fun. I was more interested in racing anyway. "I just wanted to play to impress the chicks, but that didn't work out, either. You've kind of got to be the star of the team to impress the chicks. If you don't get to play, you get a lot of time to sit on the sidelines and look at the chicks. They don't pay a whole lot of attention to you when you're sitting on your helmet. "We've made pretty good progress since I've been on this team. We ain't where we want to be yet, but we're still gaining on it. I was happy doing what I was doing with Skinner, but this is fine. It's been real good so far. Obviously, it's a higher profile job, but it's OK. "We still have hopes of climbing the ladder and getting toward the top. Obviously, we're a little further back than we wanted to be at this point. If those guys have a little trouble and we don't have any trouble, there's still a good chance we can get up there. I speak the international redneck language, so Earnhardt and I communicate pretty well. I think I'm a redneck anyway because my father is from Michigan and my mother is from Arkansas. I'm a half breed. I can do whatever needs to be done. "I'm 39 years old, and I'll turn 40 next Thursday. I guess it's getting time to get with it. I'll get serious when I turn 40."
DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo) "Kevin and I have a win together, and I think we've made great progress in the last several races. There's been a lot of hard work on everybody's part, the chassis shop and engine shop. Everybody is working really great together. "We've got the same car here we had at California and Charlotte. I think we'll be good for the race. We had a bad qualifying run at Dover and on the first run Mark got by us and lapped us. After that, we held our own and finished 11th. I think I could have finished better if we had stopped and got gas and tires on that last caution. "This race track is a little more forgiving (than California). I think California is a little tighter. The setups are a little tighter there. The car seems to run a little tighter. "I haven't talked to Richard (car owner Childress) much about (a new contract) lately, but they usually try to have something done late June, July or August. They're talking right now with Goodwrench. I don't know where I'd go to work if I didn't work for Richard. Reckon I could get a job somewhere else? Teresa doesn't want me working for her. I worked for her before, but I don't drive fast enough for her. Of course, I won the last race I drove for her. "I ran pretty decent the last race here. It was actually the spring race when I wrecked and we brought the backup car out. Talking about how Mark Martin's style is in IROC, I've really been thinking and paying attention and working with Kevin to get my race car driving a little different than I've driven here in the past. You've got to start the car off a little more neutral and you've got to drive it a little more neutral. You can't drive it with the car bound up, and if you use the wrong line and drive the car wrong, you're going to lose. You've got to drive the car smarter from the start."