Rainout: Hamilton Starts 29Th

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Rain postponed qualifying last night after only 18 cars attempted to qualify for the UAW-GM Quality 500. Schneider Electric driver Bobby Hamilton went out fifth on the grid and toured the speedway in 29.686 seconds. That placed him 12th out of the 18 cars that made runs before NASCAR postponed the rest of the field until Friday morning.

Teams yet to qualify were ordered to impound their cars until qualifying resumed at 8 a.m. this morning. But as rain continued to fall over the area Friday, NASCAR decided to set the field on the current owner’s points standings. So after a five-week break due to a shoulder and wrist injury, Hamilton will start 29th for Sunday’s race on the 1.5-mile oval.

In Thursday’s afternoon practice session, the team worked on combinations of shocks, springs and gears to make the Andy Petree Racing Chevy faster. Hamilton and crew chief Jimmy Elledge struggled to get the balance between gears and RPMs right on the car, and finally found a combination that Hamilton said felt the best as he raced around the oval.

“The car feels pretty good, but we just don’t know where the speed is,” Hamilton said. “My RPMs weren’t doing anything during practice so we had to change gears several times. We changed shocks and it helped me out, but we just didn’t pick up any speed. This place is a different beast. We qualify at night and race during the day. So basically we practiced yesterday to get ready for qualifying at night and then after that it will be totally different setups. Saturday we’ll get to practice in the daylight and that will help prepare us for the race.

“I felt really good out there driving the car,” Hamilton continued. “After testing this week in Martinsville (Va.), my shoulder that was hurt still feels strong. It’s my other one that is a little sore because it didn’t get the work out from the physical therapists that my hurt shoulder did. I feel like it took forever for me to heal, but actually I’m two weeks ahead of schedule. The team and I picked up right where we left off. It was like I never missed a day.”

Points leader Tony Stewart was awarded the Bud Pole Award. Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman and Rusty Wallace follow Stewart in the top five.

The UAW-GM Quality 500 airs live on NBC Sun., Oct. 10 at 12:30 p.m. EDT.

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