Sears Point Throws Hamilton A Curve

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SONOMA, Calif. – Schneider Electric driver Bobby Hamilton qualified in 31st position with a time of 78.437 seconds for the first road-course race of the season at Sears Point Raceway. The newly renovated 11-turn race track proved to be a challenge for the Winston Cup competitors.

“They changed this race track since the last time we were here,” Hamilton said. “In turn one we have to stay on our toes because there is a new wall there. You don’t even use the drag strip anymore and that wall jumps out in front of you quick. Then you go into Turn 10 and that is different also. There used to be tires over there that helped you judge where you were on the race track and now they’re gone. It makes it hard to judge where the turn is going to stop and start going straight. It’s just like you run out of race track all of a sudden. I think you’ll see a lot of action there during the race though.”

Hindsight being 20-20, Hamilton and crew chief Jimmy Elledge agreed they should have scuffed tires for the qualifying run on the 2-mile course.

“In practice we made our mock qualifying run trying to test out a transmission,” Hamilton said. “It didn’t go as fast as we thought, so after that practice was over we had to sit down and think things through. Jimmy and I talked about what changes we thought we should make. He called the shop and questioned a couple of things they set up in the car and then we made a game plan. We qualified about where we practiced. It took about a half of a lap for the tires to come in, so I think we should have scuffed them. But we’ll be fine for the race because everyone will be in the same boat with new tires.”

Tony Stewart captured the Bud Pole Award with a time of 76.640 seconds. Kurt Busch, Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon and Bill Elliott follow Stewart in the top-five starting lineup.

The Dodge/Save Mart 350 airs live on FOX on Sunday at 3:00 p.m. EDT.

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