Tuesday, March 18, 2003. Dodge Motorsports Press Conference BOBBY HAMILTON (No. 4 Square D Dodge Ram) "It's been a tough start to the year believe it or not even though we were able to finish fourth at Daytona and pull a win off at ...
Tuesday, March 18, 2003.
Dodge Motorsports Press Conference
BOBBY HAMILTON (No. 4 Square D Dodge Ram)
"It's been a tough start to the year believe it or not even though we were able to finish fourth at Daytona and pull a win off at Darlington. The season has been going so long already in Winston Cup, but it's just our second race. I don't get pumped up a lot about the championship run at this point except we've won a race and we have been competitive and put a whole new team together like we have with new crew chief Newt Moore. I'm pretty proud of that, so I'm just taking it one step at a time.
"I didn't for a long time. My family has always been involved in racing. They built local cars here (Nashville, Tenn.). They built Marty Robbins' first car. I was always around the race shop, so I thought it would be pretty cool to be an owner at the young age of 17, so I decided to own a car and I ended up with two cars. Everybody that drove 'em tore 'em all to pieces every week. I went through about half a year and then I decided I could tear it up. To make a long story short, I started driving because I couldn't find anybody to fit my needs. It became sort of a snowball effect, so I started when I was about 17.
"We had a couple of meetings about it, and in case air travel becomes a problem, we're prepared to do whatever it takes to go across country. We go out west a lot and we have done it in the past just to see what it was like to rent a couple of busses - they call 'em day busses. They've got bunks in them and stuff like that. We're prepared and got some stuff lined up for that as long as it doesn't affect the schedule.
"I'm concerned like everybody else. We live in a nation with a ton of freedom, and we get spoiled by that. It just worries me that the least little thing gets taken away from us like it has the last couple of years. It's really a blow to us. I'm concerned like everybody else. Bobby Jr. and I talked about it at length, and it makes you look down the road instead of just looking at tomorrow.
"When we had the thing to happen at 9-11, everybody sort of stood their ground and did a few things. We've not discussed it. I don't like staging anything. I just like to go off of emotions. We've not sat down and talked about that. I've had a meeting with all my people and the people with Dodge about it. They were asking what if this and what if that. All the people at Dodge totally agreed with it. I said, 'let's just wait and see what happens and let's go off true emotion and do what we think is right right then.' It'll legitimize it more instead of planning way ahead of time.
"I'm that way a lot. I wish it wouldn't happen, but if it does happen then something will just strike a nerve and I'll do it. I'll get an OK from people I need to an OK from and we'll roll with it. I just don't like going there. It's almost like thinking of a death in your family. You don't want to think about it. I'm just funny about stuff like that. Let's see what happens first and I'll cross that bridge when we get there.
"It's very close to home for me because the Marines sponsor Bobby Jr.'s Busch car. He's got a real close relationship with 'em, and you wouldn't believe the following I get because I'm his father. It's ironic we're talking about it because the Marine crew pitted my truck when we won Darlington because we haven't got a full crew together on the Square D. It strikes close to home. You go to every race this year, and to see the Marines there or the Army backing, the Navy, it just goes on and on. We have a lot of generals who come to the races now. You just sort of respect them being there. You don't want to talk about what's going on. You just want them to have a good time, so I can feel a respect more than you ever would toward them because you know probably what they're going to end up going through, which we'd wish on nobody.
"When I was running local race tracks in Nashville, Tenn., there was a Winston Cup driver named Darrell Waltrip down there testing his Busch Grand National car. I'm just standing around because I'm a Darrell Waltrip fan and I've never met him or anything, but he knows who I am. I didn't even know he knew who I was. He called me over there and asked me how his race car looked on the track. I told him it looked good. He was out there testing. I said it looks real racy. About 20 minutes later, someone calls across the intercom and tells me to go to Darrell Waltrip's Busch Grand National car. I get down there and he asked me if I'd fit in it. I told him I'd fit in it. It fit. It's funny how it all turned out. I use the same seat as he did still until this day. He said, if you had to drive it would you change anything? I told him no, that it felt good like that. He said, would you mind qualifying it for me? I've got to run The Winston this weekend. The story goes on and one. I qualified his car and he ended up winning the race and gave me a ton of credit when he flew back in that night. That opened a lot of doors for me.
"Bakerfield is a little bitty bullring. It's like a banked Martinsville. They seal it every time the trucks come out there or the Winston West cars come out there. It's supposed to be a real slick little race track. I've never been there, but I was talking to Harvick the other day and he was telling me about it. It reminds me a lot, from what I hear and see on film of the old Nashville race track. I've got a lot of time down there, and we've even tested down there. This is what the bad part is about leading the points this early. You've got that bullring coming up and you've got Martinsville coming up after it. You can be from a hero to a zero in just a couple of races if the wrong things happen. I always say the little bullrings are as bad as Talladega or Daytona. It doesn't take but one mistake to take a lot of vehicles out. We're taking an approach this year, it's the Year of the Ram, and we're going to grab life by the horns. That's what we're going to try to do. We're going to try to tackle this thing every week, and we're not going to look beyond the next week, and we're not going to look behind us after every event. We're just going to focus on one event.
"We've actually been practicing with our in-house crew and we didn't want to throw them to the wolves in the first two races. We've been practicing for about a month and a half now, and we're pretty happy with them. We just all had an agreement that until we thought we were 100 percent we were going to hit these first two races wide open and we'd get what we could get and let them practice and stand back in the pit area and watch. They've learned from these other people and they've applied it to their practices. Yesterday they tried some things the Marine guys tried and it seemed to help them a little bit. If we struggle through Bakersfield, I said, 'you do the best you can. Don't worry about speed. Five off, five on and I'll take care of the rest of it. You've got a little more control at a short track I feel like if you do have a bad pit stop. I feel like we're going to be OK.
"I think it's just a showcase of product. I know everybody knows they're on a Dodge conference call, but it just goes on and on, year in and year out. I think what Dodge has done, they got real aggressive. I don't know much about the Cup deal, but they got real aggressive with this (truck) deal about four years ago. I was fortunate enough to be involved in it. They went after what they thought would be their best owners and best teams. If you're a contender with Ultra Motorsports, you're a front runner on a consistent basis. When we got into this thing, we ended up being one of the best Dodges and Jim Smith came in with Ultra. They ended up being probably the best Dodge the last couple of years. We've just buttoned down in a one-team concept and tried to work all together with the engineers and all the race teams and make our product as good as possible. NASCAR has to cater to the other manufacturers a little bit to get them caught up. They think they're at a little disadvantage sometimes, but I don't really think they are. I think what they're doing is trying to equal out teams in general or maybe even driving. I don't mean that in a real bad way, but how many races have Musgrave and I got under our belts, or even Harvick? People just don't understand the technology and backing and ingenuity that goes into the Dodge factory plans. It's pretty neat being involved in it. I've been involved with other manufacturers, and I've never been involved with a manufacturer that has backed the team like they back us. It's not throwing money around left and right. It's simple things like if you think it would help to go test, they're wide open. They'll sit and talk about it just like we're talking right now. It seems like nobody has got any big egos. They just want to do whatever it takes to make it work, and for an old country boy like me it works out pretty good.
"Chad Chaffin, driving the Dickies Dodge, finished fifth (at Darlington). We just hired Chad this year. He had a great run. He's been great everywhere we carried him this year, all the tests and everything. Bill's been pretty fast. Bill (Lester, in the No. 8 Dodge Motorsports Ram) doesn't feel like he did that good at Darlington, but he finished 12th and he finished. It was his second time at Darlington. He didn't fare very good last year in his first race at Darlington, as most people don't when they go to Darlington the first time. We felt like it was a big feather in our cap and Dodge's cap, too, for Bill to finish at Darlington, and he moved up in the points some more. We've got one truck leading the points, and one truck sitting seventh and Bill is 12th or 13th. As a car owner, I'm feeling pretty happy right now. I know we've got some people beating on the door. Ultra Motorsports is the epitome of professional race teams, and they'll be knocking on the door every week. You've got Travis Kvapil and them guys. The old Dodges are Ram tough, and we've got a lot of confidence in what we have right now and all the engineering status we have. I feel like we can't be beat very much."