Pit Strategy Helps Hamilton to Best Finish of the Year MARTINSVILLE, Va. (April 8, 2001) - Pit strategy played an important role in the Virginia 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway as driver Bobby Hamilton and the Square D Racing Team led the...
Pit Strategy Helps Hamilton to Best Finish of the Year
MARTINSVILLE, Va. (April 8, 2001) - Pit strategy played an important role in the Virginia 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway as driver Bobby Hamilton and the Square D Racing Team led the most laps before taking fourth place--their highest finish of the season. Hamilton gained five bonus points for the NASCAR Winston Cup points battle after leading 130 laps of the 500-lap race, more than any other competitor. Hamilton also won bonus money for leading the race at the halfway point.
But 500 laps on an unusually warm April Sunday took its toll, especially after Hamilton's air conditioner failed. The exhaustion was evident as Hamilton climbed from the car following the event, but that didn't stop him from praising the crew.
"We had good pit strategy the first time, but the next time the other guys did. I'm impressed with this car today," Hamilton said as he sat on the back of the No. 55 hauler after the race with a cold rag on his face. "We were fast - about a half a tenth quicker than the fastest car, but we're just back too far.
"The racetrack got so black at the end and that's what we saw yesterday in happy hour practice. The shocks built up a lot of gas pressure and the tires built up a lot of pressure as well making it greasy. This morning we changed everything on the car except the mirrors and I think that was the right decision. I'm continually happy with this team; they make my job a lot easier. We're 99.7% on our laps completed percentage and that's a good place to be after the eighth race."
In the beginning of the 500-lap event Hamilton was held up in traffic and unable to drive the Square D Chevy to the front. So on the third caution of the day, crew chief Jimmy Elledge called for Hamilton to stay out while others came in for tires and fuel. This helped the driver to maneuver the car to first. And there he stayed lap after lap, even past the halfway mark. By lap 310, however, Hamilton's tires were starting to lose grip. He dropped back to 16th position before the yellow flag came out. For Hamilton, it was in the nick of time. The Square D Chevy had traveled 167 laps on the same set of Goodyear Eagles, and was only three laps from running out of gas.
The pit crew went to work with a fast stop for four tires and fuel while Hamilton placed a cold rag around his neck to help with the heat, which became stifling after the air conditioner broke in the No. 55 Chevy. On lap 412, when another caution was thrown for a spin in turn three, Elledge called for Bobby to come back into the pits for fresh Goodyear Eagles, while others opted to stay out for the duration of the event. With fresh tires, Hamilton sliced through the field. The strategy helped Hamilton gain 12 positions, putting the Square D Chevy in fourth at the checkered flag.
Dale Jarrett won the Virginia 500-his second straight victory. . Ricky Rudd was second, followed by Jeff Burton and Hamilton. Sterling Marlin was fifth.