BUSCH: Daytona: Hamilton Jr - Ford interview

Bobby Hamilton, Jr., driver of the No. 35 Ford Fusion, will pay tribute to his father, the late Bobby Hamilton, Sr., by running a special pant scheme this weekend commemorating the elder's final Nextel Cup victory. The No. 35 Ford will carry the...

Bobby Hamilton, Jr., driver of the No. 35 Ford Fusion, will pay tribute to his father, the late Bobby Hamilton, Sr., by running a special pant scheme this weekend commemorating the elder's final Nextel Cup victory. The No. 35 Ford will carry the same livery that Hamilton, Sr. drove to victory in the No. 55 Andy Petree-owned entry at Talladega in the spring of 2001.

BOBBY HAMILTON, JR.-35-McDonald's Ford Fusion

HOW DID THE IDEA OF COMMEMORATING YOUR FATHER'S RACE-WINNING CAR COME ABOUT? "That was John Lewicki from McDonald's and Ronnie Russell (President, Team Rensi) and Ed Rensi (Owner, Team Rensi). I didn't have anything to do with it. They called me with it. It was a big surprise to me. They faxed me what it was going to look like, and I didn't know they were doing it. That was purely on their part. I wasn't even thinking of that and it was their deal, but that said, I couldn't be happier. It was their deal kinda doing something for my dad and me."

IS THERE ANY BIGGER WAY THAT YOU COULD PAY TRIBUTE TO YOUR FATHER HEADING INTO THE SEASON? "No. You have your up sides and down sides of it. Like last night, you come here and you're ready to come back to work and then every time you see that car you have memories. But then at the same time, when you see that car you have good memories of that day. You remember him winning and you remember Any Petree climbing on the hood and little things like that. It was a good time. It's all cool and it's emotional at times, but at the same time, it's time to get back to work. From the inside the car I can't see what color it is anyway. We kinda have to do one thing to start our season off right with either a win or a decent finish, or if not, we go to California and start over. Like I said, it's cool. The fans get to see it, it's something different and there have been a lot of pictures taken of it from fans. That was what it was supposed to do."

HAS ANDY PETREE COME BY THE CAR THIS WEEK AND SAID ANYTHING TO YOU? "Andy came by and saw it. I haven't talked to him, but he was part of it. He sent the paint code and everything from his shop from the way it used to be. He was all for it, and he even promised that if we do get lucky enough to win that he will come over and jump on this hood."

DAYTONA IS A TRACK THAT MOST DRIVERS EITHER LOVE OR HATE. TO WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE THAT? "It's just such a topsy-turvy race track. If you're really, really fast and nobody can pass you, or you can really pass, it's a great place to race. But, if you're an average car and you're in the middle of the field, you're going to get in a wreck. To me, that's just the way that I describe Daytona. You can sit in the very, very back and wait for something to happen and kinda sneak into some real good spots, but then again, I've been here before where nothing happened and we almost got hung out; we almost got lapped. It's just one of those race tracks. It's the start of the season, it's a weeklong deal, you're here and the guys killed themselves to get here with two cars, and to me the season really doesn't start until California because that's when the real racing begins. That's where your setup comes into play, and that's where the driver can really make a difference as far as adjusting his race car on the race track with his throttle response. Here, it's either wide open or nothing. If you're out of the gas, you're slow, and if you're in the gas and you stay in the gas all the way around, all day long you're going to be fast. It's all or nothing here. At California, if you have a decent day with a decent car you can still make something good out of it. Here you've got what you've got."

WITH THE NUMBER OF CARS THAT SUFFERED DAMAGE IN PRACTICE TODAY, IS THAT INDICATIVE OF WHAT WE WILL SEE IN THE RACE ON SATURDAY? "You'll see it in the race and instead of it being 12 cars, you'll see a handful of them. The way that they have the package on these cars, and I guess they hardened the tires, and once they did that the cars have been a handful in the draft. Two or three wide, once again, you have to be that way or you're going to be in the back or possibly lose the draft. What they need to do if they're going to run them this way with really, really hard tires and not a whole lot of grip, we need to get the bigger wickers on the top and the spoiler like the Cup cars used to be where you can go to the back and just ride if you want to, and when it's time to go, you can. Right now they really didn't do a whole lot but give those guys who are really, really fast a little bit more room to play with. And the guys who are medium to struggling, they've still got to run wide open to keep up. Really all they've done is make the cars drive worse. But, that's part of it and we all have to deal with it. You just try to survive this week and, like I said, get to next week."

WILL THE HARDER TIRE HAVE AN IMPACT ON PIT STRATEGY? "Daytona is the biggest short track that you'll go to. Four tires and full of fuel is fast, and that's the way you have to be. If you start taking two tires here, you'll pay. You have to treat it like a short track, or like an Atlanta, where four tires are better than two. They drive better with fresh tires and full of fuel and everything else, but once all that stuff gets away, you start getting a ton more of nose weight and you start pushing and you run up into cars and you get loose and you can get sucked around by a car. So, you have to keep your car steady as much as you can, and four tires, gas and adjustments makes it that way."

-credit: ford racing

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Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Andy Petree