Ivegas Notes:/I Hamiltons Streak Ends

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LAS VEGAS – Bobby Hamilton’s Winston Cup-best streak of 40 straight races running at the finish came to an end early Sunday in the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Hamilton crashed on Lap 8 of the race, backing into the wall and severely damaging his No. 55 Chevy. Hamilton had been eligible for Winston’s No Bull 5 $1 million bonus, but this wasn’t a good weekend for him. Hamilton needed a provisional to start 40th, and then he wrecked before the crowd could settle in its seats.

“I don’t have any idea what happened,” Hamilton said. “I passed a bunch of cars. I felt like it started wobbling, like a tire was down on it or something. We thought we would try to ride it out a lap, and I was going down the back straight, and the right-rear tire blew out on it. It must have hit something.”

Hamilton was unhurt, but his day was done.

The last time Hamilton had a DNF was at Phoenix in 2000. Interestingly, he had 11 DNFs that season with Morgan-McClure Motorsports. He moved to Andy Petree Racing for the 2001 season and had finished every race with that team until Las Vegas.

The next longest streak belongs to Jeff Burton, who has been running at the finish of 32 straight races. Sterling Marlin has a streak of 31 straight.

Memorable for Martin
Mark Martin has won some pretty big races in his career. He counts victories at Darlington Raceway, Texas Motor Speedway, California Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway on his resume.

Martin has won 32 times in his Winston Cup career, a stat that ranks him 10th in victories in the modern era. But one victory stands out for Martin: the inaugural race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 1998.

“The win here in 1998 is probably the most memorable win I have,” said Martin, who finished third on Sunday. “We came here, it was a brand new track, and we had a brand new team looking to see what we could do.

“Once the race was all over with and we took care of all the victory lane stuff and all the media, we were leaving in the helicopter and I looked down at the track and it dawned on me what we had accomplished.”

Martin isn’t one to get terribly sentimental, preferring to look to the next race, the next weekend, the next test. But Las Vegas was special to him.

“It was pretty overwhelming,” Martin said. “I’ve had a lot of success in racing, but I never really paid much attention. I was always so busy looking ahead to the next one, but when I flew out of there and saw that track, it dawned on me that it wasn’t just some quarter-mile dirt track in Arkansas, and it dawned on me just what we had done.”

Sauter Learning NASCAR Ropes
Johnny Sauter has a big seat to fill. Only guys named Steve Park, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick preceded him in Richard Childress Racing’s No. 2 Chevy on the Busch Series.

“You look at all the guys, Dale Jr., Steve Park, Kevin Harvick – everybody knows the history that car’s had,” Sauter said. “I really believe I put more pressure on myself than any one person or sponsor or whoever is going to put on me. I just don’t like finishing second. Sooner or later, we’ll win one of these.”

Sauter came as close to a victory Saturday in the Sam’s Town 300 as he has previously in his brief Busch career. The defending ASA champion ended up third behind Jeff Burton and Michael Waltrip, stretching his fuel mileage and avoiding a final pit stop that Burton and Waltrip had to make.

“It wasn’t as good as our last two runs at Daytona and Rockingham,” Sauter said. “Everybody on the team made the right calls, and we had good pit stops. We really had a 20th-place car and decided to play the fuel game. It paid off for us.”

That’s the way NASCAR works sometimes. Sauter started seventh and ran well at Daytona but finished 17th. He started ninth and led some laps at Rockingham but finished 13th. But at LVMS, he started 11th and finished third.

“It’s just funny how it works,” Sauter said. “The first two races we run in the Top 5 and ended up outside the Top 10. This week, we’re outside the Top 20 all day and ended up with a Top 5. Go figure.”

Busch Knows Las Vegas
Las Vegas native Kurt Busch said there’s more to his hometown than Wayne Newton, bright lights and casinos. You just have to know where to look.

“Everybody wants to know where the hot spots are, or where to go to do this or where to cheat the slot machines,” Busch said. “You pretty much tune that stuff out when you live here, and you’re not on the strip all the time like you are when you’re a tourist. There is a town outside of Las Vegas, and it’s got a great school system, and it’s a great place to grow up. Everything is new here and it just seems like a well-rounded community that doesn’t have anything out of the ordinary, except for that gaming strip.”

Winning here someday would be the best thing that could happen to him, Busch said.

“Winning at Daytona is one thing, but I think winning at a race track where you spent 21 years of your life growing up would mean a lot more,” Busch said. “Not many people are from Las Vegas, so it would be the ultimate win.”

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