BOBBY HAMILTON (No. 4 Square D Dodge Ram) NOTE: Hamilton ranks third in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Standings after two races in 2004. He won the last race at Atlanta Motor Speedway with a thrilling finish against Mike Skinner and is...
BOBBY HAMILTON (No. 4 Square D Dodge Ram)
NOTE: Hamilton ranks third in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Standings after two races in 2004. He won the last race at Atlanta Motor Speedway with a thrilling finish against Mike Skinner and is only 20 points behind series leader Travis Kvapil heading into Martinsville. Chad Chaffin, who drives the No. 18 Dickies Dodge Ram for Bobby Hamilton Racing, finished ninth at Atlanta and ranks ninth in the series standings. Hamilton and Chaffin discuss the series and outlook for Martinsville.
WHAT'S THE OUTLOOK FOR MARTINSVILLE?
"Martinsville has always been a good racetrack for me, and coming off the win at Atlanta and ending the season the way we ended it (victory at Homestead) we're pretty pumped up. We started doing our own in-house chassis at Homestead last year and were able to win. Our next in-house chassis we won with at Atlanta, and we're carrying another new in-house chassis to Martinsville. We've got some cool things going on and some engineering things going on with the folks at Detroit, so right now we're not focused on anything. Everybody says, 'what about the championship?' We're not talking about that. We just want to win a lot of races this year."
HOW'S THE TEST GOING AT GREENVILLE-PICKENS TODAY?
"It's raining like hell right now, and it always does when we come over here. We talked the promoter into letting us have the racetrack tonight. For some reason when the sun goes down it quits raining around here, so we're going to try to test tonight if we can."
DO YOU LIKE RACING AT MARTINSVILLE?
"It's been a good track for us. We won a truck race there and a Cup race there. I probably won about every truck race there without mechanical failure or stuff because before I started driving for my team full time I'd try a lot of experimental stuff. It's a real good racetrack. I don't necessarily like it that much, but for some reason I always run good there. I'm easy on brakes, but to me I think they hurt the racetrack when they ground it. They said you can go back and run on the outside, but every race I've run there or won there I raced on the outside. It's made it a better race for the fans."
DISCUSS TRUCK ONE-RACE-A-MONTH SCHEDULE TO BEGIN SEASON
"It's not hard for the teams. What it's hard for is the sponsors. We've talked to NASCAR about this, and they're well aware of it. I think we'll see some changes for next year with some new venues they've talked about. The sponsor works its tail off going into Daytona, and with my sponsor, Square D, you're building excitement internally with the employees more or less and a few customers. You run Daytona and then you're off a month. You've got to work real hard to get the excitement built back up again, and then you're off for another month. That's the kind of hurdles we're having problems with right now."
WHAT'S YOUR IMPRESSION OF NEW MANUFACTURER IN TRUCK SERIES? "I think the title is wide open. I might be fooled. This is not manufacturer talk. This is just looking at the teams and drivers that are good at Martinsville. I think the deck is stacked against them (at Martinsville). I'm not saying they won't win, but I think it's stacked against them. A lot of times you can win a race at Martinsville with pit strategy. A lot of aero stuff doesn't come in, but it takes a lot of motor with a lot of low end torque and a driver with a lot of discipline. Travis (Kvapil) has got that. Travis is a threat at about any kind of track, and he is in a Toyota, but I just don't think.... They ran awful good at Atlanta. They had a low drag piece that makes the thing run down the straightaways but it wasn't that good in the corners. I just don't think they're exactly up to date yet with what they need to do, but they're coming. It's just a matter of a couple more races that we've got to fight real hard to keep them off of us."
DISCUSS BUILDING YOUR OWN CHASSIS
"It's a pretty neat deal because I'm a motorhead anyhow. I think it's cool when you build it from the ground up and we're not having to buy stuff. We originally had all our stuff from Laughlin and had a new Hopkins trucks. Ronnie (Hopkins) has probably got the coolest stuff, but it's hard to get stuff from him because so many people order from him. We got on the stick last year and decided to try... We actually ran our own snouts, front clips. Then we built one (chassis) and it turned out nice and went through tech good. Then we went to Homestead and really dominated the race all day. We said it was a new track and no one had a lot of time on there. Then we built one for Atlanta and it ended up doing the same thing. You hire your people to do a job and you sit back and watch them all get together and come up with a lot of ideas. We do everything in house, bodies, transmissions, chassis and gears, brake stuff, everything except the motors and that's furnished by Dodge. Joey Arrington does that, so for somebody that started five years ago with a two-car garage behind our house it feels pretty good."
DO YOU SEE A HAMILTON CHASSIS AVAILABLE TO OTHER DRIVERS?
"That's actually going to happen. Chase Montgomery wants one right now, but we need a little more time. I've got to get Chad (Chaffin) one done. He'll have one at Ohio, and after that, that'll give both teams one, and I think we're going to put one with Chase. I think there might be a day, but not as long as I drive it. I'm really, really funny if I come up with something. I shroud it pretty good. I don't give it out to nobody, and I think as tough as it is these days you can't afford to. The good thing about being in Nashville, if I do stumble across something, I don't think I have anything that special right now, but when I do get it, it's going to take people awhile to get it. We've seen that with Bill Elliott when he was in Georgia.
"Say Ray Evernham had one that Bill Elliott had at Vegas or wherever. He could sell that chassis to Childress and I promise you within two weeks every race team in the country would know about it if it's in the Mooresville or Charlotte area because everybody sits around and drinks beer at night and talks about stuff. That's what I like about being in Nashville. If I do stumble across something, I've got it to myself."
WHAT'S SO SPECIAL ABOUT MIDDLE TENNESSEE DRIVERS?
"I think it's just the racetracks themselves. Everything we have here is pretty high speed, high banked and they get slick after 25 laps. I think you see those same drivers shine at Darlington or Rockingham, any track that gets slick. The Nashville area gets the credit for David Green, Michael Waltrip, Jeff Green, drivers that come from Owensboro, Ky., to Nashville to run. It's one of the few short tracks that has average speeds at the 121 mph mark. For a local racetrack that's pretty fast. The closest thing you get to that is Bristol."
ARE YOU LOOKING FOR YOUNGER DRIVERS AT THE LOCAL TRACKS?
"Yeah, I've got my eye on a couple, but I'm not going to mention any names. I did that last year and I couldn't stay at home. I don't mean that bad. It's good that they're that eager, but I'm just watching from this point. I have to go down there every off Saturday now because NASCAR and Kodak teamed up and I'm part of that diversity deal they're doing. I've got an 18-year-old African-American kid that runs a Dodge sponsored by Kodak right now. He's done really well down there. I've got my hand in a little bit of everything right now. We know at my age and Chad's age that it's just a matter of time. I'm really working hard by next season by have a program and start running teenagers as much as I can, if not, just out of the teenage years, so we're pretty aggressive with that right now."
DO YOU SEE DIVERSITY PROGRAM GROWING?
"I think NASCAR should have stepped up, and I think they know this now, and I don't mean it in a bad way. They've got an awful big business they have to run. When Dodge started off with it they needed help the whole time, and they went way, way beyond the call of duty to be a company that just decided to do it for one year. They did it for three years, and I know the kind of money they spent. I think somebody could have stepped in and gave 'em some help on that deal. I think when it went away NASCAR stepped in and said they had to do something. I really like the way they're doing this deal because they've got six or seven guys throughout the country and they've got good team owners running it for them and starting them out at local tracks and watching it grow instead of throwing somebody to the wolves like they did Willy (T. Ribbs) and Bill (Lester). I think they're doing it the right way now."
WHAT DO YOU LIKE AND DISLIKE ABOUT MARTINSVILLE?
"The thing I like is it makes you a better driver as far as being disciplined. You're at a half-mile race track and they holler at you to take care of the brakes and don't tear the nose up. How are you supposed to do that at a place like that? I like that kind of racing. It is a big challenge. What I don't like is it's the type of track that wears tires a lot and you can't win it by staying out. A lot of times the fastest car doesn't win. The race I won there with the 4 car, I led 397 laps of 500 and started on the pole and lapped 'em up to fifth place. We lapped Jeff Gordon with five to go, and Jeff Gordon is the king of Martinsville, so very rarely does the fastest car win at Martinsville. We saw Harry Gant do it one time and I'm sure there's been a couple of other times, but most of the time pit strategy wins it. I don't really like that on a short track. I like to see jam up short track racing. Another thing I don't like about it is the way they ground the racetrack. I wouldn't because I had a good handle on it before. I'm probably thinking Rusty Wallace don't like it since he was so good at Martinsville. I think it made it harder on him. I think a real good race track sometimes needs to be left alone. If you've got one or two people who can run up on the outside and nobody else can, I'm a firm believer if one race car can do something and you really do your homework that race car ought to be able to do it. If it can't, then usually it's the driver who can't do it."
DISCUSS SHARING INFORMATION AMONG MANUFACTURERS
"I know it doesn't look like it to the public, and Dodge is a little irritated with it at this point, and I think I can speak on their behalf at this point. It's nothing major. We all get along fine, but we feel like there needs to be more of a one-team concept. That's our saying. We have a one-team concept. We're sitting at Greenville-Pickens, both of my race teams and both of Jim Smith's race teams, and the engineering team, but we're parked like miles away from one another. That's to keep each other from seeing each other's stuff. I think that's healthy to a certain point, but we could be better at what we do, and we are getting better. It's hugely different than it was a few years ago. We're getting there. We just need to get there faster. I don't have to tell you guys that it's way past time for Dodge to win a championship in the truck series. For us to do that, we need to work tighter and tighter together as one team, and then when we roll into the race track we can park away from one another. It's headed in that direction. I don't know the time span it's going to take to get where it needs to be. I know my bunch is working real hard to work with everybody like we need to."
WHAT'S THE RENEWED INTEREST IN TRUCK SERIES?
"I know we're sitting here on a Dodge conference call, but there's no bones about it that Toyota has struck a lot of interest to the truck series. It's helped all of us. It's brought a lot of national attention to it. I think Mike Skinner and Jack Sprague coming back have been huge for us. I don't necessarily like it because it's just that much more competition, but I enjoy it when we have a race like we had at Atlanta. I think people know you're going to start seeing finishes like Mike and I had at Atlanta."
WHAT WOULD BE A PERFECT TRUCK SCHEDULE?
"For me, the perfect schedule would be to run Daytona and instead of a month maybe three weeks maximum or two weeks and have two weeks off in between. A moth is just too long. Let me say this. It helped us all as owners this year because of the common template rule. For the next two or three years we ought to be able to tighten the schedule up some. I'm talking about leaving the number (25) like it is, no more than one more race. With the sponsorship money you get in trucks at this point, you need to keep it around 25 or 26 races. If they've got a good market area that wants to come on, and they've got one that's not so good, then we just lose one and gain a couple."