Busch series driver Hamilton visits Danville factory

June 18, 2004|JILL ERWIN

There were so many other things Bobby Hamilton Jr. could have been doing Thursday.

The NASCAR Busch series driver could have been meeting with his crew and working on ways to defend his title in Saturday night's Meijer 300 at Kentucky Speedway.

He could have been spending the time with his wife and dog.

Or he could have been sitting in an air-conditioned vehicle, heading toward the Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.

Instead, as the temperatures hovered in the mid-80s, Hamilton sat in front of the Timberland plant here for over an hour and alternated between scrawling his autograph across a promotional photo and having his picture taken with Timberland employees and their families.

"When you can take two hours out of the day and they shut down the whole plant for them to just come out here and see the show car and for us to sign stuff for them, it's pretty cool," Hamilton said.


"The bottom line is, the employees are what makes Timberland Pro. Without their hard work, they're not going to have the shoes and great clothing line, so they reward their employees and I'm just proud to be a part of it."

Timberland is a sponsor of his racing team

Timberland is a secondary sponsor for Hamilton's Team Marine Racing Ford Taurus, and Hamilton said he enjoyed meeting the people that help make the sponsorship possible.

Hamilton knows that people form a devoted relationship with the drivers they choose to support, and that he races for them. But he said he also takes extreme pride in representing the Marines.

"To see the things the Marines go through in boot camp and keeping us safe, it's amazing you can groom people to do that," Hamilton said. "I can't even imagine spending a night out in the forest just camping, let alone being out there surviving for your life plus keeping us free. The fans see it, and that's why they cheer every time they see the car. They really support the Marines and it's just a big honor to have your name tied into it."

Hamilton is looking forward to trying to be the first Busch driver to win consecutive races at Kentucky Speedway. He won last year's Meijer 300 and set a track record by reaching 136.123 miles per hour during the race. His first victory last year was in Sparta, and Hamilton said he's been saving the car that won last year so he could run it again Saturday.

"We've been trying to load our gun up for this one race right here," Hamilton said. "It's a completely different race, though. You've got different tires, it's a different year, the track's a little bit older so it's going to lose a little bit of its grip. It's the same race, same name, same laps, same place but it's all different scenario."

He's sitting in fourth right now

Hamilton finished fourth in the Busch series last year, and is sitting in fourth this year. But he's been strong in the past few races, finishing in the top five in four of his past six races. Before last week's 23rd place finish in Nashville, he had finished in the top 15 in six straight races.

That success helps win him fans, but so do the opportunities to get out and meet people. Hamilton said the accessibility of NASCAR drivers is key to the racing circuit continuing to grow.

"That's what NASCAR's always been from the beginning: a family-oriented sport," Hamilton said. "A lot of times we don't get the time to do the things we want to do, but the sponsors schedule things through the year where you get a chance to meet people."

Hamilton is a family-oriented person. His wife, Stephanie, and their pet Yorkie, Coco, made the trip to Timberland with him from their home in White House, Tenn. He said the worst part of his job is being away from his family, but one of his favorite parts is seeing the support of the fans he meets.

"Out of all the little cars in the world and all the drivers, these people went out and got stuff that has your name on it or your sponsors that they're working for," Hamilton said. "You see so many people that are just like 'Hey, what's going on over there?' and they stop. But when they bring out stuff they've bought or that they've been wearing and you can tell it's been worn plumb out, that's probably the coolest part."

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