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Bobby Jr. finds solace on track
Jan 24, 2007 12:00 am
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Most people don't come to work to relax.
But Bobby Hamilton Jr. has found a respite on the track following the death of his father two weeks ago following a year-long bout with head and neck cancer.
"To come down here ... I swear it was the biggest relief when I put the window net up (and) went out," Hamilton Jr., said during a break in practice with Team Rensi Motorsports, the NASCAR Busch Series team he is rejoining this year after two years away. "It was like being on a beach somewhere by yourself because it was just my thoughts, my race car, ready to get back to work."
Hamilton is driving the No. 35 McDonald's Ford in the Busch Series this year. Driving with Team Rensi in 2004, Hamilton was eighth in points with 10 races left when he left to finish the season in a Nextel Cup ride for PPI Motorsports. But after a disappointing 2005, Hamilton took over his father's truck after Hamilton Sr. was diagnosed with cancer early last season. It was to be a substitute ride until his dad could return to his Mt. Juliet-based team.
Hamilton Sr. signed old friend and veteran racer Ken Schrader to be the primary driver for Bobby Hamilton Racing while Hamilton Jr. returned to Team Rensi.
"(My dad) would pat me on the back and say 'your name is my legacy' Winning races is what I need to do', and that's what I'm trying to do," Hamilton said. "I'm glad to be back. I walked into the garage and told my wife (Stephanie) 'this is where I'm supposed to be'. Pretty much my whole career has been in the Busch Series. It's just relaxing (to be back) due to everything we've been dealing with.
"I get up every day with (my dad's) name. As long as I have a job, you go across that stage and wave to the fans and they hear that name. They know."
Meanwhile back in Mt. Juliet, BHR prepares for another Craftsman Truck Season without the company's founder.
"We at Bobby Hamilton Racing are continuing operations with a team of people hand-selected by Bobby Hamilton Sr.," the company said in a press release. "This is the same team of people who helped Bobby Sr. win his NCTS championship title in 2004. The teams and our sponsors, Fastenal and Dodge, continued commitment is evident by the recent successful performance during testing at Daytona. During the past season, we have had the full support from Fastenal and Dodge who were supportive during Bobby's battle with cancee as well as his plan for continuing operations at BHR in his absence. We have so many members of the NASCAR, Fastenal and Dodge family, as well as personal friends and family members who have confidence in Bobby Hamilton Racing's success in 2007 and beyond.
"We wish that same success to Bobby Jr."
Cooper has new driver in No. 27
Back at Daytona, Mt. Juliet native Stewart Cooper is back as crew chief for the No. 27 Kleenex Ford in the Busch Series, but with a different driver.
Ward Burton will drive Brewco Motorsports' flagship car for over half the season. He takes the wheel from David Green, who left the team in the middle of the 2006 season, and Casey Atwood, who finished the year on an interim basis.
While Cooper calls the shots from the pit box, another Mt. Juliet resident will also be in the crew. John Reese is the jackman.