BUSCH: Rockingham: Ford - Bobby Hamilton Jr interview

This Week in Ford Racing February 18, 2003 NASCAR Busch Grand National Bobby Hamilton, Jr., driver of the No. 25 Taurus, had a breakthrough season in 2002 in his first year with Team Rensi, winning his first career NASCAR Busch Series race at...

This Week in Ford Racing
February 18, 2003

NASCAR Busch Grand National

Bobby Hamilton, Jr., driver of the No. 25 Taurus, had a breakthrough season in 2002 in his first year with Team Rensi, winning his first career NASCAR Busch Series race at New Hampshire International Speedway and finishing in the top 10 in the point standings. Fresh off of his seventh-place finish at Daytona International Speedway last weekend, the 25-year-old Hamilton is poised to challenge for the championship as the fourth-highest returning points finisher from last season.

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

YOU HAD A BREAKTHROUGH SEASON LAST YEAR, WINNING YOUR FIRST CAREER BUSCH SERIES RACE. DO YOU FEEL THIS COULD BE ANOTHER BREAKTHROUGH YEAR FOR YOU AND THIS TEAM? "This is our year to really step forward to win the championship. The 57 is going to be tough, and I've always said that in order to do something like that you have lose them before you can win them. He lost it last year. It was his to win last year and he lost, but they will be even stronger because they learned a whole lot more than we did as far as battling for the championship. We've got the right tools and the right people and the right equipment to be right there on their heels, if not battling for the championship. Expectations for us are definitely top five in points, if not trying to win the thing."

THIS IS YOUR SECOND SEASON WITH TEAM RENSI. DO YOU FEEL THAT THE CHEMISTRY BETWEEN AND THE TEAM IS STILL IMPROVING? "It's already better. I've been to the shop before the test at Daytona, and just from the attitude of the guys to Ed (Rensi), the owner, the momentum has already been built. Coming out of there with a seventh-place finish, it's purely a great start to the season. There's tons of stuff that we learned, so there's a lot to look forward to. The experience of having one year under our belt is huge, so we're confident that we're going to get the Marines Ford up to the front and it will stay that way all year."

YOU HAD A TWO-CAR SHOP LAST SEASON AT TEAM RENSI. DO YOU FEEL THAT YOU LOST SOMETHING WHEN THE OTHER TEAM'S OPERATIONS CEASED? "No, and this is me being truthful. The minute we did the other last year, it killed the momentum on my team. It was working my guys to death. We weren't getting enough stuff done on my car, trying to get the other cars done and it just put us behind. The minute everything was out of there it went back to the way it was when we were running up front week-in and week-out. In fact, the last couple of races we made a conscience effort to concentrate back on our program, and we got right back in the top-five where we belonged. I don't need a teammate. We learn enough on our own, and I think we're doing the right thing. We've been testing pretty much every weekend in January; that's how ahead we are."

IT SEEMS LIKE YOUR TEAM'S FOCUS AT THE RACE TRACK IS ALWAYS ON RACE SETUP AND NEVER QUALIFYING. "The reason that we got Fred (Wanke, crew chief) over here was that he worked with my dad's truck team and with Joe Ruttman and he was just phenomenal on race stuff. Twenty-five laps into the race, nobody could keep up with him on the truck series. That was one of the things that told us that we needed to hire him, and that's what we did. And it was pretty much him that told us what we're going to do and how we're going to do it. With that much experience, you really can't argue with him. Fred and all of the guys get the car driving so good for me all you have to do is stick some tape on it, put some wedge in it and go. You can just make up the time that way because the cars drive so good. And, of course, the horsepower we got from Robert Yates, that makes up all of the difference when it gets cool. I always say that if you have good equipment, it makes you look a whole lot better than you are and your job a lot easier, and that's what I've got."

YOUR SEASON GOT OFF TO A GOOD START IN DAYTONA, A TRACK YOU HAVEN'T FARED WELL IN THE PAST. WITH YOUR SEVENTH-PLACE FINISH LAST WEEKEND, HOW DOES THAT CHANGE YOUR OUTLOOK? "We just want to go to every race and try to pick up from what we did last year. We finished 30th at Daytona last year, so this is the kind of start we needed. We could suck up pretty good. The car would just close up so fast that if we didn't have any help I didn't want to take the chance to lose all the spots. It was just a great day. The biggest thing is missing the big one. The Marines Ford Taurus should have got in it. The one thing I learned about the superspeedways, when they get turned around they go to the top and I was on the bottom so I figured that was the safest place. It's gets irritating with the restrictor-plate deal. You can't pull out fast. You've got to have a superiorly good car, just like the 8 car. If you had an average car, you'd be stuck in the middle of the field. It's just one of those things where you hope you get out of there with the fenders on."

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Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Robert Yates