BUSCH: Dover: Ford - Hamilton Jr interview

This Week in Ford Racing May 27, 2002 NASCAR Busch Grand National Bobby Hamilton, Jr., driver of the No. 25 Taurus, has high expectation for the 2003 season. After winning his first career NASCAR Busch Series race at New Hampshire...

This Week in Ford Racing
May 27, 2002

NASCAR Busch Grand National

Bobby Hamilton, Jr., driver of the No. 25 Taurus, has high expectation for the 2003 season. After winning his first career NASCAR Busch Series race at New Hampshire International Speedway and finishing in the top 10 in the point standings in 2002, the 25-year-old Tennessee native expected to contend for the championship this year. However, twelve races into the season, Hamilton was 10th in points with just one top-five finish, and the decision was made last week to hire championship-winning crew chief Harold Holly. Entering this weekend's MBNA Platinum 200, Hamilton remains in 10th place in the point standings, but hopes the race at Dover International Speedway, where he finished third last year, will be the catalyst to jumpstart his season.

BOBBY HAMILTON, JR. -25-Team Marines Ford Taurus

IT WAS ANNOUNCED LAST WEEK THAT HAROLD HOLLY HAS HIRED AS YOUR NEW CREW CHIEF AND THAT HE WILL ASSUME THOSE DUTIES ATOP THE PIT BOX THIS WEEKEND IN DOVER. HOW WAS THE DECISION TO HIRE HOLLY REACHED? "It was pretty much a decision by everybody to try to make the team a little better, and everybody figured the best way to do it was to make the change. We talked about it and what we thought could make the team better was bringing in Harold Holly. The transition process hasn't really slowed us down like I thought it would. I figured we would go to Charlotte and really struggle, but we were pretty good all weekend long. Harold had to finish out his duties with Team Amick, but he did come to the shop last week to set the car up. We're looking forward to having Harold in the shop full-time this week. He's already come over and made a ton difference in the guys - a difference in their attitudes and the way their approach their work. I even noticed a difference this weekend in the way the car drives so much different, so much better. It was something we had to do to go from a top-ten or top-five team to a winning team every weekend, a championship-winning team. It was something that we took a chance on, and so far it's already working out."

THE NEXT STRETCH OF RACES ARE AT VENUES WHERE YOU HAVE EXCELLED IN THE PAST. DID YOU MAKE THE CHANGE KNOWING THAT THE NEXT MONTH IS IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO IMPROVE IN THE POINT STANDINGS? "It is and that's why we went ahead and tried to make the decision early to do make the change. We'll get one of our new cars ready for Nashville, and, of course, we run extremely well at Nashville every time we go there. Dover is another track that we usually do really good at and Harold has a great track record there as well. Harold was kinda stuck at Charlotte doing the deal with Jeff Green, and it just so happened that Newt (Moore) and everybody could help us last week. It's the time of the year right now, the stretch that is coming, that ever since I've been racing it's when we pick up things. That was one of the reasons why we wanted to make the change sooner than later because it will still be a few weeks until we can get the type of cars that Harold wants to get in there and the type of people he wants in there. Right now we need to get the guys that we already have built back up and that can happen immediately, and then we can take over this thing. There's nobody here who's taken over the series this year, so it's wide open and that's what we're trying to do."

ARE YOU SURPRISED THAT NO ONE HAS ASSERTED THEMSELVES AT THE TOP OF THE POINT STANDINGS, AND DO YOU FEEL THAT YOU ARE IN A POSITION TO CHALLENGE FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "Every week we want to keep moving up the standings. We were down in the 20s early in the season. A lot of teams got lucky in the beginning of the year with pit strategy and they're starting to become their normal teams. We've passed a handful of them and we're not going to quit either because there are several teams ahead of us that our team is better than. Right now is the best opportunity to take the Busch Series by the horns and go. There is nobody taking charge of it. You would have figured that Keller would have had a 300-point lead or that Scott (Riggs) would have won four or five races, but it just hasn't happened. Somebody has to do it, so it mine as well be us."

YOUR FATHER HAS BEEN IN YOUR PITS THE PAST FEW RACES. WITH HIS SWITCH TO THE NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES THIS YEAR HAS HE BEEN ABLE TO BECOME MORE INVOLVED IN YOU RACING CAREER? "He's had more time to do his own deal and to also be more involved with my schedule in racing. With the Cup schedule it just didn't work like that. He's back to having fun, and having fun for him is running 25 times like they do in the truck series and being able to be involved in my racing career. He's able to come out and hang out with us and blab on the radio and do his normal deal, back like we used to do in the Late Model days. It goes back to where everybody is trying to go back to their roots and have fun again. In this sport if you're not having fun you're not going to be in it too long."

ARE YOU HAVING FUN RACING IN YOUR CURRENT SITUATION? "I'm pretty happy with this change. I think it's what we need to become a top-notch team in the Busch Series, so right now it was a change for the better and it's going to carry us to the next level. I hadn't even considered, even before this change, of leaving this team. Ed and Sam Rensi gave me a chance when no one else did. They put me on the map and got Fred (Wanke). He put Team Rensi and myself on the map. We needed to grow again and Harold was a way we felt that we could grow and win races every week and be a contender every week. With the changes that we made and the stuff that Team Rensi gives me every week and the opportunity they give other people to come in here and win races, there's no end to it. They do whatever it takes to win races and that's the whole point. This isn't about making money, it's about winning races. Right no there's no reason for me to leave because I have everything I need to win races."

THERE HAS BEEN TALK ABOUT YOU DRIVING FOR YOUR FATHER SOME DAY. IS THERE ANY TIMETABLE ON WHEN THAT MIGHT OCCUR? "It's been talked about. His whole truck operation is trying to build for a Cup team in the future. It won't be anytime soon, but when people ask me about it, I tell that's what I want to do some day. There's no timetable for it. Whatever happens down the road happens. As of now, Ford has done a tremendous job of helping me out with wind tunnel information and engineering trying to make me a better driver and to make Team Rensi a better team. I'm pretty much glued with where I'm at. As far as leaving Team Rensi or Ford, they've done more for me than anyone else has so I have roots here. That's not a bad thing. I'm happy with where I am at. If you're happy, you mine as well stay put and try to win races and championships."

-ford racing-

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Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Jeff Green