Tenacity earns Team Marines fifth place in Vegas
By Charlie Roakes
| Marine Corps Recruiting Command | March 06, 2004
LAS VEGAS --
Team Marines NASCAR Busch Series driver Bobby Hamilton, Jr. rode a roller coaster of luck here Saturday as he raced his way to a fifth place finish in the Sam's Town 300. The White House, Tenn., resident experienced the high of leading the race and the low of falling back as far as 17th place during the 200-lap race. In the end, with strong work from his Team Marines pit crew and a strong set of tires, Hamilton, Jr. rallied from 17th place with 20 laps remaining to the final position of fifth. The finish moved Hamilton, Jr. into the fourth position in the season long point's race.
The weekend started out on a high note as Hamilton, Jr. earned the outside pole position during Friday afternoon's qualifying session. With a solid final hour of practice, Hamilton, Jr. was ready for the 300-mile battle. From the drop of the green flag, Hamilton, Jr. displayed the dominant car, passing pole sitter Mike Bliss on lap one and leading the first 34 laps before a round of yellow-flag pit stops. With speedy pit work, Hamilton, Jr. resumed the lead on lap 36 and held onto the top spot until lap 59 when he began to struggle with a tight chassis.
Hamilton, Jr. made a green flag pit stop on lap 92 for fresh tires and fuel. Just three laps later a caution flag waved over the field, trapping Hamilton, Jr. a lap down to the leader. Hamilton, Jr. worked his way into position to get back on the lead lap, but the next caution didn't fall until lap 170 after the leader had placed him back down a lap. Never one to give up, Hamilton, Jr. once again worked his way into position to get back on the lead lap. The much needed break came on lap 180 when caution once again waved on the track. Now back on the lead lap, he was in position to charge back to the front. Blasting past cars, he worked his way inside the top ten with under ten laps remaining and kept charging until he gained the fifth position and the checkered flag.
"I have to hand it to everyone on the Team Marines Racing Team for not giving up when we went a lap down," Hamilton, Jr. said. "We knew we had a great car and when Harold Holly gave me the final chassis adjustments we were the fastest car on the track once again. I can't wait to get to Darlington and put the Team Marines Ford back in Victory Lane where it belongs."
Nextel Cup driver Kevin Harvick stepped down to the Busch Series to take home the checkered flag. Kasey Kahne and David Stremme rounded out the top three positions. After a week off the Busch Series will return to action at Darlington Raceway on Saturday March 20th.
Started: 2nd (best effort of the season)
Finished: 5th (best effort of the season)
Points Position: 4th 94 points behind leader Kevin Harvick