Bobby Hamilton: Darlington crucial in title race DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 10, 2004) -- The road to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship runs through Darlington, South Carolina. For some contenders, Friday's Darlington 200 may...
Bobby Hamilton: Darlington crucial in title race
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 10, 2004) -- The road to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship runs through Darlington, South Carolina.
For some contenders, Friday's Darlington 200 may appear to be like a wide-open stretch of interstate highway. Others may find it resembling a dead-end road.
Five who took the green flag in February at Daytona International Speedway remain in the battle mathematically. Bobby Hamilton (No. 4 Square D Dodge) holds a seven-point advantage over Dennis Setzer (No. 46 Chevrolet Silverado Chevrolet) in the series' closest race with two races remaining.
Ted Musgrave (No. 1 Mopar Dodge), Carl Edwards (No. 99 Superchips Ford) and Matt Crafton (No. 6 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) also remain in contention.
Here's how Hamilton, the defending Darlington 200 winner, views this week's race:
"Whoever runs well in Darlington will either get the cushion needed for Homestead or make the other party push harder to still win in Homestead and clinch that title.
"Cushion or no cushion, I believe the championship will be determined in Homestead."
History is squarely on Hamilton's side. The championship has gone to the final race in eight of the series' first nine seasons. Four competitors squared off in the finale a year ago -- each holding the points lead during the course of Homestead-Miami Speedway's Ford 200 -- with Travis Kvapil (No. 24 LINE-X Toyota) winning the title.
Last year's race lacked one key ingredient present in 2004. Tough, fabled Darlington sets the table for the ultimate decision.
"It's a tough race track and a place that challenges drivers to stay patient and disciplined," said Hamilton.
Since its opening in 1952, the egg-shaped, 1.366-mile oval has proven to be NASCAR's most difficult test. Now there's another variable which could make the "Track Too Tough To Tame" even tougher -- racing under the lights.
Thursday's three practice sessions will allow crews to get a handle on the racing surface. That always has been a major challenge regardless of sun, clouds, heat or cold.
Hamilton doesn't foresee problems, especially from a visual standpoint.
"The lighting company did a great job as they do all these other race tracks. It was just like daylight running around the track," he said, following a night-time test earlier this year. "Every now and then you will see a flicker or shadow but once the green flag drops it is just like we are in sunlight. We can't tell the difference."
Hamilton suggests another plus: tire wear, a big issue at Darlington.
"The tires will last longer under the lights so it will be better racing," he said.