Yes, he's quite tall enough to enlist in his sponsoring Marine Corps, but that's in his stocking feet. When he pulls on his driving shoes, he turns into a virtual leviathan on the racetrack-somebody whose red-hooded car you don't want in your rear-view mirror.

That's Bobby Hamilton Jr., 26-year-old driver of the Team Rensi/Marine Corps No. 25 Ford in the NASCAR Busch Series.

A second generation racer-the son of Craftsman Truck Series driver and entrepreneur Bobby Hamilton-Junior is hoping to continue last year's success in the Busch Series and eventually move into Nextel Cup competition.

Continued success? Indeed, Hamilton had the most wins of any driver in the Busch Series last year with four triumphs and a close Fourth Place in the series standings.

NASCAR thought so much of his success it made him the centerpiece on the front of the series media guide. There he is, arms upraised in triumph, as he takes aim on 2004 to try and justify the media picking him as the favorite for the title.

"That's actually not a burden," young Hamilton says of the nod in his direction. "That stuff goes right off our backs. The cool thing is when my guys heard that, all of a sudden we went from being on schedule with our race cars to being 4 or 5 cars ahead at the shop because they're just busting their tails and sticking out their chests when they hear it.

"Anybody will tell you if you don't have the development, you're not gonna win the race. It's a confidence builder."

Quite naturally, racing is all young Hamilton can remember. As a youngster, he watched his dad compete in Late Models before moving up. Then in 1993 he came home from school one day to find a blue and white '71 Ford Pinto parked in his driveway-a race car gift from his dad.

"He was interested in racing, and I told him if he kept his grades up I'd give him that car to race," says Bobby Hamilton Sr. "And I figured if he was interested in a car and working with it, he wouldn't be hanging out with the wrong crowds."

The son began to rise. In only his second year he won the track championship at Highland Rim Speedway near his Tennessee home, and by 1998 had graduated to the ARCA Series where he had four Top 5's in five starts. Following that, under the guidance of his father, young Hamilton tested the Busch Series in a couple of races.

But did he ever consider another career prior to that? "No," says Hamilton Jr. "I used to play baseball a lot, though, in high school and at a park where they had different recreation leagues as I was growing up."

The racing bug interfered with any other pursuits, however. "Racing was what I wanted to do," he says. "It wasn't just an easy deal where my dad handed me a checkbook and said, 'go racing.' I had to pay my own way, get a summer job to help pay the way, and keep my grades up while I was still in school."

Eventually he got his taste of the big time, first in ARCA and then with some borderline Busch rides, but somebody-namely Ed Rensi-was watching.

Rensi may not be familiar to the average race fan, but most of us are familiar with his former products: a Big Mac and fries. Rensi worked his way from sweeping floors at McDonald's to CEO of the fast-food giant where, during his 14 years, he also became friends and a sponsor of the drag cars of a successful owner from another field, Joe Gibbs.

Rensi left McDonald's in 1998 because his wife Kathleen had to have a kidney transplant, and he then devoted time to his family. Later, though, he and his brother Sam, formerly vice president of research and development for Remington Arms Company, turned a hobby into a business by going racing.