Stephanie (Cantrell) Hamilton is the wife of NASCAR driver Bobby Hamilton, Jr. They met at Highland Rim Speedway just north of Nashville in Greenbrier, Tenn., where Stephanie grew up. She was a trophy girl at the track when Bobby raced there for the first time at age 14. The pair became friends and over the years dated other people but continued to see each other frequently at races.
Bobby: She cared about racing "instead of going to the prom and (stuff) like that. No matter who we were going out with they wouldn't go to the race track with us." [The Gazette (Colorado Springs), July 23, 2003]
In 2002, the longterm couple was considering a post-season wedding, but after arriving at their pre-season vacation destination they spontaneously took the plunge on Jan. 29 in Gatlinburg, Tenn.
Bobby: "Stephanie and I just decided we didn't want to wait any longer. We love each other and have no doubts that we were meant to be together. She has been a big part of my life for many years. We were best friends that fell in love. It doesn't get much better than that, so why wait? We found this little chapel decorated as fancy western saloon, where we could dress up in old-fashioned western-style outfits. We both thought it would be a hoot! Why follow convention when you can make it so much fun?"
Stephanie plays an important role in Bobby's racing career.
Bobby: "I really couldn't do this without her. I mean, have you SEEN my wife on top of the pit box yelling every week? Believe me, if I mess up during a race and lose a position or two, I hear about it afterwards. And I listen to her. I take that advice and trust what she says. If something were to happen to me tomorrow, I would be so thankful I had her as my wife and that we had such a beautiful daughter together."
Having been around racing her whole life as a spectator only, Stephanie had developed her own desires of getting behind the wheel of a race car. In 2002, with the full support of her husband and family, Stephanie was to make her own racing debut in Carthage, Tenn.
Her dream was not meant to be. During testing two days prior to the Jr. Latemodel Division event at Riverview Speedway, the first-time racer ran ten laps with the pedal to the metal before hitting the wall head-on and suffering a broken kneecap. Bobby immediately declared her racing days over.
The family eatery
The Hamiltons also own and operate The Court House Café located on the courthouse square in downtown Springfield, Tenn. The café has a racing theme with a black and white checkered floor, red and yellow booths with an assortment of racing photos and memorabilia decorating the walls. The country cooking features a daily Bobby's special of meat-and-three. Stephanie's mom, Jackie, who used to work at the courthouse, handles the day-to-day responsibility of the restaurant.