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Bobby Hamilton Wins NASCAR Winston Cup Series ACDelco 400

28 October 1997

ROCKINGHAM, NC -- It must be the date - October 27th - that sits well with
Bobby Hamilton. You see, it was October 27, 1996 that Bobby Hamilton got
his first career win in Phoenix. And today, October 27, 1997 Bobby Hamilton
notched his second Winston Cup win here at North Carolina Motor Speedway
when he dashed across the line 0.941 seconds ahead of Dale Jarrett. The win
was good for the winner's spoils of $89,150.

The race, run a day later than scheduled due to rain, started with Bobby
Labonte on the pole. Labonte looked like he had the field covered as he
just drove away, building leads in the six-second range.

It was also a day where flaws in setups showed up quickly as in a short 50
laps the first of the weak went down a lap. This included Rusty Wallace,
whose performance of late can only be described as lackluster.

Bobby Hamilton, who started 28th on the field, just started picking his way
to the front slowly using a combination of handling and pit strategy known
as 'short stopping' - a process that brings a driver in a few laps earlier
than the leaders. The thought is that a few extra laps on fresh tires
combined with killer pit stops will gain you an edge on the competition.
The move worked well for the Petty Enterprises team as they had worked
themselves to the third spot by lap 100.

On lap 114 the caution came out when Jimmy Spencer blew a left front tire
and popped the wall. Ricky Rudd got tangled up in Spencer's mess as the No.
23 shot back across the track and got the left front of the No. 10 Tide
Ford. "I can't catch a break these days," was about all Rudd had to say of
the incident.

Rusty Wallace, who was a lap down, started racing the leader when the green
flew on lap 122. It was some awful exciting racing as Rusty Wallace and
then leader Ricky Craven beat off each other for position. Wallace got his
lap back for a short while but was unable to hold on as the leaders sailed
on past him again.

It was during this time that Rick Mast, who has run well here in the past
and finished second to Earnhardt back in 1995, had worked his way up to
third and was dicing with Dick Trickle for the second spot. The excitement
would come to an abrupt halt when the cam shaft in his Remington Ford
broke. The team was credited with a disappointing 42nd place finish.

The No. 25 of Craven looked untouchable while it was in the lead from lap
123 to 192. He, like Labonte before, checked out on the field with a solid
six-second lead at the time. Craven handed the lead off to Jarrett when he
brought the Budweiser Chevy to pit road for service.

Bobby Hamilton, who had made a short stop, would be shown in the lead after
the cycle of pit stops and was awarded the Gatorade Front runner award for
leading at the halfway point in the event.

It was the No. 99 of Jeff Burton that came and took the lead from Hamilton
on lap 214. Burton looked tough, but Jarrett just kept nibbling away at the
No. 99 and took the lead away from Burton on lap 235. Jarrett would hold
the lead until the caution flew on lap 250 when Gary Bradberry spun up in
turn four. The field dove for pit road.

It was a battle of the pit crews during the stop and the Rainbow Warriors
got the job done fastest and Gordon rolled off the pit road inches ahead of
Dale Jarrett. It was also during this pit stop that Jeff Burton got caught
speeding on pit road and sent to the end of the longest line for the lap
259 restart.

Gordon was able to get some pad over Jarrett on the restart with the help
of the lapped traffic. Gordon looked like he'd be okay - that was until lap
272 when the caution flew for - Jeff Burton. Burton, who was fighting his
back to the front after the penalty just drove in too deep and it got away
from him. "It's hard," said Burton. "But when you wreck it's your fault no
matter what. It's my fault. But the only reason I was back there was
because of that penalty. I don't understand that. I looked at my tach, and
my tach was where it was supposed to be. That's all I know."

This time it was the Budweiser Chevrolet that took the field to green -
followed by Hamilton, Earnhardt and Martin. Gordon, who had to stop on pit
road a second time for a loose end cap on the left rear axle, joined the
field on the end of the lead lap in 17th place.

Craven took off and built a sizable lead over the field. The real racing
was for the top-five as Martin and Jarrett started working their way
towards the front of the pack. Their moving up cost Dale Earnhardt as he
was shoved back and out of the top-five.

The racing continued on and the leaders started to make green flag stops
around lap 332 in preparation for a run to the checkers.

They wouldn't need to make that long green run, which would have played
into Jarrett's hands as he had a distance setup under him, as Greg Sacks
stalled on the track bringing out the final of four cautions of the day on
lap 367.

The leaders dove to the pits. Dale Jarrett led the field to the pits also
led them off pit road when the Todd Parrott inspired crew pulled off a
18-second pit stop.

When the green flew on lap 371, Jarrett tried to check out but Craven would
have none of that as he took the lead from Jarrett on lap 376. The
advantage Craven had lasted an entire two laps - that's when Hamilton went
sailing on by for the lead. Once there he never had to battle for the top
spot again as all the racing that was happening for position was happening
in his rearview mirror.

Craven and Dale Jarrett staged a ferocious battle for the second spot that
wasn't resolved until the bitter end. Craven, who had some margin on
Jarrett watched as the Quality Care Ford started to close on him. Then as
the pair headed for the white flag Jarrett caught Craven - it was all over
but the tears for the driver of the No. 25. Jarrett got alongside of Craven
on the backstraight and just mashed it as the pair headed for tun three -
neither driver lifted. Jarrett slid up the track and used Craven as a pivot
to make it out of the corner. They were nose-to-nose on the exit of turn
four. Jarrett goosed that Yates power and got to the line with a fender
ahead of Craven.

Gordon finished fourth.

The next hotly contested spot was 5th place as Martin and Trickle beat on
each other for the position. Trickle got it. Martin was mad that he didn't
get it. "It was kinda fun racing Mark (Martin)," joked Trickle. "Mark shook
his fist a little bit and shook his finger at me. That's fun. He doesn't
realize that I'm hungrier than he is. He should have just moved over and
let me go. I didn't hit him hard, just enough to make him move up in the
second groove. I thought maybe he didn't like that groove anyway."

Bobby Hamilton, who scored Pontiac its first victory of the 1997 season and
will be leaving Petty's group at the end of the year for greener pastures
said, "It was real important for me to win a race. Not only for Richard but
for the people that work on the cars. You have to know these people I'm
talking about. They never give up. There's nobody that has any better
looking equipment than they do. They're really proud of the stuff they do.
Everybody in this garage area is underpaid, except maybe a couple of crew
chiefs and drivers. The only bonus they get out of racing is to see their
car run up front and win races. Knowing I was going to leave Richard at the
end of the year, when things go bad, everything falls apart. We worked real
hard not to let that happen. I didn't want to be labeled as a driver that
said, 'Heck I'm leaving. I don't care if if I win a race or not.' It was
just real important to me to win a race for them people that work on the
race cars."

Jeff Gordon pulls out of Rockingham with 4486 markers - 125 points ahead of
second place Mark Martin. Jarrett closed the the gap from third by 15 but
still sits 145 off the point.

The next race will be the Dura-Lube 500 to be run at Phoenix International
Raceway on November 2nd.

Mike Snow -- The Auto Channel