Below is the transcript from today's teleconference with NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Bobby Hamilton (driver of the No. 04 BHR Dodge). After 10 starts, Hamilton has two wins (Daytona and Mansfield), five top-fives and six top 10s. Hamilton...
Below is the transcript from today's teleconference with NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Bobby Hamilton (driver of the No. 04 BHR Dodge). After 10 starts, Hamilton has two wins (Daytona and Mansfield), five top-fives and six top 10s. Hamilton is currently first in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series points standings. He has a five-point lead over his closest competitor, Dennis Setzer.
Hamilton and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series return to action this Friday night, June 24 at The Milwaukee Mile for the Toyota Tundra Milwaukee 200. The race is scheduled to start at 8:15 p.m. ET.
Q</I>: You are the defending NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion, and you are currently the Series points leader by five points over Dennis Setzer. Can you talk a little bit about the competition in the Craftsman Truck Series?
BOBBY HAMILTON: As far as the competition goes, it just keeps getting stiffer and stiffer. You keep throwing in Toyota -- the money, technology they are putting in it, and it's making all the other manufacturers step up and have to put more and more in it. I think we've seen by the way Chevrolet is running the last few weeks, that they've definitely stepped up. I've always felt like Dodge done it as good as anybody anyhow. As far as what it is going to take, it's consistency. We've faltered the last couple of weeks. We had a bad wheel at Dover, got in a crash at Charlotte and got in a little wreck at Texas, and that's something I've got to quit doing and I'm not very notorious for that. But things happen, and we've just got to get more on a consistent roller coaster.
Q</I>: Noticed watching the telecast the other night that you are still looking for full-time sponsorship. What does it say if the defending champion and current points leader is still looking for sponsorship?
HAMILTON: I'm a little confused myself. To be honest with you, it's a weird deal. You have a huge company like Craftsman pouring the money into the Series and promoting it like they do. You have so many different manufacturers pouring the money into it. I know you guys, speaking of the media, write well for us all the time. I had the highest Joyce Julius numbers last year by almost double than anybody else. I've hired every person that I can put my hands on that I think are good marketing or good sales people. It's a strange deal. I feel like NASCAR pushes it like they need to, but it's very confusing. I'm going to Milwaukee and also going to Kansas without a sponsor on my truck. NASCAR doesn't like the way it looks, and I can tell you that I don't like the way it feels. In order to ever sell it down the road, I'm a momentum driver and a momentum owner. I think you plan to be around for a while, and you've got to look at the big picture so we've got to be there. It's very, very confusing at times and somewhat disappointing. I understand the sport, but it's just different. I've never experienced anything like we're experiencing right now.
Q</I>: What's the feed back you get from companies you are talking to?
HAMILTON: I think winning the championship was the worst thing I could have done. Square D went out as a winner. They told me 'We've got news for you. If you keep winning all these races, this is our best year ever.' They had best year TV rating wise last year in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series than they ever did in Nextel Cup. Then we won the championship, so they went out. Dodge didn't have a very good year last year. They had budget cuts, so that affected all the owners a little bit. That happens with all the manufacturers. Now, they're all back on an uphill swing, and that's going to benefit me a year from now. The Bailey's family came in here wanting to sponsor Timothy (Peters). They took half my truck and half of his because I am the champion.The only thing I can think of is we get a lot of new companies involved in NASCAR. Everybody wants to be up there in Cup. What happens is they can't really spend enough money to be in Cup, so they want to try Busch. Two or three years down the road, we'll have one of the sponsors that went up there and realized that they can probably get more bang for their buck in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series than they could in the Busch Series.
Q</I>: You mentioned a moment ago the inconsistency factor. Knowing the way you like to race and the way that your team works, when you are inconsistent does team follow you or do they try to pump you up? How do you get over the inconsistency?
HAMILTON: We don't put a lot of emphasis on it. You know the kind of person I am. I will refuse to set any goals. I refuse to talk about any mistakes. I will sit down on Monday morning and say 'What can we do to have that wheel problem not happen again?'. I had one guy leave a wheel lose one time, and it hurt us at Dover. He's all apologetic, and I said 'Don't do it. Just fix it. I'm not going to apologize when I wreck the thing.' And I've wrecked it twice lately, and I didn't apologize for it. That's just the kind of stuff that happens. I think when you surround yourself with good people, and you let those people know you have confidence in them and let them know that you hired them to do a job that they're good at, it cures itself. I think if you start cracking the whip all the time, it's just added pressure and it doesn't work.
Q</I>: Does it mean anything that you lost the points leads and now you have gained it back?
HAMILTON: I've lost it twice and gained it back twice. You know something, until they walked up and told me going to the airplane that we gained the points lead, I never knew it. I just don't keep up with it. It's just so easy to have a parts failure or to have a wreck. There's too many other variables in our business to focus on a set of numbers right now. I think you work hard and try to be the best thing out there. With five races to go, the number is probably big enough that you can stick your neck on the line a little bit then and go after it. I usually don't try to focus on that number until about five or six to go.
Q</I>: Milwaukee this weekend. What's it going to take?
HAMILTON: To win. I know that sounds kind of bold. Musgrave was the points leader, he had a parts failure. Now he's third or fourth. That's his home track. He's won a couple of races there. He's the defending champion of the race. Dennis Setzer is a short track ace. He runs good there, and he's five points behind me in second. Ricky Craven is good anywhere, and he's third or fourth. I think in order to (win the championship), if you worry about points, is to go try to win the race. We did go up there and test because we needed to work on our flat track stuff. We feel good about going up there right now.
Q</I>: In addition to your truck, you are also running some Busch Series races for Earl Sadler. Talk about how this came about and what you think about him and his operation here in Nashville.
HAMILTON: Earl (Sadler) is a local guy (Nashville, Tenn.) I feel a lot of pride in a lot of people who have been around such a long time. We've seen Davey Allison, Sterling Marlin, Mike Alexander, so many people drive for him. He wanted to run a little bit this year, and he got Danny Gill down there, and they built a Dodge. It was a lot of fun for me to go do it. We're trying to put a deal together to run more races. We'd like to run eight or 10 more races this year. Earl's never been one to bite anything off full-time. I think that is what he wants to talk about it. It's just a lot of fun because they've struggled so much in the past few years in modern era, and we've went out and had some pretty good runs for him this year. To see the delight in his face at times is making it worth my while just to be involved with it.
Q</I>: He's so competitive and hangs in it for the pure fun of it. Right?
HAMILTON: He wants to run good, and it is well-deserved for the time that they have put into it. It's funny -- he's out there spending thousands of dollars on a Busch car, and then somebody dropped the time card a few months ago and he was wanting to know who did it and was raising cane because those things cost three-quarters of a cent and he's going to fire somebody over it. So, he's different.
Q</I>: The name Bobby Hamilton conjures up success with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. What are you doing that others aren't doing in a day and age when being an independent owner doesn't happen anymore?
HAMILTON: You know, I don't have an idea. I wish I knew that. I bet I could get good money to teach other race teams that. I don't know. I'm very, very race-oriented. That's not a good way to put it. I'm the worst of my kind because I'm a very serious racer, and I'm an owner, too. I will spend every nickel I've got in my pocket to win races. So from an owner's standpoint, I'm my worst enemy. From a racer's standpoint, I'm my best friend. I think that's what it is. I know I have a good knack for putting a great bunch of people together, and having a good working relationship with those people. I don't mind telling you that I don't think you can buy that with money. When we do have an edge, it is nothing more than the set of people that I have surrounding me.
Q</I>:: You're good about giving credit to team. That's got to go a long way to keep them pumped up when something goes wrong.
HAMILTON: They sort of do it to themselves. They know that I'm not going to get out of the truck and rant and rave about something happening. If the team gets a little low on funds, I don't have big meetings and beat them with a stick because we're overspending. I'm just a more involved owner. I think the more involved an owner is in any aspect of our business, it's better big picture wise because you learn how to sort of control your own destiny. There's so much money that goes through these things that if you turn it over to somebody else and you're not on top of it for a couple of months, sometimes you're spending two or three months again getting caught up and making sure their mistakes don't happen. When you have to turn around and clean up mistakes that you didn't stand over, and it's your fault it's sort of a double-edged sword because you're mad at yourself for not catching it and you're mad at them because they didn't catch it for you. So, I have my days separated here. I come in on Mondays and do things like this. I come in on Tuesdays and sign checks or do budget stuff every Tuesday. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, I'm in the fab shop. On the weekends, I have my quiet time.
Q</I>: Are you more hungry for a second championship?
HAMILTON: I hadn't really thought about it. Again, I really say that with all seriousness. We have a little box form here. You've heard the statement 'Thinking outside the box.' We don't do that. I think the minute we step outside the box and start doing things different than what we did last year, we're destined for a huge stumble. This time last year, we were 150 points behind is what somebody told me. This year we're a little bit better than that. One day I know that I'll have to step outside that box, but right now I'm just trying to make the box grow a little bigger and bigger each year -- just sort of changing the size of the envelope you are working within. I'm not focused on winning a championship right now. It is not important at this point. I think what is important is the things that you bring a championship and that's holding your people together, not having any DNFs and winning races.
Q</I>:: With all this hoopla with Indy cars and Danica Patrick, do you see the day coming when women are going to make an impact in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series? Would it help in generating a lot more interest in the Series?
HAMILTON: I think so, and I wish it would get there fast. Our Series especially - even in the NASCAR Cup Series or any of the top three Series - the minute any owner finds a very successful female driver, the sky is the limit. It's just like trying to find any minority. We (Bobby Hamilton Racing) had Bill Lester here in the past and Willie (T. Ribbs). I've tested 18 or 20 African-American drivers. The minute we do that, the sport's going to be better off financially. There's tons of companies out there, I don't think they're just sitting and waiting, but the minute we have that and we can prove that they're competitive and draw a lot of national attention, it will be a huge deal to the sport.
Q</I>:: Do you think it is beneficial for Truck to have all the former Cup drivers and even current Cup competitors drive in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
HAMILTON: I think the Series has better credibility that you have (Jimmy) Spencer, (Ted) Musgrave, myself, (Jack) Sprague, (Mike) Skinner, (Ron) Hornaday, Mark Martin maybe being there next year. I know in every form of sport that we deal with that if the big name comes around it takes up sponsorship dollars, so that might create a problem for somebody just coming into it that might not have the name or the recognition to maybe get the same sponsor. The bottom line is whatever makes the sport, is what we have to do. This particular Series was originated because it was so different. One thing it had in mind was to have an education-type series for young drivers coming in from your Saturday night race tracks around the United States. When that started, we were getting those guys, and they would try to move on and they weren't quite ready for as demanding as Nextel Cup is. I think what's happened now, is the schooling has gotten a lot harder. I'm not saying that we're the cat's meow. Now, when they come, like Carl Edwards or Kyle Busch comes and races, he races against people that have been there and done that. When he goes to that next level, he has a lot better training than he has in the past
Q</I>:: Are your people the biggest key to your success?
HAMILTON: I firmly believe that. This is not a political move to make my people read stuff about me and pump them up. I don't do that. I think I am an average race car driver. I have been fortunate to win in all three Series, and there aren't but 13 of us who have done that. But I don't think I'm the greatest race car driver. I think I have out run the greatest at one time or another, but not much. That's why I'm a realist. I think it is all about the people. I've had very, very good sponsorship here, and very good financial backing and had a couple of the worst year's the company has ever had. I've had minimal sponsorship the last couple of years and have been in championship form, and that has to revolve back to your people
Q</I>:: Talk about coming to Kentucky Speedway (July 9) as the defending champion.
HAMILTON: It's a pretty cool deal. I love that race track. I noticed you had a great show up there the other night. I'm not going to do a back flip if I win it again, but we'll try to make a good race out of it. It's going to be a very good race track for Toyota. It came down to (Jack) Sprague and me last year. That race track is going to provide one of the best races when the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series comes back up there that we've seen since you have been in business. We're pretty excited about coming back there.
Q</I>: What kind of conditions contribute to that good racing?
HAMILTON: You guys have kept grinding on the race track and working on it and working on it to cater to the needs of the competitors, and now you have it. Goodyear has a great tire for there. The race teams have great equipment right now. There's 10, 12, 15 teams capable of winning on a high-speed flat race track like Kentucky, and I think that's what sets it up.
Q</I>: You mentioned Toyota would be good at Kentucky. Why?
HAMILTON: Any place where it takes drag, less drag to run down the straightaway. They are a low-drag vehicle. They have us all beat with drag right now. As you can see, the Dodges sort of struggle in qualifying, but they always race real well. I think Dodges are the vehicles to beat right now in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series consistently, but I think Toyotas are the guys that always qualify good. You always talk about track position, and when you get it from qualifying to start off with, that's hard to beat.
Q</I>:: Looking ahead to Kansas (July 2) -- you finished 2nd here last year. What do you think about Kansas?
HAMILTON: I loved it. What I loved about it was, I'm sort of an old guy and it made me feel pretty good as hot as it was there last year to get out and walk down pit road and all the drivers laying out with oxygen plugged up to their face and I was drinking a good cold Coca-Cola and wanting somebody to go to the concession stand and get me a cheeseburger. I was feeling pretty good about that. I love that kind of race track. It is very, very fast. It's come into it's own now. Two sometimes three- groove race track, especially for the Craftsman trucks. It's just fun to go to. I can remember clearly after Carl (Edwards) and Dennis (Setzer) had that wreck on the first lap, I said 'His truck is low.' And sure enough, after the race, they said it was low because of the wreck they had. It was pretty low in the front. But we gave him a run for his money, so we're pretty excited about going back there.
Q</I>:: Back to when you said that winning the championship was the worst thing that you could have done in getting a sponsor. What would winning the championship this year do for you?
HAMILTON: Maybe that will draw us some attention. Maybe people will thing that it wasn't a fluke or whatever is going on. The bottom line is that I can't really look at it and say that might have been the worst thing that happened to me because it pays good money to win it, and right now that's sort of the meat of the sponsorship. I'm just going to go after the money and where ever it lays the year after that, we'll see.
Q</I>:: Comment on the F-1 Teams in Indianapolis.
HAMILTON: That made me really proud to be a part of NASCAR. We fought the deal with Hoosier and Goodyear before, but when Hoosier had a bad tire or when Goodyear had a bad tire, they would wave the right and everybody got on the other tire to fulfill the show. I think NASCAR had the stipulation in there for that to happen. Indianapolis was completely abnormal. It was not fair to the race track who sold tickets to the race fans who didn't get a show at all. I would be very disappointed if I was a race fan. I would be very, very hot under the collar if I was Tony George. I don't know what's going to happen or what the preliminaries are going into that if something was to happen like that or what the outcome of it is going to be. But it is not good for racing in general, and we're part of that. We're under the racing umbrella. We have people that make fun of our entity and say we run taxi cabs or whatever it is. But I think that what happened yesterday is the perfect reason why NASCAR racing best motorsports in the world right now.
Q</I>:: Talk about how long you are going to keep racing, and as an owner, what you are going to look for in a driver.
HAMILTON: I bet it's going to be a young one. That seems to be the trend right now. Everybody's still looking for the second Jeff Gordon. It's not happened yet. You think about it. How many young guys have just went out and done it, done it and repeatedly done it. Kurt Busch -- we said old Kurt is getting it done. And here it is (a few years later) and he's not bad, he's still very good for a young driver, but it's still hard for him to back it up. Jeff Gordon is still the only guy who can back up everything he did time and time again. When Jeff Gordon struggles, he always manages to get back up. We're talking about how bad Jeff Gordon is running this year, but he's won three races already. So he's sort of made his season already early. We keep having to go to the young guys only because the older guys are running out of time. I've said this a hundred times, but if we had not lost Dale Earnhardt, it wouldn't be as big as what it is now because he would have not let it happen. He was the only one capable of doing that. He was the only one capable that if a young guy roughed him up, he put them in their place. It's just a thing that is going on. We have a great bunch of guys that are coming in. The sport needs it. I welcome it as an owner. I'm looking at another two years maybe, as long as I'm still competitive. And I'm looking for a sponsor's dream -- a young guy who is a sponsor's dream. That's what all of us are looking for.
Q</I>:: Do you think that you will ever find that Jeff Gordon again?
HAMILTON: I think it's very hard to find the relationship -- the Jeff Gordon, the Rick Hendrick and the Ray Evernham. Ray Evernham is a very good friend of mine, and I can remember when Casey Atwood decided to go to Ray's I begged him to go to Hendrick's because they wanted him. He was like well Ray won all these races, and I said 'Ray won all those races with Jeff. And Jeff and Ray both will struggle for a while to get that back.' It's just hard to find that relationship anymore. I think there are some Jeff Gordons out there, but I don't think the trio is there.
Q</I>:: What's been the trouble with Bobby Jr's team this year? What kind of advice have you given him through the tough times as a Dad and as a racer?
HAMILTON: To find something else to drive. I mean, there's too many chiefs and not enough Indians there. They've got just enough employees to survive, barely get to a race track and survive a Nextel Cup deal. I think the world of the owner (Cal Wells). I know the crew chief and driver have a ton of talent together. Hopefully, they can land back on their feet someplace else. As an owner, you almost have ot have enough confidence in your people to let them do their job and not when they leave their race shop change what the crew chief wanted done. You're either an owner or a mechanic, and you need to figure out which one you want to be and apply that.
Q</I>:: Do you think Bobby will listen to old man?
HAMILTON: I think he's had about enough, too. You know how he is. He's got a contract, and he'll fulfill that contract until somebody un-fulfills theirs. He wants to win. Money at 26, 27-years-old, is not an issue to most in that age bracket. He wants to win. That's what it's all about. I'd say if he could find a good Late Model ride, he'd rather do that than what he's in now. He's too competitive for that.
Q</I>:: I heard you might have finalized a deal for the race track in Carthridge-Riverview, are you going to be a track owner?
HAMILTON: I'm as honest as the day is long. I talked to the man for the very first time last Wednesday. He's supposed to get back with me. I have not made an effort towards owning a race track. I'm listening because I am afraid there's not going to be any race tracks around here if somebody doesn't do something.
Question: Is having so many young guns in the sport good considering the problems we have had like drug abuse and lack of respect for elders?
HAMILTON: Yes. Youth is a wonderful thing. Youth is very demanding at times to an older group. I think that everybody knew that was going to happen coming in. I'm really proud that NASCAR took their stand over the deal that previously happened. I hate that it happened to the person it happened to, that's a great talent there. I just wish more young people would look at the big picture and see what they have in the palm of their hand instead of what they have hid under the seat of their car. It's just very, very rewarding to make it that far in the business we are in and to step out of the box a little bit just to have a little fun. We've always worried about the young group coming along, that we might bring a different group of people in with that. It's a great fan base, and we've brought a younger generation in for a fan base. You can see it. Very race-oriented fan base, even though they are teenagers. You can just see a different trend in the sport. It's been good for it as long as they keep it under control. We've got rock groups involved now where it used to be country music oriented. We have rap groups involved now. It's very diversified now when it comes to different fan bases, and that's what we need. I'm just pretty happy that NASCAR is working real hard to keep (problems) under wraps like it needs to be.
Q</I>:: Will we see less problems in the future?
HAMILTON: The bottom line is, I think all the older guys respect everybody coming in just because we're somewhat the 'Southern gentleman' type. Even the guys from up North. There's guys from Arkansas, people from up North. We have a nice group of older guys. When you get a young guy in there that makes a statement that offends them, they stick together. They young crowd hasn't learned how to stick together yet. You can say it how you want to -- old crowd, young crowd or what, but NASCAR is from the Old School, and they're not going to let it get it out of control too much.
Q</I>:: Talk about going to Milwaukee this weekend and what you learned at the test.
HAMILTON: We feel good about it. We learned a lot of things, like what not to do when we get up there and that's another way I operate my stuff around here. I try to learn what not to do, and I think that is a bigger benefit. Milwaukee is a good race track for us. We led a lot up there last year. We got off on tire strategy and our No. 18 truck finished second to Ted (Musgrave) last year. We have some good notes going back, learned some things above that to apply to it. So we think we will be in good shape.