By Levi King
(July 2005) After a victory in June at the Paramount Health Insurance 200 in Michigan, Bobby Hamilton is back on top. The defending champion seized the lead in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series points standings, positioning him for a second consecutive championship. Hamilton doesnt like to discuss the possibility, however.
I refuse to talk about my goals, and I refuse to think about the championship until its five or six races away, said Hamilton in a June 20 teleconference. There are too many variables in our business to focus on those numbers. Its too easy to wreck or to make a mistake.
Photo by Don Ward
Last year, Bobby
Hamilton became the
first driver-owner to
win the championship.
Hamilton is gearing for his defense of last years victory at the Kentucky Speedway in the Built Ford Tough 225 Presented by the Greater Cincinnati Ford Dealers NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race on July 9. It will be preceded with a return of the ARCA RE/MAX Series on July 8.
Last year was a season of firsts for Hamilton, who at age 47 became the series oldest champion. With four victories, Hamilton also became the first owner-driver to win the title.
Hamiltons No. 04 truck was the first Dodge to win the series championship, and his season winnings were the second highest ever for the series.
Hamilton attributes his success over the last three years to his team of mechanics and technicians.
We have an edge that is just the set of people that surround me. Im an average race car driver, he said.
Its all about the people.
The Nashville, Tenn., native wasted no time this year, bursting from the gates to win the series February opener at Daytona.
As if the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series isnt enough to keep him busy, Hamilton still dabbles in the Busch Series this season, starting in five the 16 races this far and earning one top-10 finish. He last raced in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series in 2002, marking 12 full seasons on the circuit with winnings totaling over $15 million. Hamilton was the series rookie of the year in 1991.
Hamilton now focuses his time on driving his Dodge and managing the Bobby Hamilton Racing team in Mount Juliet, Tenn. BHR owns two other NCTS teams the No. 18 Dodge driven by Chase Montgomery and the No. 4 Baileys Dodge driven by Timothy Peters.
Photo by NASCAR.com
drives the No. 18 Dodge
for Bobby Hamiltons
Truck Series Team.
Hamilton balances his own driving with coaching his young drivers. I told them I would help them as much as they needed until race time, but once that green flag drops, they are another competitor out there to me, Hamilton told NASCAR.com.
This was clear last month at the Fort Worth 400K, where the BHR team saw a bizarre spell of bad luck. Hamilton and Montgomery were steadily climbing through the top 15 when teammate Peters brushed the wall, forcing a caution flag. Following the restart, Montgomery was just getting up to speed when a tap from Robert Huffman sent him directly into Hamilton.
Montgomerys No. 18 truck hit the inside wall and ricocheted against the outside wall before resting in the middle of the track and catching fire. Montgomery climbed out safely and was treated for a concussion at the local hospital and released.
That was the hardest hit of my life, said Montgomery of the incident. I have always heard that if you wreck at Texas it will hurt, and it did.
The wreck resulted in a 33rd place finish for Montgomery. Hamilton finished in 17th place, and Peters came in at 32nd.
Peters, a 24-year-old NCTS rookie who finished 25th at Michigan, is running the No. 4 car on a limited schedule this year. Peters is a 10-time World Kart Association Champion who won the late model track championship at the Orange County Speedway in his home state of North Carolina in 2002 and 2003.
Montgomery is 24th in the points standing after finishing 20th at Michigan. In his rookie season last year, Montgomery finished just 36 points shy of the top 20. Then 20 years old, he was the series youngest full-time driver.
This year, Mont-gomery moved from the BHR No. 8 truck to the teams No. 18 Dodge vacated by Chad Chaffin.
Distance: 150 laps, 225 miles (1.5-mile tri-oval)
Quali-fying: Sat., July 9, begins at 5 p.m. (2 laps)
Race: 8 p.m. (EDT) Sat., July 9
TV: SPEED Channel (live)
Admission: $20 Friday; $40-$70 Saturday. Gates open at 4:30 p.m. Friday; Noon on Saturday.
Also at the Speedway: ARCA RE/MAX Series Channel 5 150. (100 laps/150 miles) at 8 p.m. Friday. USAC Ford Focus Midget Series races at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Country star Billy Ray Cyrus performs at 6:30 p.m. Saturday on the B-105 Country Soundstage.
Drivers to Watch
Ted Musgrave, Franklin, Wis. Has won once and is third in points after 10 races.
Dennis Setzer, Newton, N.C. Won his first race of the season June 18 at Michigan.
Ricky Craven, Newburgh, Maine. The former Nextel Cup driver, backed by Roush Racing, is fourth in points.
Tim Steele, Coopersville, Mich.
Montgomery began racing go-karts at age 13 with his father and quickly graduated to 4-cylinder stock cars, then 4-cylinder modifieds, and NASCAR late models in quick succession. As a rookie on the ARCA RE/MAX Series in 2002, Montgomery finished fourth in the overall points standing. Clarence Brewer, owner of Brewco Racing, took note and signed Montgomery to seven races in the 2003 NASCAR Busch Series.
Montgomery averaged a 27th-place finish and soon caught Hamiltons attention.
Its a dream come true to drive for Bobby Hamilton, said Montgomery. I grew up watching Bobby make a name for himself in Middle Tennessee. Its not every day a kid gets to drive for his hero.
That hero and his team members are hoping for a repeat of last years Built Ford Tough 225 when Hamilton found his way into Victory Lane. Teammate Chaffin finished fifth and Montgomery moved up from a 24th start to a solid 20th-place finish.
On returning to Sparta, Ky., this month, Hamilton said he is optimistic but expects the tough competition to continue. He is especially concerned about Toyotas, which he said are low-drag trucks that perform well on fast, flat tracks.
If Hamilton is right, the race could shake up the points standing. Currently, there are no Toyotas in the top 10, but the manufacturer has seven trucks in the top 20.
In spite of the competition, Hamilton expects to have a good time. I love that race track, he said. Im not gonna do a back flip if I win (referring to the victory antics of Busch Series Carl Edwards), but well put on a pretty good show.