It was slated to be a full season of Stadium Super Truck racing around America’s premier road courses for Davey Hamilton Jr. this year.
Unfortunately, during the second race during the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach in April, Hamilton reaggravated a T4 spinal fracture he suffered at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway in 2017.
“I landed, (it) didn’t seem like I landed wrong, it didn’t feel wrong, you still have 30-inch shock travel, so you don’t really think you’re going to get hurt,” Hamilton Jr. said.
“It must’ve been just perfect. It was a jolt up my spine and actually knocked the wind out of me, but I kept going,” Hamilton continued. “I didn’t stop and I kept hitting jumps. I was just in dying pain. Halfway through the race, I actually stopped hitting the jumps and just started going around them.”
After getting examined by IndyCar Series doctors in Indianapolis, it was determined that Hamilton’s injury mirrored his fracture from five years earlier.
Once he learned of the news, Hamilton Jr. sought out to find a safe way to still pilot his No. 14 machine.
“Talking with Stadium Super Trucks (officials), we were trying to figure out a way to change the seat up to add more padding, to put springs in the seat,” Hamilton said.
Though after considerable thought, Hamilton Jr. felt that the risk wasn’t worth the reward.
“We were trying to come up with a way, it just kind of ended up being a result of ‘this is just too much to jeopardize ending my career if I land wrong again’” Hamilton Jr. said.
Fortunately, his spinal injury won’t keep Hamilton from short-track competition.
“My doctors are perfectly fine with me racing the pavement stuff that I have going on right now because it’s not a lot of compression,” Hamilton said.
With getting the OK from the doctors to drive, Hamilton has been thrown into the fire with competing in various types of cars, including pavement midgets, non-winged sprint cars, winged sprint cars and USAC Silver Crown cars on pavement.
“When it comes to Silver Crown racing, midget racing, non-winged sprint car racing, my confidence is still gaining,” Hamilton said. “Just trying to get built up, but my speed’s there. That’s what’s really important. I think I said this toward the end of last year it was, ‘I want to go for a podium, I want to go for a win first, in Silver Crown.’ I think that we have a car that we’re learning, it’s new to us, and we’re figuring it out.”
The figuring out process sometimes comes in larger doses. The second-generation driver is slated to compete in three different classes on Thursday at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park (IRP), including the 25-lap USAC Silver Crown Shootout, paying $2,500 to the winner.
Once he’s finished at IRP on Thursday night, Hamilton will hit the road to do more racing.
“As soon as the race is over, we’re driving to Denver, Colorado, and I’m racing a winged sprint car out there Saturday and Sunday, for the same team that I’m driving for at IRP, in a whole different car,” Hamilton said.
Hopping from car to car is no easy task, however Hamilton Jr. is finding the limits of each car, gaining more confidence as the weeks go on.
“It’s totally different, I think of a midget like a giant go-kart almost with how those things drive,” Hamilton Jr. said. “That’s new to me as well. I haven’t been in a midget in at least four years. When I have driven the midget in the past, it’s always been on a really short track. Now I’m at a half-mile, going against the guys that have plenty of laps around here (IRP). That’s just something I have to get used to.
“As far as jumping in and out of each different car to get in the next, you kind of just learn,” Hamilton Jr. continued. “Everything has their own different ability. For example, a silver crown car, that thing is so heavy and full of fuel that you got to take it easy on tires, take it easy on braking entering the corner. You don’t want to just send it in there, because all that weight can put you in the wall real quick compared to the sprint car when you have over half left amount of fuel. The weight difference is insane. It’s different, but at the same time, when you’re racing so much in all those cars, you kind of just learn your limits in each thing.”
Testing the limits while traveling across the country for 60-plus races in a year can be taxing for any team and driver.
For Davey Hamilton Racing, the turnaround between each event has been non-existent according to the 25-year-old.
“I feel like there is no turnaround,” Hamilton said. “I feel like we’re like a World of Outlaws team, but with multiple different cars, and different locations just for pavement. There really isn’t a ‘Oh we have a day off to do something or a day off to relax.’ It’s like, ‘We got to hurry up, get home, unload the cars, go through them all as fast as we can, with the time frame that we have, getting tires mounted,’ just to turn right back around to go to the next track.”
Despite a massively busy schedule, Hamilton Jr. and the team make it work week in and week out.
With this season being their first full slate of racing in a couple years, Hamilton Jr. and the Davey Hamilton Racing team have been churning out ways to gain speed.
By the end of the year, Hamilton hopes his growth in various aspects will help propel the team to where he believes they can be.
“We’ve been out of it for a couple years, so we don’t know all of these new tricks that these guys have,” Hamilton Jr. said. “We’re just now starting to figure that out. I’m really positive and hopeful that by the end of the season, I’m going to be happy with where I end up from any standpoint. Just trying to stay consistent, be there at the end, and try not to have too many mistakes, and hopefully get some wins this year.”