Bobby Hamilton season preview

Bobby Hamilton, who has four NASCAR Winston Cup Series wins to his credit, doesn't regret his decision to drive his No. 4 Square D Dodge Ram truck in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series last season. No way. Not this down-to-earth Tennessee native,...

Bobby Hamilton, who has four NASCAR Winston Cup Series wins to his credit, doesn't regret his decision to drive his No. 4 Square D Dodge Ram truck in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series last season. No way. Not this down-to-earth Tennessee native, he doesn't second-guess that choice for one minute. And why should he? The veteran driver won two races, Darlington and Homestead, was credited with three Bud Pole Awards and finished sixth in the closest Championship points race in Craftsman Truck Series history. Hamilton completed 98 percent of the laps en route to 10 top-five and 18 top-10 finishes. He was ranked third in miles led standings by leading over 470 miles last year. Pretty stellar most would think, but not this driver. He is always looking for the next edge.

"I had a ton of fun last season," Hamilton said. "It was a nice break for me from what I was used to in the Winston Cup Series. The drivers and teams are very laid back. You don't find very often that race teams will help each other on such a regular basis like we did last year. Yes there are competitive moments that we give a lot or we take a lot, but for the most part we are all really close. Who can't be happy with that, but I won't settle for it."

It was most evident that the tell-it-like-it-is personality had his share of laughs in the Truck Series when he walked across the stage at the end-of-the-season Championship banquet without any shoes on. Hamilton said, "I've loved this season. The points race was tighter than the Winston Cup or Busch Series, but the bottom line is we're still laid back truck drivers. I mean look at me; I'm not wearing any shoes right now? Is that stiff?"

Perhaps the Tennessee native has found his new home, but the competitive side of him won't let that place get dusty. "We'll be stronger than we were last year," Hamilton said. "We cut back to the core group and we've got good people in place right now. I added Danny Rollins back as my crew chief this year. He's been with my operation for a long time and I've seen great results out of him.

The main thing is we went back to what we were accustomed to and had done so well with in the past. Why change a good thing?

"Last year we started taking Winston Cup Series notes and applying them to trucks," Hamilton continued. "That didn't work. I let it happen, and with five races to go I made it stop. We saw the results." Hamilton posted three top-five and five top-10 finishes in the last five races. He won the final race in Homestead from the Pole starting position.

This season Hamilton will have to compete against the likes of a new manufacturer, Toyota, who is bursting into the Craftsman Truck Series.

He'll also have to ward off his two fellow teammates Chad Chaffin, driver of the No. 18 Dickies Dodge, and Chase Montgomery, driver of the No. 8 BHR Dodge, both trucks owned by Hamilton. For a Driver/Owner who started from the pole in his first truck race on September 21, 1996, this season is a whole new ballgame.

"Oh it gets interesting sometimes for sure," Hamilton said.

"But that is why we all keep coming back. If the series were stagnant, none of us would want to compete in it. Toyota coming into the sport this year has made other manufacturers step up to the plate. Dodge is really on top of its game, so we feel pretty prepared. I'm fortunate in that aspect. I have sponsors, Square D and Dickies, who keep my team top-notch and Dodge is there to back us up with extra support throughout the year. We've got a great deal, but performance is what keeps us in the game."

Hamilton built the BHR Corporation in 1996 with the help of pal Chuck Spicer in hopes of one day growing the business into one of NASCAR's other premier series. In only 14 starts, Hamilton claimed his first victory for BHR. Since that time the team has posted over 100 top-10 finishes, a feat Hamilton is very proud of. Those statistics, among others, are what has built BHR into one of the most prominent truck series programs today.

"You think about all the work that goes into 100 top-ten finishes," Hamilton said. "It's amazing how far we've come in eight years. I think about the new shop we built for 2004 and wonder sometimes how all this happened. I know it's because I've got great help and I couldn't have done it without my employees, Dodge or my sponsors over the years. Three-team deals are not just thrown together, especially if you get the same results we do. We take pride in winning races, not just finishing them."

Last season Hamilton finished in the top 10, 72 percent of the time. He battled hard for the Championship, but a mid-season slide cost him the top spot. This year, he promises it won't be the same.

"I expect to win a lot of races and the championship this year, nothing less," Hamilton said. "I'm the owner and the driver, so I have complete control over that. I've been monitoring things over the winter and making a ton of changes. I was like an outsider looking in last year. So I trimmed the fat, and there is no more fat on the meat right now. This is all about confidence. When the owner, which is me, has doubt people feed off that and start getting their own doubt.

As long as I'm positive, they seem the same way. I don't have any doubt right now, so we are good to go.

"All I know is racing," Hamilton concluded. "It's my life, my passion and my future. Hopefully one day I can step back and find a different hobby, but rest assured it won't be anytime soon."

-byr-

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Chase Montgomery , Chad Chaffin