DARLINGTON, S.C. (Sept. 1, 1999) In another afternoon of the sweeping changes that have marked the serious onset of "Silly Season," HVP Motorsports released Bobby Hamilton Jr. as the driver of its No. 63 Exxon Superflo Chevrolets in the NASCAR ...
DARLINGTON, S.C. (Sept. 1, 1999) In another afternoon of the sweeping changes that have marked the serious onset of "Silly Season," HVP Motorsports released Bobby Hamilton Jr. as the driver of its No. 63 Exxon Superflo Chevrolets in the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division on Wednesday, and replaced him with NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver Rich Bickle. Hamilton Jr., son of NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver Bobby Hamilton, was installed later Wednesday afternoon as the driver of the No. 22 Air Jamaica Vacations Chevrolet from AllCar Motorsports. Interim driver Steve Grissom had been scheduled to drive the No. 22 in Saturday's Dura-Lube 200 presented by Trak-Auto at Darlington Raceway, but he has been hired to drive the Cartoon Network Ford in the Pepsi Southern 500 and preferred to concentrate on that effort this weekend.
"Bobby Jr. will be in the car this weekend, which at this point is a one-race deal as we evaluate things for the rest of the season," said AllCar team manager Michael Rompf. "That's not saying we won't work something out for the rest of the year. But Steve wanted to concentrate on finding something in Winston Cup, which has always been his intent, and both Bobby Jr. and we were trying to get something going for the rest of the year."
HVP owner and crew chief Jeff Hensley announced that Bickle would replace Hamilton Jr. for at least the next two events, at Darlington and the Sept. 10 Autolite Platinum 250 at Richmond International Raceway. While the balance of the season -- seven "combination" events plus a stand alone race Oct. 31 at Memphis Motorsports Park on a NASCAR Winston Cup Series off-weekend -- makes it easy for a team to use a NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver as a stop-gap measure, Hensley said Hamilton Jr. might reappear in his team's plans.
"Little Bobby is a great young driver and we don't want to lose our relationship with him," Hensley said. "He has all kinds of potential and we want to keep him in the flock at HVP Motorsports. I'm pretty certain we'll do something with him again at a later date this season."
Hamilton Jr. earlier this season replaced former NASCAR Busch Series champion Chuck Bown for the 17th race of the season. He has made six starts with a best finish of 21st. He has failed to qualify for two events.
Bickle, who recently has hit a qualifying slump of his own in the 10-10-345 Pontiacs on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, brings 74 career NASCAR Winston Cup Series starts and 18 career NASCAR Busch Series efforts to the HVP seat. Included in his NASCAR Busch Series totals are a Bud Pole at Charlotte and a career-best fifth at Daytona in 1995.
"This is a great opportunity to drive a quality Busch Grand National car," Bickle said. "HVP Motorsports has a history of excellence, winning the Grand National championship in 1990. The team is one of the most respected in the Grand National garage area. I was flattered they asked me to drive their car."
"The big thing is we are 27th in the Busch Grand National owner's points right now and we think a veteran driver like Rich can give us the boost needed to get us back into the top-20 by the end of the season," Hensley said. "I'm not exactly sure how many races Rich is going to be able to do for us, but he's in the seat for Darlington this weekend and again next week at Richmond. Rich is a good racer and we have good race cars. We're confident this move will get us back on track."
As for this weekend, Hensley is confident the team can post a top finish at Darlington.
"We started 38th at Darlington in the spring and we were running in the top-5 when we got caught up in somebody else's wreck late in the race," Hensley said. "We still managed to finish 17th despite the fact the aero package on the car was pretty messed up. We are carrying that same car back to Darlington this time around and we're confident Rich can put it up front and get us a great finish."
Source: NASCAR Online