Daytona: Hamilton Jr. - Wednesday Ford interview

Bobby Hamilton Jr., driver of the No. 25 Smithfield Ford Fusion had the ninth fastest time during Friday's first NASCAR Nationwide Series practice of the season. Hamilton talks about the changes and improvements in his race team and looks forward...

Bobby Hamilton Jr., driver of the No. 25 Smithfield Ford Fusion had the ninth fastest time during Friday's first NASCAR Nationwide Series practice of the season. Hamilton talks about the changes and improvements in his race team and looks forward to Saturday afternoon's Camping World 300 at Daytona International Speedway.

BOBBY HAMILTON JR. - No. 25 Smithfield Ford Fusion

ON PRACTICE "Our Fusion drove real good. This is the biggest short track you'll go to because it's all about chassis a lot of times. The majority of people that we passed lifted because their tires wore out. The good cars can run wide open here and the bad ones are going to have a long day on Saturday. That's how you adjust this race car. Qualifying does not matter too much here. In practice we went all the way to the back and got out of the draft by about 100 feet, then we were able to catch-up to the pack. As long as you can pass, run on the top or bottom and as long as you can run wide open and we can. A lot of the guys out there can't run wide open, but we can and we had a real productive day. I'm happy with our results today."

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE DAYTONA MOMENT? "Everybody remembers their very first time here, but the novelty wears off just a bit when you've been here as long as I have. Anytime you can start the year off at a place like Daytona it's fun. Trust me, there was a time earlier this year that I didn't think I was going to be here, but I'm really excited to be here now. Coming to the track the other day, looking around and taking a deep breath of the air here, this is really a highlight of my year so far. This is Daytona; it speaks for itself. You can ask short tracker or any racer in the world; just to be a part of this and here is a memory every year. Because one of the greats are going to win the 500, some of the greatest have won the 500 and some of the greatest have won the 300. When you cross the finish line on Saturday, you're one of the 43 that crosses that same line - that of itself is a wonderful thing."

WAS YOUR PERFORMANCE TODAY AND IN TESTING A CARRY OVER FROM LAST YEAR IN THE TESTING YOU WERE ABLE TO CONDUCT? "We're running the same race car that we used in Talladega last year. The whole team went to Las Vegas and tested. I think we were third overall and it's all because of Ford. They've done a lot for us. They jumped in and helped us out on a lot of things and the seven-post time, you name it. They helped us. We've been digging as hard as we have been since the second half of last season and we started to get some help from Ford and it made all the difference. We picked up two- to three-tenths and even a half of second everywhere we went because of the Blue Oval, not because of anything we were doing. We're just lucky enough to stay together and we found sponsorship. Everything has fallen in place and we're glad to be back. Ford really helped us at the end of last year. We had the opportunity to put our Fusions on the seven-post shaker rig and it really helped our performance. That's what turned our season around. We were running from 15 to 25th every week and once Ford gave us some time with testing and it put us back in the top 10. That was really big for us. By having the testing, we improved what we were doing and it made a difference with the team and all the guys at Rensi. If Ford didn't give us the time on that, we would have struggled all year. We wouldn't have been in the top 10 and we wouldn't have finished where we did last year."

YOU'RE BACK IN THE 25 AND HAVE A NEW SPONSOR. WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK ON THIS SEASON? "One race at a time. We're here in Daytona and looking forward to going to California and all the other places with everything that they've [NASCAR] done to the rules. Right now, we're at Daytona and trying to get out of here with the same car with nothing wrong with it. We're gonna try to get a top 10 and survive Daytona and then the season starts at California."

HOW WILL THE RULES CHANGE YOUR RACING? "It is momentum now. I like those types of race tracks where after about the fifth or sixth lap, you down and here you come. That's why in Vegas; I loved them. I got out and applauded NASCAR. They really didn't try to do a whole lot, just slow us down a bit. The cars drive better and you can pass. If we can pass, it will be a good show for the fans, ticket sales and TV time is going to go up. And that benefits everybody."

DO YOU THINK WE'LL SEE TIGHTER RACING? "I don't know if it will be tighter racing, but as far as the drivers being comfortable in their race cars and being able to catch you and pass you without worrying about getting loose, it's going to be better for the sport."

-credit: ford racing

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Drivers Bobby Hamilton Jr.