At the beginning of the 2004 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season virtually no one picked Bobby Hamilton to win the series title. Hamilton then proceeded to win four races, more of any driver in the series, and raised some eyebrows along the way.
At the beginning of the 2004 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season virtually no one picked Bobby Hamilton to win the series title. Hamilton then proceeded to win four races, more of any driver in the series, and raised some eyebrows along the way. With all eyes focused on the Nashville, Tennessee native, Hamilton took the reigns of his own destiny but refused to openly discuss his championship chances. Other truck series competitors began to take heed, and when Bobby Hamilton did exactly what it took to clinch the title in Homestead last year, he became the seventh-different champion to garner the trophy. Then and only then, he was able to celebrate his hard earned title.J
"I wouldn't even think about the championship until five or six races to go in the season, but even then it wasn't my main focus," Hamilton said. "Last year was about my people. I am the type of owner that is surrounded with a good support group, but there isn't anything that goes on in the shop that I don't have my hands in. My deal is structured very, very simple. I walk in there on Mondays and hang around in the shop getting pulled in several different directions and answer questions. I help design the chassis and love that part of it. On Tuesdays I sign the bills and talk about what we've got to do for testing and the next event with travel. On Wednesdays they leave me alone -- they do their job and I overlook it. And on Thursdays we're going to the racetrack. That's the way it is at my shop.
"Basically all I did was took the middle people out so nobody could say, 'Well, so-and-so told me this, or they didn't tell me this,' from two years ago to last year," Hamilton said. They have to come to me about everything. I've got 40 people. It isn't that hard to juggle 40 people a week if you have crew chiefs that handle their people well. I trust my instincts and that is what makes us a championship team."
That champion mentality bled over into his people. Hamilton, who came to his own stable full time after a 12-year stint in the Winston Cup Series, and his drivers have been in contention for the championship since BHR's inception in 1999. Each driver that has worked his way through the operation has pushed the standard higher. But it was the owner/driver, in only his second season earning a series-high 12 top-five finishes, who acquired the title, a first for his factory-backed manufacturer Dodge in the NCTS. Hamilton's standard, the most top fives and the series leader in wins, which all came at distinctively different tracks -- Atlanta Motor Speedway, Memphis Motorsports Park, Kentucky Speedway and Nashville Superspeedway -- set the stage for a year to remember.
"I told my guys last year to have fun and not get bothered by all the hype of a championship," Hamilton said. "There were many times at the end of the season that the guys would be wrestling in the back of the hauler or playing football at lunch break or even cards on the back of the truck when we had down time. They wore it well. That is what I expect them to do this year too.
"I think if you win the most races in 2005 and have the least DNF's, then you're the guy at the end going for the championship," Hamilton said. "This year we have more veterans like Ricky Craven, Ron Hornaday, Jack Sprague and Jimmy Spencer to race a bunch of new kids like Timothy Peters or Todd Kluever. It's getting more competitive and drawing more attention. That is fine with me. I felt like winning the championship last season was one of the toughest ones in the truck series. I have people say all the time, 'I won a championship with another driver and we're coming to kick your tail.' I say 'Buddy, times change. Bring it on. You'd better eat your Wheaties because you're going to need 'em.'"
Hamilton's cocky personality has made him a favorite among many teams, but hated by others. That doesn't affect the driver, who led 415 laps last year, in the least. When the four-time Winston Cup winner puts on his firesuit, straps himself into his No. 4 Dodge, pulls those belts tight and the window net goes up, nothing else matters.
"I go for the win every time," Hamilton said. "I'm not the type of driver that pushes anyone around, but I'm also not the type who will take anything either. I'm still hungry for another championship and making it two in a row would be even better. Last year I raced when I wanted to and rode when I wanted to. I made the right decisions and we were there at the end.
"I know how to lose 'em, I did that in 2003," Hamilton said. "But I know how to win 'em, even though other competitors like Sprague and Hornaday have more experience with that. I've always said when you surround yourself with good people and good product, it usually works well."