Over the winter of 2002, 45-year-old Nashville, Tenn. native Bobby Hamilton took a long hard look at his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series three-team operation. As the former Winston Cup Series driver strolled around his 45,000 square foot facility,...
Over the winter of 2002, 45-year-old Nashville, Tenn. native Bobby Hamilton took a long hard look at his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series three-team operation. As the former Winston Cup Series driver strolled around his 45,000 square foot facility, he realized it was time to concentrate on his and his family's future there. He saw a prosperous company and realized he needed to do whatever it took to keep it on top of its game. So the former NASCAR Winston Cup Series veteran decided to drive the truck.
"I'm proud of how I have built this company from where it has started to where it is now," Hamilton says. "It says a lot these days to be an owner, especially of three teams. My teams have been successful from the very first time we put something on a race track. I think that says a lot for Bobby Hamilton Racing (BHR) as a company.
"I had to take a long hard look at that," Hamilton continues. "That is what I built this company for - if I ever had to slow down or take a break from Winston Cup Series racing. But I consider this a step up for me to race in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series this year. We've got three good teams, three great sponsors (Hamilton's is Square D, who was also his sponsor for the past two years in the Winston Cup Series) and we've got Speed Channel stepping up to try and help promote us. I think it's really neat the way this series is growing.
"I told NASCAR I wanted to help them any way I can with the Craftsman Truck Series," Hamilton says. "I feel it is a vital part of how NASCAR is growing so much today. They are trying to build other competitive series, and that takes time. You can't just make a top-notch racing program overnight. The first Daytona 500 was a whole lot different than it is now. So we drivers and owners need to keep our focus on building these types of series for NASCAR and ourselves. It's their future and ours."
And the truck series is where he has chosen to plant his roots. Hamilton hopes the operation will someday grow into other series, but for now he is focusing on his main goal: the Craftsman Truck Series championship.
"Racing in the truck series is fun," Hamilton says. "It takes you back to Saturday night racing at the home tracks. We beat and bang on each other, and at the end of the day the fans have seen a great race from the trucks. That is what our sport has been built on and what it thrives off of in 2003."
Hamilton himself thrives off of success and that has bled over into his own operation. It has become the envy of every team out there, the dream of every driver to get behind the wheel, and the focus of BHR to take it even higher in the points championship.
Since its inception in 1996, BHR has nine wins, 15 pole positions, 37 top-five and 74 top-10 finishes. Those statistics are what has built BHR into one of the most prominent truck series programs today. But that is not enough; Hamilton wants more.
"When I said I wanted to dedicate my time to the truck series this year, I didn't say that I was retiring or stepping down from Winston Cup," Hamilton says. "We're going for that championship. Dodge has been in the truck series right from the start and they've won a manufacturer's championship, but never won a driver's championship. And with me being a Dodge factory-backed owner, I just felt this was best for my company. I want to focus my time on winning a championship for them."
His track series statistics alone are stellar, not to mention the fact that he has a higher level of experience than any other driver he is racing against in the Craftsman Truck Series. In only 24 starts, the owner/driver has two wins, three poles, five top-five and eight top-10 finishes in the Craftsman Truck Series.
So when Hamilton announced he will be behind the wheel of the No. 4 Dodge Ram in 2003, Square D was eager to jump on board as his sponsor. The veteran has partnered with the sponsor for the past two years in the Winston Cup Series while he drove for owner Andy Petree. In 2001 he brought Square D its first victory and claimed his fourth career win when he crossed the start/finish line first in the Talladega 500 at Talladega, Ala. In his Winston Cup Series career of 368 starts, Hamilton has 24 top-five and 71 top-10 finishes. So although Hamilton's personality is laid back, don't count on him to take a poor race run very lightly.
"It's nothing for me to jump underneath the truck and fix something," Hamilton says. "I stay at the shop until three a.m. if the team has to get something finished. I am here to win races and not waste any time trying to do that. It takes a team to make this operation work. At BHR we all work on each truck and make sure they are all set up the same. If one team tries something during practice, then we share the information with the rest of the guys. I might be the driver of the No. 4 Dodge, but I'll work on fixing the springs, shocks, etc. on the No. 8 or 18 trucks. We have a three-team operation which is the largest operation in the truck series. That helps us get ahead of others at a much faster pace. So we use that to our advantage.
"I have never gone to the race track just to make some laps and collect a paycheck," Hamilton continued. "It's not about that to me. I don't know anything else in my life except for racing and that is what I do best. People ask me if I watch football or basketball and I couldn't tell you the first thing about either sport. But if they ask me what is underneath the hood of a Dodge Ram truck, I can tell them in a heartbeat. This is who I am - the wrench head from Tennessee who has done nothing except race or watch racing his whole life. I've built cars, raced on every track imaginable, wrecked and fixed what I tore up. That's what life is all about to me."
And now with Hamilton back home racing full time in the Craftsman Truck Series in 2003, people have picked him as a top contender for the championship title. Whatever this year may bring, you can bet the house on these things: if he can out-qualify them he will; if he can out-run them he will; if he can have the most wins in one year he will. Bobby Hamilton is not going to back down.