JOLIET, Ill., (July 15, 2001) - The Square D Racing Team's ability to overcome obstacles was put to the test at the inaugural Tropicana 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. With a series of misfortunes and numerous changes to the No. 55 Chevrolet, the...
JOLIET, Ill., (July 15, 2001) - The Square D Racing Team's ability to overcome obstacles was put to the test at the inaugural Tropicana 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. With a series of misfortunes and numerous changes to the No. 55 Chevrolet, the team worked together to finish in 30th position.
The first caution of the day came on lap 22 when Mike Skinner hit the wall. At that point, Hamilton had fallen back to 40th stating the Chevy was loose entering the turns and tight coming off. Jimmy Elledge called for Hamilton to come in for four tires and fuel. Hamilton's left front tire was going flat causing him to feel loose.
NASCAR called for a mandatory caution on lap 40 for teams to make any necessary changes. As the sun beat down on the racetrack, Hamilton said the car seemed to be getting tight. The Square D Racing Team chose to raise the track bar and adjust the tire pressure under the yellow flag.
By lap 102, a few earlier laps than projected, Hamilton radioed that his car was sputtering from a low fuel level. Under a series of green flag pit stops, Hamilton brought the Square D Chevy in immediately for fuel. The team changed two right side tires and pulled a rubber out of the right rear spring in an attempt to loosen the car.
Steve Park hit the wall on lap 136 bringing out the next caution. Hamilton stated that only 20% of the problem was fixed, so more adjustments were needed. During a routine stop, the team took two rounds of wedge out of the left rear.
Shortly after Park's incident, on lap 150, Ron Hornaday came off the pace causing yet another caution in the 267-lap event. The team took full advantage of the time they now had to soften up the right rear spring. NASCAR rules state that an adjustment of this nature must be made behind the pit wall, so the team called for Hamilton to spin the car around in the garage area entrance. Fixing the problem in just 29.5 seconds, Hamilton was back out on the track without even losing another lap.
On lap 223, Hamilton radioed that he had a bad vibration and needed to come in for a pit stop. For the second time in the Tropicana 400, he had a hole in the left front tire. The team's unfortunate luck cost them two more laps. Only four laps later a caution flag was thrown when Jeff Burton blew a right front tire.
The last pit stop of the day came when Jeff Green's engine expired and Todd Bodine spun in two separate accidents. Hamilton brought the Square D Chevy in for two right-side Goodyear Eagles and a wedge adjustment in the left rear.
Although they had higher expectations for the inaugural event, the team worked hard to overcome adversity by bringing the Chevy home only three laps down in 30th position.
"I said when we came to this race after the Daytona (Fla.) accident that we needed a good run. Sometimes things don't work in our favor– like the flat tires, but to see how fast this team can change things around amazes me," Hamilton said. "I don't think there's anything they can't do in record time. Jimmy does a great job getting these boys rallied around making this car work so I can race. It is great to see the teamwork around me and know that I have the support it takes to finish in the best position I can. I'm looking forward to the race next weekend because they've always been pretty competitive there. We're ready to turn this thing around in New Hampshire."
Kevin Harvick won his second race of the 2001 Winston Cup Series season. Robert Pressley, Ricky Rudd, Dale Jarrett and Jimmy Spencer followed in the top five. After Sunday's race, Hamilton stands 17th in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series points battle. The Square D Racing Team will return to racing in New Hampshire for the New England 300 on Sun., July 22 at 1:30 p.m. EST. TNT will broadcast the race live.