Hamilton steps up
Team Rensi Motorsports nearly closed its doors after Memphis but showed up at Texas without sponsorship for its Ford. The team did, however, have financial backing, thanks to driver Bobby Hamilton Jr
While he's not exactly sure what the final number will be, Hamilton told the team's owners that he'd spend up to $380,000 out of pocket so the team could run the year's final three races.
"It wasn't a tough decision," Hamilton said at Texas. "As far as the financial side of it, I could sit home and save money -- it would have been a whole lot cheaper -- and still kept looking for a job. But this deal is far from over with.
"They're in negotiations with sponsors, they're talking to people and there's people calling. NASCAR is one of the biggest places that [sponsors] want to be in. If we would have shut down, we'd have knocked all of those chances out. The best thing we could have done is do what we've done."
While Hamilton isn't exactly having a banner season -- just one top-5 and two top-10s -- he sits 15th in points and the team is solidly in the top 30 in the owners' standings. That guarantees the team a berth in the first five races next year, a spot it would lose if the team fails to attempt one of the remaining races this season.
That means a lot to a team as it searches for sponsors, even though there's a chance car counts will be down next season. Still, that wasn't enough motivation to keep the team going without additional funding.
"Ed Rensi has spent millions and millions of dollars of his own and he just couldn't do it no more," Hamilton said. "We're fortunate enough to be in a situation where I could, so we had to be here. Sitting home ain't me. It's going to cost me some money to do it, but I want to race."
It wasn't a decision Hamilton made lightly, either.
"I'm not one of these people who pays for anything. I think a driver needs to be put in a seat because of the credibility of a driver and what the driver can bring you," Hamilton said. "I'm not buying nothing -- I'm keeping my team alive. I didn't have a choice -- they were going to let my guys go. At the end of the year, we don't have anything. But right now, we have a team that's capable of running from 12th to 15th to 10th every week; I just didn't see the need to let that go."
Allmendinger running at PIR
With 50 entries for Saturday's Hefty Odor Block 200 at Phoenix International Raceway, qualifying will take on additional importance. One of the drivers needing to make the race on time will be AJ Allmendinger
, who will be in Gillett Evernham Motorsports' No. 9 Dodge.
was on the initial entry list, but it was a foregone conclusion he wouldn't be in that car as he parted ways with GEM a month ago.
, who won at PIR in April in a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, will be in Braun Racing's No. 32 Camry as he goes for his record-setting 11th win.