Strong Run Cut Short

LONG POND, Pa. – As the sunshine filtered in and out behind the clouds Sunday over the beautiful Pocono Mountains, Schneider Electric driver Bobby Hamilton worked his way around the unique triangular-shaped race track into the Top 15. Hamilton raced as high as 12th position but finished 27th when his engine started to expire, something that is almost unheard of for the Andy Petree Racing Team.

It seemed to be a different picture for the No. 55 team in Pocono this weekend. A team that had previously struggled with the setup played its cards right Sunday. In the first part of the race, Hamilton called for only two minor adjustments. He asked for the track bar to be adjusted on his No. 55 Chevy because his car felt loose entering and in the middle of the corners.

Crew chief Jimmy Elledge coached the team through pit stops as fast as 13 seconds while Hamilton made up other positions on the race track. Under caution on Lap 118, Elledge was cutting up with Hamilton. He asked, “Bobby can you please do me a huge favor and pass three cars after this caution? Then I can say that this No. 55 car has been in the Top 10 before in Pocono.” Hamilton laughed and did his best to pass.

The Tennessee native held his own in the Top 15 for the majority of the race, but on Lap 164 radioed that something was wrong with the motor.

“The motor sounds really flat and quits pulling about halfway down the straightaway,” Hamilton said. “I’m trying to stay in high gear all the way around the race track, but maybe I’ve broken a valve spring or something. It still pulls good though, so I am not sure what is going on out here.”

Just in time a caution came out on lap 168 and the team used the time to double-check other possibilities. Elledge and the crew looked under the rear of the Chevy for a broken exhaust pipe, but found nothing was wrong. The problem had to be in the motor. Elledge said, “Bobby drive that car as hard as you can until this race is over.”

Before the restart on lap 171, Hamilton said, “Whatever it is, it just got worse. I’m going to try and finish this thing though.”

Hamilton’s speed dropped significantly and on Lap 185 he went a lap down to the leaders. Still trying to press on in the final 20 laps, Hamilton moved the No. 55 Chevy to the inside of the race track trying to keep out of the way. After crossing the line for the last time, he drove the Chevy back on to the team’s hauler and praised the team for its 27th-place finish.

“Our finish doesn’t show what we accomplished today,” Hamilton said. “You guys put a great car under me for this race. I think we’ve finally discovered what it takes to run well in Pocono, and I’m proud of your hard work. We never have engine problems, so keep your chins up. We’ll get them next time.”

Dale Jarrett won the Pocono 500 when his teammate Ricky Rudd fell out in the final two laps. Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson, Sterling Marlin and Jeff Gordon followed in the Top 5.

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