LOUDON, N.H., (July 22, 2001) - It was two steps forward but three steps back Sunday for Bobby Hamilton in the New England 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway. Hamilton twice regained lost laps during the 300-lap event, but finally ended...
LOUDON, N.H., (July 22, 2001) - It was two steps forward but three steps back Sunday for Bobby Hamilton in the New England 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway. Hamilton twice regained lost laps during the 300-lap event, but finally ended up one lap down in 29th place after a pit miscue. Hamilton's persistence allowed him to actually close the gap on Elliott Sadler, the driver just ahead of him in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series points battle. Hamilton remained in 17th position, but is only three points behind Sadler.
Sadler was involved in the race's first incident, a collision with Joe Nemechek on lap four that led to a caution period. The Square D Racing Team opted to stay out on the track and completed 42 laps of clean, side-by-side racing. During this time, the car was free, or loose, coming off the corners, Hamilton told the crew. On lap 60, Johnny Benson blew a right front tire, bringing out the next yellow flag. Crew Chief Jimmy Elledge called for four tires, 22 gallons of fuel and to adjust the track bar three rounds to tighten the Chevy.
Duplicating Benson's wreck, Jeremy Mayfield brought out the third caution on lap 90. The previous adjustment was not enough to help Hamilton's loose condition. So the team adjusted the track bar back to the original setup and added two rounds of wedge. But Hamilton soon reported that the new, or 'sticker,' tires made the car extremely loose, causing him to slow and eventually lose a lap. But as the tires came in, the Chevy picked up positions and improved speeds by one second a lap.
Lap 162 brought out the next caution and the Square D Racing team opted to pit when the leaders did not. The team added only gas and a spring rubber to the right front. That enabled Hamilton to battle with the leaders and gain his lap back. Despite the valiant effort, by lap 204, the race leader, Dale Jarrett, lapped Hamilton once again.
By lap 212, the leaders had to pit under the green flag condition. Hamilton had 30 more laps of fuel left in the Chevy, an advantage the team used to once again regain the lost lap. Hamilton worked his way to 11th position when a yellow was thrown on lap 234, prompting him to pit for fuel.
Hamilton said he was comfortable with the setup, so Elledge called for Hamilton to come in with no changes to the Chevy. Hamilton thought he saw the green flag waving at the end of pit road that tells drivers the pits are open. But it wasn't. Hamilton and four other drivers came into the pits one lap too early, losing a lap in the process. Then NASCAR penalized the five drivers for coming to the pits too early by putting them at the tail end of the longest line for the restart. The mistake and penalty cost Hamilton more than 15 positions.
Even without the penalty, it was a long day for the team. "We just weren't good on new tires," Hamilton said after the race as he placed a cold, wet cloth on his head. "The team kept working hard to get the problem solved all day. Halfway through a fuel run, we were pretty good. Jimmy made a good call with the pit strategy, but we just messed up and came in one time that cost us. That's happened here before. We misread him as to whether he was waving the flag or only getting it ready to wave at the leader. Overall, we had a decent day and learned some stuff that will help us when we come back here."
Dale Jarrett won the race, followed by Jeff Gordon, Ricky Rudd, Jimmy Spencer and Tony Stewart.