Once Again Pit Strategy Helps Hamilton Finish 15th SONOMA, Calif., (June 24, 2001)& ...
Once Again Pit Strategy Helps Hamilton Finish 15th
SONOMA, Calif., (June 24, 2001)– Bobby Hamilton and the Square D Racing Team worked overtime at Sears Point Raceway, grabbing several positions in the final laps to finish 15th in the Dodge/Save Mart 350.
The first road course race of the 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup season proved to be an immediate challenge for the No. 55 Chevrolet when the transmission got stuck in first gear on lap five. Hamilton brought the car to the pits so the team could fix the transmission, a problem that plagued the team for the second week in a row.
After this problem was fixed, Hamilton returned to the race on the tail end of the lead lap, just ahead of leader Jeff Gordon. Gordon made a deal with Hamilton to let him pass in order to hold off the other contenders for the first position. In return, Hamilton would be able to pass Gordon back to regain his lap if a caution flag was thrown. Gordon and Robby Gordon, running second, passed Hamilton on lap 29. On lap 32, a yellow flag was thrown. Robby Gordon let Hamilton by, but Jeff Gordon reneged on his agreement and held Hamilton off, causing him to lose one lap.
The team regrouped and added four tires and fuel to Hamilton’s Chevy on his next stop. During the first caution lap, Hamilton missed the pit road entrance because he was working with a switch inside his car. Lapped cars usually pit on the second caution lap at oval racetracks, but the rules for road courses are different, with all cars pitting at the same time. This miscue set him further back.
On lap 41, Hamilton radioed that the gear was stuck for the second time. The team made another quick stop and sent him back on the track without losing another lap.
A yellow flag was thrown on lap 51 when Steve Park’s Chevy stalled in turn seven. The Square D Racing Team opted to stay out, trying to gain track position. The four leaders gambled and did not pit. These four cars had to pit under the green flag only a few laps later, enabling Bobby to maneuver the No. 55 Chevy back on the tail end of the lead lap.
The caution flag on lap 93 came with perfect timing for the Square D Racing Team. It gave the team a chance to pit for minor changes. One pound of air was removed from the left rear tire to counteract the car’s looseness. At this point Hamilton was in 25th position.
With only 11 laps to go in the 112-lap race, a caution came out and Elledge called Hamilton in for four fresh Goodyear Eagles and gas for the final shootout. Elledge told Hamilton on the radio, "This is memories of Martinsville. Tires will pay off now on this restart."
The restart came on lap 105 and Hamilton passed 10 cars to grab the checkered flag in 15th spot. Tony Stewart won the first road course of the 2001 Winston Cup Season. Robby Gordon, Jeff Gordon, Ricky Rudd, and Rusty Wallace followed in the top-five. Jeff Gordon is still the NASCAR Winston Cup Points leader.