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NASCAR WCUP: Deeply saddened, Hamilton moves on to Rockingham

Posted By Terry Callahan
Motorsports Editor, The Auto Channel
CHARLOTTE, N.C.,- The 43rd annual Daytona 500, the first race for Bobby Hamilton in the Square D Chevrolet proved to be an outstanding one as the pilot crossed the checkered flag with a top-ten finish.

"We were fast all day. I did what I usually do here in Daytona (Fla.), just ride and be patient," said Hamilton. "At one time, I drove right through the center of the pack and our horsepower enabled the Square D Chevrolet to fly right by, which is very unusual for this race. In Saturday's happy hour, we changed the gear and judging by our finish, we made the right choice.

"I had complete confidence in this Andy Petree Racing Team to put us up front. The race came as no surprise to me that we finished where we did. I knew that if I could stay out of trouble, we had the horsepower to finish in the top 15, but this was a little more than I asked for in Daytona. I'm looking forward to a great season with Square D and APR."

With minimal cautions, and only minor adjustments in tire pressure during the race, Hamilton was able to power the Square D Chevy through the pack. Fortunately, he was in the right place at the right time and missed the 19-car pile up on the backstretch.

In the final 25-lap shoot out, Hamilton battled his way into the top 10. The 8th place finish was a career best for Hamilton at Daytona and for Square D as well. Hamilton started 35th, and picked up an impressive 27 positions.

Deeply saddened by the death of seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series Champion, Dale Earnhardt, the Square D Racing Team moves into Rockingham (N.C.) with thoughts and prayers for the NASCAR legend and his family.

"I'm numb, I feel nothing. We have lost our Elvis Presley," said Hamilton. "This man carried our sport after Richard Petty left. I'm concerned that this weekend we're going to walk into Rockingham and there's not going to be a No. 3 there, or maybe in the weeks to come there will be someone else in that black car. It's not proper and I'm having a hard time accepting it.

"Nature has taken its course and we have to look for a reason. He was a racer that we all loved. You know I always said if you look up the definition of racer in the dictionary, Dale Earnhardt's picture should have been beside it. He was one true 100% race car driver. He had a complete passion for racing that we all admired. "Dale always said when asked about the safety issues, do you want to race or cry about it? He would then add that he wanted to race. There are times that I would be so mad at him after an accident, but I respected him and knew that was racing. I have had confrontations with Dale and he admitted to me that he was sorry it happened, and it shouldn't have happened, but he got so caught up in the race in the heat of the moment that it happened. I know that he was as hard of a racer as they come. I have complete respect for him and what he has brought to our sport."

Hamilton, a native to Victory Lane at Rockingham in 1997, focuses his sights on another victory for himself, and the first for the Square D Racing Team.

"In the last races at Rockingham we've had some top-10 finishes. It has always been a real comfortable racetrack for me," said Hamilton. "We're always excited about going there and trying for a repeat trip to Victory Lane. Our team just has to get qualified. I've not always had my best starts at Rockingham, but once that green flag drops, it's to the front from there."

Text Provided By Lori Shuler

Editors Note: To view hundreds of hot racing photos and art, visit The Racing Photo Museum and the Visions of Speed Art Gallery.