Hamilton Undaunted By Pocono
July 24, 2002 | 12:00 A.M. EST
Hamilton started 26th but raced his way to the 12th position during the June 9 NASCAR Winston Cup Series Pocono 500 before engine problems relegated Hamilton to a 27th-place finish.
That performance in last month’s event at the 2.5-mile, triangular-shaped track has Hamilton and his No. 55 Chevy team brimming with confidence for this Sunday’s Pennsylvania 500.
“We needed the time to grow at that track,” Hamilton said. “It seemed like last year we would miss the set-up on flat tracks, but by the end of the race we would be running some fast laps. This time it is a whole different ballgame.
“Now we know what it takes to run fast there during the race, so we’ll go with it. In practice, we can take what we started and make that even better. This team normally struggles with racetracks like Pocono, but I think we’ve figured something out.”
Hamilton, who currently sits 26th in the Winston Cup points standings, finished 33rd and 29th, respectively, in the two races held at Pocono last season. He has two career top-10 finishes at Pocono in 22 starts there.
Hamilton said he and crew chief Jimmy Elledge, who rejoined the team a couple of months ago, are beginning to jell again.
“I think the main thing here is trust,” Hamilton said. “I drove Jimmy crazy earlier because he wanted to talk to me about the car we were taking this weekend. I kept changing the subject when he would bring up that he ran this car on a chassis dyno. I could tell he wanted me to ask him what the numbers were compared to other cars, but I never did. Finally, we got off the phone and he still never told me what he kept hinting around that he wanted me to know.
“I trust him as my crew chief. I trust his judgment on calls and on what he hears in the garage area. If I spent all my time wandering around backtracking all the things Jimmy has done to help this team, I’d be here forever. Instead I show up at the track and go with what he thinks is the best option for me to have at that place. That is what a good racing combination is made of in our sport.
“We have to learn to trust the people that are behind us every weekend. Working with Jimmy for the past two years has really helped me learn that, but I know he knows what he is doing or he wouldn’t have made it this far. Our sport can eat people up. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, so it takes a lot to trust people. But I genuinely think that this team can win a race this year. Who knows, maybe even more than one. But for now, I’ll keep playing the role of driver and let him play the role of crew chief.”
Qualifying for the Pennsylvania 500 is set for 3:05 p.m. ET Friday. The race is scheduled to get under way on Sunday shortly after 1 p.m. ET.