End Near For Mcclure Hamilton

MARTNSVILLE, Va. -- The pair won at Martinsville Speedway in only their eighth race together in 1998. But can Winston Cup Series driver Bobby Hamilton and team owner Larry McClure go to victory lane once again with only six races to go before the two part ways at the end of the season?

For Hamilton, who started seventh in Sunday’s NAPA 500 at Martinsville and finished 35th, he wants badly to end the No. 4 car’s 87-race loosing streak and go out on a winning note.

"I’d like to win (and) we’re damn sure going to try," said Hamilton, who has posted only one top-10 finish in 2000. "Every time people make a change, they say, ‘He’s given up’ or ‘He doesn’t care anymore.’ I’m not that way. I’d like to duplicate the situation I had with Richard Petty. We made the announcement at Darlington that I was going to Morgan-McClure and then we won at Rockingham. It gives you a little more self respect and the car owners remember stuff like that."

Hamilton will drive in 2001 for team owner Andy Petree, while McClure is still studying his driver options for next year.

But McClure says that both he and Hamilton are committed to one another through the season’s end, and neither are giving up hope of picking up a win to salvage what has most certainly been a rough year.

"Bobby’s got something to prove, and we’ve got something to prove too," McClure said. "We need to run good this last leg of the season. This is a good car and it’s won a lot of races. The team has won a lot of races. I hope people know I’m real serious about what we do. We’re as serious as the Hendrick or Childress or Yates organizations or Roush or whoever. This is a good race team. We’ve stumbled, but we haven’t fallen. We’re getting back up. We can win a lot of races."

With the best qualifying effort of the 2000 season for Hamilton on Sunday, McClure said he couldn't image that his car couldn't be a contender at Martinsville.

"Martinsville is one of Bobby’s better tracks, and we should have a real good chance here," McClure said on Saturday. "You get frustrated when you know you have a good car and a good driver but you’re not winning. You just have to keep working and work through it. We’ve had things happen to us this year that ordinarily have never happened. Hopefully, we’ve got all that behind us. We’re focused. Everybody is working hard, and everybody is pumped up. That’s what you’ve got to have. You’ve got to have teamwork and have people pulling for each other. Then you can get it done.

"If Bobby’s got the confidence that he can beat these guys, then we can beat ‘em. That’s the way I feel. I know he’s got confidence, but he’s got to know he’s got a good enough horse under him to beat these guys. If he can do that, I think we’ve got a good chance."

So has McClure been able to narrow down his search for a driver next season?

"We’ve probably had 20 or 25 people calling wanting to drive the car," McClure said. "There’s three or four people who could do us a good job. There are always gray areas. It’s a little bit of a calculated guess on how a mix will work. When I hired a couple of my previous drivers, they had never won. We got them in the car and they started winning races. I’ve got to replace my driver with a fast driver. Bobby is a quality driver, and I’ve got to get a quality driver with the desire to win. I want him to feel like he’s King Kong.

"These guys who are capable of winning are pretty cocky people. You’ve got to expect a guy to be frustrated when he doesn’t win. That’s what I want. I want somebody that’s mad if they don’t win every race. I’m mad. I’ve got to find me a diamond in the rough probably. It’d be tough to take someone from another series. We’ve looked at a couple, but I think we can get somebody with leadership and bring them on pretty quickly."

There is also the chance McClure has to be in the market for a new crew chief as well, as current crew chief Danny Gill is still undecided of whether he will stay or go.

"I think he wants to stay here. His desire is to be a crew chief," McClure said. "He’s found out it’s not a piece of cake over here. He’s found out there’s a lot of competition and a lot of good people. He’s a bright young man and we want to keep him. I’ve given him a few races to make up his mind and make sure he wants to stay over here. I think he does. I know he wants to win. It’s bad when you come from a division (truck series) where you’re used to winning and then come over here and you’re treated like everybody else when you’re not winning. He might be one of those diamonds in the rough. He’s shown a lot of ability and we like what we see."

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