CHARLOTTE, N.C., (Oct 3, 2001)& ...
CHARLOTTE, N.C., (Oct 3, 2001)– After two days of testing at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Bobby Hamilton and the Square D Racing Team are gearing up for the UAW-GM Quality 500 here on the 1.5-mile oval at Lowe's Motor Speedway this weekend.
Hamilton, who is 16th in points, has been climbing the ladder in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series Championship with four consecutive top-15 finishes. On top of that, Hamilton is the only driver among all NSACAR Winston Cup Series drivers who have competed in every race this season with no DNF's (did not finish). Bill Elliott was the only other driver running the full Winston Cup schedule with no DNF's, but dropped out when his No. 9 Dodge had engine trouble last weekend at Kansas Speedway forcing him to park the car behind the wall with his first DNF of the year.
After finishing 15th at Kansas, Hamilton had completed 8168 out of a possible 8235 laps in 2001.
"At the beginning of the year we set all these goals for ourselves," Crew Chief Jimmy Elledge said. "We knew when we started this season that other teams would catch up to us after the first few races. We didn't think that we'd hit a slump like we hit, but it seems now that we're back in the playing field.
"The goal at the beginning of the year was to finish the season in the top-15 in points. We probably underestimated the competition, but we're really close to that mark now. It helps to not have any DNF's on our records because that makes us a little more consistent. Believe me, we're going to check every nut and bolt from here on out, but that is how this game is played. We want to be back close to the top-10 in points before the end of the season."
The team hardly took a breath after returning from the inaugural Winston Cup event last Sunday at Kansas Speedway. Hamilton and the crew on Tuesday tested fastest with a brand new No. 55 Chevy at Martinsville built specifically for the short track. The team tested on Wednesday in Martinsville and then they will switch gears for speedway qualifying at Lowe's Motor Speedway on Thursday.
"This Square D Racing Team has been working really hard lately with the test this week and then going straight to Charlotte, but the work has paid off," Hamilton said. "We're running better and getting back on track with our setups. It's nice to run again in the top 15, but on the other hand we've seen it all taken away pretty easy before. So, we're going to continue to stay focused like we are now and work to put this No. 55 Chevy back in the winner's circle."
As for Charlotte, Hamilton said, "Jimmy says that Charlotte's track is moody and I agree with that. It's so temperature sensitive. As the track gets cooler, it changes the conditions we race on completely. If the weather stays consistent, then the track will be more consistent for us."
Elledge wants to improve on the team's streak of top-15 finishes at Charlotte. "We want to turn these top 15s into top 10s," he said. "Then make the top 10s into top 5s. Before you know it we'll be back in victory lane."
The UAW-GM Quality 500 will air live on NBC Sunday, Oct. 7th at 12 p.m. EDT.