Hamilton Finishes 31St On Road Course

SONOMA, Calif. – Schneider Electric driver Bobby Hamilton knows how to get around a road course. The 45-year-old Nashville, Tenn. native started the race in 31st position and worked his way into the Top 5 by the halfway point of the Dodge/Save Mart 350. Despite late-race setbacks, Hamilton was able to salvage a 31st-place finish.

The day was full of strategic ideas. Crew chief Jimmy Elledge made a gutsy call under the caution on Lap 40 when half of the leaders pitted and the other half stayed out.

“We’re in 14th position, and from what I’ve seen here in the past, track position is what means the most here,’ Elledge said.

And as a result, Hamilton found himself knocking on the door of the Top 10.

It wasn’t long before he found himself eighth. Then the second caution of the day came out on Lap 83. Hamilton’s speeds were among the fastest on the road course, and it seemed as the tires wore in, his speeds got faster. But the caution was a blessing. The Schneider Electric Racing Team was right down to the wire on making it the rest of the way without running out of fuel.

Hamilton and the leaders pitted on Lap 84 while the teams running in the middle of field stayed out. For the restart on Lap 87, Hamilton was in 17th position. While trying to get back up to the front with the leaders, Hamilton realized his No. 55 Chevrolet was overheating.

On Lap 98 he was spun in traffic racing in Turn 11. Immediately he radioed Elledge stating his tires were flat and they needed to be changed. He also added that the temperature gauges were pegged on the car. During the pit stop on Lap 99 the team changed four tires, checked on the fenders and pulled tape off the front grill.

With only five laps to go, Hamilton’s engine started smoking. He held the car above minimum speed for the remaining laps until he crossed the start/finish line in 31st position.

“We had a good car here today,” Hamilton said. “I could run up there with the leaders and if I stayed out of traffic then my temperatures would cool off. After the last pit stop I just got stuck. It’s hard to pass here, especially when there are only 20 laps left and everyone is going for the same thing. I was trying to get around those guys to get back up front and got spun in traffic. You have to take the good with the bad, but I am ready for a superspeedway race for sure.”

In the final three laps, leader Jerry Nadeau a rear-end gear, allowing runner-up Ricky Rudd to step into the winner’s circle. Tony Stewart, Terry Labonte, Kurt Busch and Jeff Green followed in the Top 5.

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