By Dan Stillwell
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Racing fans expect to see Eddie Hambrick’s name in the Top 5 of each Fastrak Crates Late Model race at Beckley Motorsports Park.
This season alone, he has three victories, two seconds and a third at BMP and other state tracks. Last year, he was Beckley’s Crates champion.
So it’s hard to believe he once struggled to get a checkered flag.
“I started racing Open-Wheel Modifieds back in 1992, and I didn’t win my first feature until 1995,” Hambrick said. “We went for a long time after that without winning another.”
Through it all, he refused to get discouraged. He was learning each race and keeping his car in one piece. Better things would be ahead.
“We weren’t getting tore up, and we were content because we knew what we were up against as far as competition,” he said. “We were running against guys like Hubie Hatfield, who had won 54 races in one year.
“Good competition only makes you better as a driver. You have to keep your equipment up, run good, consistent races, be patient and not get anything torn up.”
Gary Anderson, a racer turned car owner, hired Hambrick in 1998 to run a steel-block Late Model. That was the turning point.
Hambrick became more aggressive. He began running a high line at the top and success followed.
“You’re more aggressive when you’re driving for someone else,” he said. “The budget isn’t coming out of your pocket. It made things a whole lot better for me.”
Eventually, he began racing his own car again. He and his father, Ed Hambrick, each have a racer. Ed had started bringing his son to the track in 1974.
“Dad still runs, hit and miss, every now and then,” Hambrick said. “He’s Ed Hambrick, and I go by Eddie.
“My dad likes the old school stuff. He likes making his own things, and he likes simple things.”
Eddie has bought in to some of that philosophy as well.
“I’ve learned to go back to the basics and not be so complicated with what we do with our set-ups”
But above all, Hambrick likes to keep that high line on the track.
“I like the high side, and when it’s not there, it drives me crazy,” he said. “I like being on top of the track.
“With these Crate cars, you need a lot of momentum to keep them going, the straighter you can drive a race car, the better it is.”
Last weekend kept having to run low at Princeton. Beckley driver Rick Williams finally passed him and looked on his way to a win.
Fortunately for Hambrick, the caution lights came on.
When the green flag fell again, Hambrick jumped to the top and stayed there, capturing the race.
“It was luck, because of that caution,” he said. “Rick would have beaten us.”
More than many other local drivers, Hambrick is blessed with sponsors — C. Adam Tony Tires (where he has worked the past 27 years), Cooper Tires, Crossroad Chevrolet, City Wrecker Service, Hawks Racing Engines, Rocket Chassis, Hambrick Construction and Campbell Tire.
“We try to be good to everybody, and they’re good to us,” he said. “We’re fortunate to have sponsors.”
He also gives a lot of credit to his crew, which includes his dad, plus Max Harvey, Jim Wadsworth and Bo Larocco.
“I couldn’t do it without these guys. They’re dedicated, and we get it done,” he said. “Win or lose, they’re still on my side.”
Together, they make a formidable team.
“This year we’re racing consistently,” Hambrick said. “The car is running good every night. Qualifying is the key.”
Hambrick competed Friday night in the first leg of the Eighth Annual Fastrak Triple Crown at BMP. He was sixth in his preliminary heat. Feature results were not available at press time.
— E-mail: dstillwell