Coming Home: Hamilton Jr. Relishes Return to Track, Series * The Pressure Is From Within: Edwards Focused On Series Championship * In The Books: First Daytona Test Session Completed; Session II Runs Through Tuesday DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan.
Coming Home: Hamilton Jr. Relishes Return to Track, Series
* The Pressure Is From Within: Edwards Focused On Series Championship
* In The Books: First Daytona Test Session Completed; Session II Runs Through Tuesday
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 21, 2007) -- One would be hard-pressed to find a person who would admit they look forward to coming to work to relax. But Bobby Hamilton Jr. (No. 35 McDonald's Ford) would be the first to step front and center in that instance.
In his first comments since the passing of his father, Bobby Hamilton Sr., who died two weeks ago after a year-long battle with head and neck cancer, Hamilton Jr. was understandably emotional at times yet candid and even humorous despite his heavy heart.
"To come down here ... I swear it was the biggest relief when I put the window net up went out," he said. "It was like being on a beach somewhere by yourself because it was just my thoughts, my race car, ready to get back to work."
Back to work for Hamilton also means he's back with Team Rensi Motorsports, the organization he last competed for in the NASCAR Busch Series in 2004. The Hamilton-Team Rensi partnership produced five wins, four poles and two finishes in the top 10 in points in his three seasons with the organization.
He was eighth in points with 10 races remaining in 2004 before departing to finish out the season in a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series ride for PPI Motorsports. Over the next two seasons, he ran in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup for PPI then moved to his father's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series team last year for what was supposed to be a substitute role until Hamilton Sr. was able to return.
But the illness was more than his father could overcome.
So now, the son -- with a family of his own -- struggles to move forward but can find solace in familiar faces in the NASCAR Busch Series garage -- a place he believes is where he was supposed to be all along.
"[My dad] would pat me on the back and say 'your name is my legacy. Winning races is what I need you to do,' and that's what I'm trying to do.
"I'm glad to be back. I walked into the garage and told my wife (Stephanie) 'this is where I'm supposed to be.' Pretty much my whole career has been in the Busch Series. It's just relaxing (to be back) due to everything we've been dealing with.
"I get up every day with (my dad's) name. As long as I have a job, you go across that stage and wave to the fans and they hear that name, they know."
Pit Stops: Around The Daytona Garage
Third Time A Charm? Edwards Craves Series Title ... In the 25 seasons of NASCAR Busch Series competition, Carl Edwards' (No. 60 Scotts Ford) 2006 point total of 4,824 would have been enough to capture the title in all but six of those years. But last season, he ran into the buzz saw that was Kevin Harvick (No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet), so his points, his four wins, 15 top fives and 25 top 10s all were second in the series to Harvick's championship numbers. Edwards is preparing for his third consecutive "double-duty" season, running full-time in both the NASCAR Busch Series and in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. Although he's focused on claiming his first NASCAR Busch Series crown, he's not allowing the pressure of being tabbed as the favorite to get in the way of his goal. "Honestly there's no more pressure for me. (The team and I) feel like we can win the championship and we try to just work on the pressure from within. We try to just motivate ourselves. Last year I felt a lot of pressure to win the championship, but Kevin and those guys just did such a great job. I've wanted to win this championship for the last two years and we haven't but hopefully this is the year. I feel pretty good about it."
Ward Burton Returns to NASCAR Busch Series ... As he makes his return to NASCAR NEXTEL Cup this season after a brief hiatus, Ward Burton (No. 27 Kleenex Ford) is also coming back to the NASCAR Busch Series, but the time frame is a bit longer -- 2001 to be exact. Burton, had three wins and four poles to complement a sixth-place points finish in his last full season in the series in 1993, will drive the flagship car for Clarence Brewer for over half the season. Brewco Motorsports and the No. 27 car have a storied history in the series, a fact not lost on Burton. "Any time you race you always have a certain amount of pressure to be successful," he said. "There's a good past track record and a great sponsor (with Brewco). In today's racing you're only as good as the people you surround yourself with, and I think Clarence has put a good team together. I'm just glad to be back."
Yeley's First Series Win Served On A "Plate?" ... After competing full-time in the NASCAR Busch Series the past two seasons -- last year in a double-duty capacity where he finished fifth in the points -- J.J. Yeley (No. 1 Miccosukee Resort Chevrolet) wanted to come back and challenge for the title as well as capture his first national series win. A full-season opportunity in the NASCAR Busch Series to go along with his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup duties wasn't available at Joe Gibbs Racing as it had been last season, so this year he connected with Phoenix Racing. Yeley will team with series veteran Mike Wallace (No. 7 GEICO Chevrolet), giving owner James Finch a formidable one-two punch, especially at restrictor plate tracks. Wallace, who won at Daytona International Speedway in July 2004, is known as a restrictor plate specialist, while Yeley won his first career Busch Poles last season, sweeping at both Daytona races and at Talladega. "It's going to be fun, especially when we do the restrictor plate stuff," Yeley said. "Obviously Mike is a veteran and definitely a good restrictor plate racer. Now we can share information and see if we can get an advantage."
Second Test Session Takes Over ... Sunday's test session produced the most teams and drivers throughout the NASCAR Busch Series garage due to an overlap day in the two sessions held for even and odd-numbered car owner points, set after July 12, 2006. Teams in the even-numbered session completed their three-day session on Sunday and took their notes back to their shops in preparation for the Feb. 17 Orbitz 300 at Daytona, while those in the odd-numbered group began the first of their scheduled three days.
Session II: NASCAR Busch Series teams in odd positions in car owner standings as of July 8, 2006
What: NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder testing for the 2007 Orbitz 300
Where: Daytona International Speedway
Track Layout: 2.5-mile tri-oval.
When: Sunday, Jan. 21 -- Tuesday, Jan. 23
Times: 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Who: J.J. Yeley, Regan Smith, Erik Darnell, Mike Wallace, Bill Elliott, Sam Hornish Jr., Peter Shepherd, Chad Blount, Carlos Contreras, Brad Keselowski, Casey Mears, David Gilliland, Ward Burton, Scott Wimmer, Timothy Peters, Ron Hornaday Jr., Jeff Fuller, Bobby Hamilton Jr., Reed Sorenson, Kyle Krisiloff, Jon Wood, Carl Edwards, Bobby Labonte, Justin Diercks.