NASCAR Media Conference
Bobby Hamilton, Jr.
April 3, 2007
HERB BRANHAM: Thank you very much, and thanks to the media for joining us. This is I guess what we'll call part 2 of our special teleconference double-header today. Earlier today we had a call that came out of the Car of Tomorrow testing at Richmond.
Today this particular call is in advance of Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series race, the Penske 300 at Nashville Superspeedway. We have a great guest and appropriate guest today in Bobby Hamilton, Jr., driver of the No. 35 McDonald's Ford for Team Rensi Motorsports.
Bobby is back in the NASCAR Busch series this season after a two-year absence, and he comes in ranked tenth in points this week. He's a Nashville native and seven NASCAR Busch Series starts in what he could call his hometown track, has three Top 5 finishes, never started lower than 11th at Nashville Superspeedway.
You're back in the Busch Series, you're coming home, as you said before, maybe give us an overview on the circumstances that led to this second go-around with Ed Rensi and all the great people at Team Rensi.
BOBBY HAMILTON, JR.: We saw them at Red Lobster and we got to talking, in Daytona, I think it was last year, and he just come bebopping by and we just happened to catch up, and we started talking and he asked me, just about still wanting me to drive his race car, and I told him, Any time you've got a seat, I'm there. It kind of went from there.
Then him and my wife ran into each other at Bristol, and she was over begging him to see if we can come back over there because they were talking about having a third car if they could find a sponsor. It just all happened to work out. He says, do you really want to come back? I told him, yeah, if there's a seat, I'm there, there's no question.
As I said, we had a couple of different opportunities with another Cup car and a couple other Trucks, and when that seat became available, it was like there was no question.
It's one of those where I just felt real comfortable, I knew everybody that was there, I knew management, I knew owners. Everything that makes you feel at ease when you walk in the shop, I already knew. Ed really helped a lot.
Q. How would you sum up your season so far? You're tenth in points but I have a feeling you're probably not real satisfied yet.
BOBBY HAMILTON, JR.: No, by no means we're not. Right now we are -- we should be the best Busch Car by far, and what I mean by that is we should be the best full-time Busch guy, and anything less than that is not acceptable.
It's really hard to deal with some of the Cup guys because those guys are tough. But they can be beat. We've done it before. But I think the biggest letdown is right now that we're not the leading Busch guy. Give me two or three weeks, and I will be.
That's just what I expect out of the people, what the team expects, and once we get to that part where we're the best Busch guy, then we can go to the next part about being the best guy that's capable of beating those Cup guys. So it's the A-B steps, you've got to cross before you walk, and it's all new stuff. I have a bunch of new crew guys, new crew chief, so learning the language, learning all that stuff.
Other than that, where we're sitting in tenth is not because of great, great runs; it's because of being consistent, surviving in races. But we need to be a little bit better than that.
We tested at Richmond this past week and we were the quickest car there so that's a step forward. There's a lot going on, but we'll get there.
Q. How is the series different from when you were last here in 2004?
BOBBY HAMILTON, JR.: Well, a lot of the difference they have -- instead of having four or five, six Cup cars, they have 20. That makes a big impact because those guys are -- you know, they're bringing tons of experience, they're taking their Cup stuff and running their Busch stuff, and it's really hard.
That's the biggest change. And also it seems like there's a whole lot more younger guys in the division that hadn't been there, that haven't been on these racetracks. But the cars still drive the same; the tires, they're a little different. But that's the biggest thing, the Cup stuff. If you just eliminate some of the Cup stuff, I think it would be about the same Busch Series.
It concerns me a little bit because if you take away some of the Cup guys, you know, for instance, if 20 of them decide not to run this week, where are we going to get those cars to fill out the show? I mean, that's been one of the big downfalls is all these Cup teams coming in with Busch cars, so a lot of the real, real Busch teams are home, ran out of sponsor money, ran out of sponsors, period.
And like I said, if there are no-shows as far as some of these Cup guys then you're going to be short or have a bunch of junk showing up. It doesn't look good on the -- which makes it easier on me, I'll take it where I can get it, but there's -- there's a bunch of concerns, but at the same time, NASCAR, they're aware of what's going on, and I'm sure they'll fix it in time.
Q. This week with less Cup drivers in the Busch race, there was only six or seven, what do you think that's going to do to your chances this week at Nashville?
BOBBY HAMILTON, JR.: Well, I think it would help a lot. I hate to even sit here and think that you've just got to go somewhere where they're not to be competitive, but the sad thing is in the Busch Series right now, it is. It's not so much -- like I said before, they're bringing so much experience, they're bringing top-dollar stuff in. They're really not on a budget, and a lot of us guys are.
But that's the bare truth. If there's only ten of those guys here, then we need to unload and be right there with them, the 11th or 10th place guy and work from there. It just betters your chances. It's sad to say that, but it's just the truth right now.
But at the same time there's not a negative -- not a part of my body that doesn't say why can't we do what we did in '04, which was beat those guys, beat Matt Kenseth, beat Kevin Harvick. There's no doubt I've got the same skills as they do, I can drive as good as they can, and I think my guys have got the same skills as their guys do, and also have the ability of making the cars turn and doing everything that they can do. It's just the simple fact right now is whoever has got the most money has got the most toys.
But we'll get there. But I think this week will be a little bit easier because there's not -- nothing towards the Busch field, but I think it will ease the competition because you don't have 20 guys there that's -- 20 Cup guys.
The biggest thing is they don't get to have the two hours of practice right before our race and the two hours on Friday. If you add it up, that's four hours that they're practicing compared to our two hours. They get a lot of time on the racetrack. It almost levels it out.
I'm sure a Cup guy will still be really, really fast if not win the race. But it kind of lets you be within striking distance of them, where they're on the same schedule you are, they don't get no extra practice, anything like that.
Q. What would it mean to you to win at Nashville?
BOBBY HAMILTON, JR.: Say that again.
Q. What would it mean to you to win at Nashville?
BOBBY HAMILTON, JR.: Well, I've been so close there. We've done everything but win there. We finished second, third. I mean, we've done everything but win there.
I came close to winning in Truck series. Every series that's been there I came close to winning. We dominated all day, and the cool thing about it was I got beat by my dad, which was frustrating, but at the same time it was a pretty special day.
But if I could -- it's your home track. Your family is there, people who's watched you run at local races, come there to watch you. I mean, it's just a home track. I think probably to win there would be bigger than winning anywhere like Daytona or something like that. It would be one of the biggest wins of my career and would stick out forever because like I said, home track, family is there and your friends, and you get to -- I mean, there's all kinds of things.
So it would be probably -- I guarantee, it would be bigger than any win I've ever won so far and probably one of the biggest ones you could win in your career.
Q. Is there any rhyme or reason as to why you haven't been able to win at Nashville?
BOBBY HAMILTON, JR.: You know, I think we've done everything but close the deal. I mean, we've had fast race cars, we've led all day, been the fastest car at the end of the night, whether it be a pit stop malfunction or I got into somebody on the racetrack and cut a tire down. I could go back and name several things.
I think what it was, mainly we just didn't close the deal, whether it be in the driver's seat or in Pit Road or maybe like a small parts failure or something. We've had some of the craziest stuff happen to us at that place.
But the stuff is all easier to swallow when you run really good. If you lead there and you had a parts failure but you was running in the Top 5 and leading all night, it's easier to swallow. But as soon as you look back at the wins you gave away there, I know two of them off the top of my head we could have won hands down if the driver would have been a little bit smarter and we wouldn't have had a lug nut fall off.
That stuff -- I'm not sugar coating nothing. If we could have closed the deal on those of two things, we'd have two guitars by now.
Q. It's almost like that 20-pound bass that you've hooked three or four times and he gets to the side of the boat and you just can't get a net on him?
BOBBY HAMILTON, JR.: That's it. That's exactly what it is. I mean, you do everything you need to do to get in that position and something holds you from it. But the way I look at it and I think the way this race business is, is if you keep putting yourself in position to win those races, one day you'll get that call.
Hopefully it would be great to be this one or the next one that we get here. But either way, if we can -- no matter how we get it -- right now I'll take it whether it's rained out and I was leading, I wouldn't care as long as I could get it. That's what it's about.
If we run Top 5, top 3, top 4, somewhere in that area every time we go down there like we do, eventually we're going to get one of those.
Q. Talk about your teammate this weekend. He's getting his first shot at a Busch race.
BOBBY HAMILTON, JR.: We went to Richmond and tested, and David Gilliland ran the first day and then he got to run the second day, and it was -- he started out real conservative, whatever, and all of a sudden he went up there and he bounced off the wall and then all of a sudden he picked up almost half a second. We was kind of joking with him there.
But it's going to be cool to see him get in there. He's ran ARCA stuff before and ran really, really well. We went out there and tested with him at Lakeland and he followed behind me and stuff.
Believe it or not, that's what I keep telling him, if we can just get this thing to do what he needs to do, he's going to be fast. Sure enough, once they got it where he was comfortable with the car at Richmond and everything, he was running 22:30s right along with all those guys from the middle of the pack up.
I'm a firm believer in you get somebody good equipment and they're a pretty decent little driver they're going to run good and start winning races. They're going to bring a new car for him, and I think he went down there to test with some ARCA stuff or something like that. So it's going to be interesting, but I can't wait. I think he's going to be okay.
Q. What's he like?
BOBBY HAMILTON, JR.: You know, he's an engineer on our team, and he's real -- he's got a ton of knowledge as far as race cars, what the race car is asking for. Pardon me, that's just redneck terms as far as what it seems like it's needing. For instance, he's real good at following up as far as if the car is really needing a right rear spring or right front spring, whatever, he's real good at that, and he'll come to know that even when I'm -- we're running somewhere, and he's going, on the throttle this and that, and I'm like, yeah, it's doing this, this, and I can explain it to him at Bristol over there and they get it figured it out and we'll get a little bit better.
He's going to be fine. I think once he gets behind the wheel and he gets the feel of the place as far as the speedway, I think they're going to be fine. Like I said, he'll real quiet and at the same time, if you know him you can't get him to hush; he's just all over the place.
He's fun to be around, he really fits in our group well, and I can't wait. I'm kind of excited to see how he's going to do down there.
Q. Have you made any progress on deciding if you're able to or if there's a way to sell your part of BHR?
BOBBY HAMILTON, JR.: Everything is kind of at a standstill right now. I haven't heard a whole lot out of it. I just kind of -- really I hadn't even heard anything out of it or even brought it up. I've just been kind of busy doing my own deal.
I know we're still going through personal stuff with my dad. Like today we're going to -- I took an off day and I was working on late model stuff trying to run a couple races at the end of the year. I really haven't heard what's going on, and to be perfectly honest, I've got other things on my mind and really don't care at this point.
It'll work itself out, whatever is going to happen. Worst care scenario, I'm stuck with a Truck team if nothing happens to it. But it'll -- whatever is going to happen is going to happen, I guess.
Q. How tough is it for you guys, for Rensi, for Brewco, for the independent Busch teams? Is it a lot worse than it was just a couple years ago?
BOBBY HAMILTON, JR.: Well, I tried to explain, a lot of the fans, you get a lot of heat when you say the wrong thing. Like for instance, in an interview when you say it's not fair, those Cup guys. A lot of the fans really buck up as far as saying, you just need to drive harder.
What they don't realize is there's no doubt in my mind, if you would have put Ken Schrader in the 24 DuPont car, he'd have won four championships by now. You're only as good as your equipment. And we have great equipment.
Ed Rensi and McDonald's and everybody has given us everything we need. So does Roush, they give Carl Edwards and those guys everything they need.
But the biggest thing is where our budget kind of limits right here as to what we can spend and survive, those guys are dumping -- well, we need this; okay, we'll get it. Okay, we need this; go ahead and get it. And before you know it, they've out-dollared you a little bit.
So it's really, really hard nowadays, and on top of that, fortunately enough, we expanded to two teams to give us some more data. But we're not real, real big on engineering like a lot of leading guys are, and it's just really hard to compete with those guys.
Like I said before, they get four or five hours a practice a weekend; we only get two. And those guys are the same guys that practice right up to the point of our race, get out of their driver suits, Cup driver suit, run right over there, put on their Busch driver suit, jump in a race car. They already know the track, know what to expect for that day, and we haven't been on it in 24 to 36 hours.
It's a big disadvantage on several things. But you've got what you've got. All you can do is be the top running Busch Car every week as far as a normal Busch guy, and if you are that, then you can start working on other stuff as far as learning how to beat those guys.
It's not the intimidation factor. I mean, I don't care who they are. In that race car we're all the same size and weigh the same. But I think the biggest thing is we've just got to -- like we used to be in '04, we got it to be where we were the best Busch Car every week, and all of a sudden we went to saying, okay, what do we need to start doing to kick Kevin Harvick's butt, what do we need to start doing to kick Carl Edwards' butt or Greg Biffle's butt or this or that. Once we're doing that, we're slowly but surely trying to be the best Busch Car, and when we do that we'll progress to B and go right for those guys from there.
Q. You've moved up in the standings and you're confident about the future. Is there any secret to getting and carrying momentum race to race?
BOBBY HAMILTON, JR.: Yeah, it's real big. I mean, your mental attitude -- my dad was a big, firm believer in that. He would watch -- what I went through when I drove the 32 car and had a horrible year, I mean, I just kind of had that. I was almost frustrated to even go to the racetrack because I knew I was going to run bad, kind of lost that burn in your eyes, that fire in your eyes and that burning in your gut, kind of lost it for a little bit.
And my dad just told me, all that stuff is mental. You walk on that racetrack with your chest stuck out like you used to, that's going to be two or three tenths, and it is. When you leave that racetrack and you really perform well, your guys perform well, you moved up in points or you really closed the gap up on a bunch of people, your guys get pumped up, your driver is pumped up, your team owner is pumped up, your sponsors are excited, whenever they see the TV running and you're in the Top 10 and they get to see that.
So there's all kinds of benefits to them to being in that Top 10, and that's why it's so important to be there. Once you get in there and kind of space it out from 10th to 11th where it's going to take a little bit for those guys to get you if you have a bad week then you can start chipping away on that Top 5, and that's how you get to the point of being where you're contending for a championship.
Every week if you're racing as hard as you can and you cannot -- it's not your day today, you've got to figure out how to get a Top 5 or a Top 10. If you're not that good you've got to figure out how to be a Top 15 car, whether it's just surviving or whatever.
And when those guys see that, when they see the rhythm you're getting into, they get excited, they get comfortable with it you wouldn't believe how easy it is to roll through tech. They're at the shop, they're prepared more, they roll through tech, there's not a single thing wrong with the car, running good on the racetrack. It's just a snowball effect, and if you can get that snowball running down the hill pretty fast, you're going to be hard to beat.
Q. Throughout the teleconference, there's one thing that I hear that I haven't heard for a while, and that is there is a real balance in your voice as though you feel as though you've got the world at your feet, and for the most part you sound as though everything is going well for Bobby Hamilton, Jr.
BOBBY HAMILTON, JR.: Well, I haven't won any races yet this year, so it's not as well as I'd like it to be. But you know what, I think we're heading the right direction. I think we're heading the right direction, and I think that, you know, when I walk on that racetrack, I know I'm as good as Carl Edwards, I know I'm as good as Greg Biffle, I know I'm as good as that next rookie.
I think with the equipment I've got, and I work on my communication with Chris every week, making sure he understands what I'm talking about in the race car. Instead of kind of jumping out of the race car now and running to the bus and watching TV, I make sure that I sit there and really think about my race car for a little bit, making sure every little bit -- trying to squeeze another tenth out of that thing. I absorb myself.
I'm away from the pressures of BHR, I'm away of anything like that, all I have to do is concentrate on my Busch Car and do what I used to do, win races and walk in there.
I know I get criticized a lot of times for being cocky, but it's nice. It's a mental thing as far as being confident. I know I'm good at what I do. I have good equipment behind me, and I want to win races and I'm going to win races.
I'm sorry a lot of people don't like that, but I think that's just how somebody gets focused or whatever. I'm on that mission. I know what's ahead of me. I know what -- right now it's -- nothing toward nobody in front of me, but it's easy pickins right now. I want them. I want the spots they're in, I want to take their trophies, I want their wins, I want everything we used to do.
I've done it before. There's no reason why -- I'm as smart a driver. I think our team is better than it used to be before we probably even left. All kinds of things are heading in the direction of good, so I might as well jump on the pony and make it work for me.
I am having fun. I'm having fun as far as being back with Ed Rensi and Ronnie Russell and all those guys, and being back in the Busch Series, and I almost feel like a lot of people want to be back in there, and that's where I want to be.
Like I said, when I walk on the racetrack, I make sure my chest is stuck out and I make sure they know why I'm there, to do one thing, and that's to win that race.
BOBBY HAMILTON, JR.: Yeah, I'm a whole lot smarter in every aspect as far as a race car driver and a businessman and a handyman.
It's funny, my dad was saying you'll get that with age. So every year I feel like I'm getting smarter on the racetrack and I'm learning more things, paying more attention to different things off the racetrack, and that carries onto the racetrack.
I'm a firm believer in if I have a really good team at home, which is my wife and family, that's one part of it. If I go to the racetrack and have a really good team on the racetrack, that's another aspect of it as far as my life. And the biggest part of that is I'm a major part of both of those. I'm really focused on being happy.
I've learned from a couple past deals that -- one of my best friends a while ago, a long time ago, Adam Petty, was killed driving these things, and we all know it was because he was too young, and my dad passed away at 49 years old, which everybody knows is too young.
I'm going to have fun, fun with everything I do. I'm not going to worry about problems, I'm going to go to bed and not going to lose any sleep about it because they're going to be there in the morning. I'm going to go to the racetrack and do what I was told to do, which was win races, and if it takes tearing up race cars to do that, I'm going to win my share of races and win my share of championships and I'm going to have fun doing it. It's almost like a big refreshing right there, so I'm enjoying it and having fun.
HERB BRANHAM: I just want to thank you so much for joining us. I'm sure I speak for a lot of people. It's great to have you on the call today. It's even more great to have you back in the NASCAR Busch Series, so thank you.
BOBBY HAMILTON, JR.: No problem.
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