Busch Series Open Test Session January 25, 2002 Daytona International Speedway Bobby Hamilton, Jr., driver of the No. 25 Team Marines Taurus, has one of the steepest learning curves to overcome as his team prepares for the Busch Series ...
Busch Series Open Test Session
January 25, 2002
Daytona International Speedway
Bobby Hamilton, Jr., driver of the No. 25 Team Marines Taurus, has one of the steepest learning curves to overcome as his team prepares for the Busch Series season-opener in three weeks. Hamilton joins Rensi Motorsports, a team that switched car manufacturers in the off-season, and besides being the new driver for established ownership, he is also joined by Fred Wanke, a veteran crew chief who spent the past four seasons in the Craftsman Truck Series.
BOBBY HAMILTON, JR.-25-Team Marines Ford Taurus
YOU ENTER THE YEAR NOT ONLY WITH A NEW TEAM, BUT A TEAM WITH A NEW CREW CHIEF AND NEW MANUFACTURER. HOW MUCH OF A HURDLE IS THAT FOR YOU TO OVERCOME? "It's not really hard at all. We didn't just build something out of the barn. We bought some race-winning cars. We have Penske cars; the same ones Ryan Newman drove to victory last year. And, we didn't have to build a motor program from nothing. We have Robert Yates motors, so we know we're in good hands. We think we fell into a gold mine, and everything has adapted good. Everywhere we've tested, we've been real fast compared to the Chevrolets. We're happy with our change."
YOU'LL START THE SEASON DRIVING A FORD, BUT RIGHT NOW THEY'RE NOT RUNNING LAP TIMES FAST ENOUGH TO QUALIFY IN THE TOP 10. IS THAT A CONCERN? "We might not qualify good, but I think we'll be better in the race with as much downforce as we have. The Fords are super-comfortable in the draft, so I think we'll even be fine here. Now the other 31 races, compared to the Chevrolet, the Ford is a more balanced car. That's the big think and we're looking at it that we might give up three races, but I know NASCAR, and they're going to make it to where it's just as even as everywhere else. The bottom line is that a lot of these tracks get slick and that's where the Ford comes into play. They've got the downforce on them that makes them better on long runs. We're looking forward to ever race, especially on the slicker tracks, on the fast tracks."
HOW HAS THE TEAM ADJUSTED TO A NEW CREW CHIEF? "He's (Fred Wanke) taken everybody by the hand and put them under his wing. The first time we went to a test, he gained everybody confidence because he got the car way out of whack and then brought it right back with a couple of changes. He showed these guys that he may have come from the trucks but he's got the knowledge of these cars. Every time we need a change, he just does one small change and we're right at the top of the chart. He's got everybody's confidence and now they now to listen to him. He's had years of experience and won seven races last year. He's taken everybody by the hand, so we're calling him 'Grandpa Fred.' So far, he's taught ever guy here a ton, and that's just the way he goes about his business. It's progressed real, real good."
YOU WERE ALLOWED TO COME DOWN HERE FOR THE SECOND TEST SESSION, EVEN THOUGH YOU SUPPOSED TO BE IN THE FIRST ONE. "We had a brand-new Ford being built and we wanted to bring two of them, that way we could see which one was better. We're spending all this money on a test and it counts against us, so we wanted to make sure that we approached it right. NASCAR was great enough to let us come down here on Thursday. They came to the shop and saw the guys working and knew that there was no way we could have had it done by Sunday, so we're grateful to them for letting us slide a little bit."
YOU HAD YOUR FIRST TASTE OF WINSTON CUP RACING LAST YEAR IN A FILL-IN ROLE. WHEN DO YOU EXPECT TO BE COMPETING THERE FULL-TIME? "I haven't set a timetable and just go at it with the job at hand. We had an offer the year before and had an offer this year, and if it works out, it works out, and if it doesn't, it doesn't. You've just got to take what you've got and make the best of it. I really feel right now that the deal I'm in with the Fords, Yates motors and the people that I have behind me, you'd almost be giving up chances to win races compared to learning all over again. I like having those trophies at home. I'm just 24 years old, and most guys of these guys retire at 50, and sometimes even 60, so you have plenty of time. If it occurs next year, then it does, but I'll just keep digging until it does. There's just no big hurry. I can pay my bills, I eat every night and if I can run up front whatever I do, then that's what I want to do."
WHAT ARE THE INTERNAL EXPECTATIONS FOR THIS TEAM? "One of the things that I looked at before I came over here was the history of this team and not just what happened last year because I was kind of concerned. They went through the whole driver change last year and that stops a team right there. You have to spend the other half of the season learning to get back going. They told me the situation they wanted to do, and this is no big secret, they spend the money to go fast. Money isn't a problem here. You can't put a label on what you want here because you want it all for what you're given. I know that everybody says that this is a new team, but on paper, we've probably got the best deal besides Biffle. He's got the shot for the championship, but on paper, we're right there with him, so there's no reason we can't win as much or more than him. He's human and that team's human, so it comes down to execution. I think we have all the tools in the toolbox to do that."