Talladega: Bobby Hamilton preview

Bobby Hamilton discusses winning at Talladega, rules. Schneider Electric Racing CHARLOTTE, N.C. (April 17, 2002) -- Last spring Schneider Electric driver Bobby Hamilton, who had previously been labeled a flat-track race-car driver, beat the odds...

Bobby Hamilton discusses winning at Talladega, rules.
Schneider Electric Racing

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (April 17, 2002) -- Last spring Schneider Electric driver Bobby Hamilton, who had previously been labeled a flat-track race-car driver, beat the odds and left Talladega Superspeedway from victory lane. As the Tennessee native walked into the media center with a big smile and a little strut about himself he asked, "So are you all surprised to see me here?"

But on that sunny day in April, Hamilton silenced his critics. He helped Andy Petree get first win as a car owner and Square D's first win as a sponsor. The spectacle after the checkered flag was hilarious. Petree was so overcome with joy that while Hamilton drove down pit road to victory lane, he jumped on the hood of the No. 55 Chevy. Since that perfect day, Hamilton has come close to winning again, but no cigar. But at this weekend's Aaron's 499, Hamilton is determined to leave from the same place he did last time -- victory lane.

Last spring there weren't any cautions. As you got out of the car in victory lane, you hit the floor from exhaustion. What goes on out there?

It's funny. Everyone thinks that we grip that wheel the whole time, but you're out there for so long and just holding it wide open. We just put our foot on the gas and flatten it out. There is no changing gears and hardly any movement. It's really funny. We all wave at each other out there as we drive by. I remember last fall I was battling Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the lead and I drove up right beside him. I looked over there at him and was going to kid around with him by telling him he was number one. I cracked up when I saw him scratching the back of his neck and not even watching what he was doing. Here we both are, running for the lead, and I'm looking at him, but he's looking down.

What is the secret to keeping the Chevrolets up front with the new rule changes to the Fords and Dodges?

There is no secret to Talladega -- just hold it wide open. The new rule changes they've made to the Ford and Dodge cars have really left the Chevrolets behind. I think in this race, a Chevy will be lucky to be a top-10 contender. Even though they adjusted the Fords again after the first few races, the Chevy still can't compete. But you never know. It's no secret that we are at a disadvantage; but if there's a will, there's a way. There's nothing else we can do with the way the spoiler is designed on the Chevy. After this race I am sure they will revisit the rules again.

What is the best way to get up front on the 2.5-mile superspeedway?

The bottom is where you like to run, but if the bottom is clogged up then you run higher. It's probably the only race track we have that you can run the same speed on the top as you can on the bottom because it's a momentum-type race track. It's got a few bumps in it that you'd rather not run through, but sometimes you get pushed there by traffic.

Track position does matter there. If you're in the back with traffic, then you tend to gamble a little bit with the rest of the field. If you're in front all the time, the chances are slimmer to not get caught up where you don't need to be. When we won there, we came in for a pit stop in the last few laps and came out somewhere mid-pack. Then with the help of our teammate we worked our way up front. We happened to be in the right place at the right time -- victory lane.

-ser-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Bobby Hamilton , Andy Petree