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RACINGONE.COM: Hamilton Jr. wins Loudon

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LOUDON, N.H.

Last weekend, Bobby Hamilton Jr. ran out of fuel, which possibly cost him his first career NASCAR Busch Series victory. Saturday afternoon, Hamilton Jr. had a lot of trouble in the pits, but this time he was determined not to let it cost him. Hamilton Jr. charged from 17th place in the final 63 laps, taking the lead from Shane Hmiel with 14 circuits remaining and then impressively pulling away to win the Busch 200 at New Hampshire International Speedway. New Hampshire International Raceway has never seen a repeat winner in 16 Busch Series races. It was Hamilton Jr.¿s first career victory in 96 Busch Series starts. Todd Bodine finished second, followed by Jack Sprague, Shane Hmiel, Mike McLaughlin, Randy LaJoie, Scott Riggs, Hank Parker Jr., Jamie McMurray and Kevin Grubb. Hamilton Jr.¿s crew chief, Fred Wanke, has won Craftsman Truck Series races in the past, but the 53-year-old had never won a car race at NASCAR¿s top levels.
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  • ¿We did everything we could do to take it away from Bobby,¿ Wanke said. ¿He did it all himself. With these Robert Yates Motors, we had good power. It was such a good car last week, but we had bad luck. This is awful big for me. I¿ve never won a car race, and I was beginning to think I couldn¿t. It was all Bobby today, the kid is just really good.¿ ¿Fred Wanke, he is the man,¿ Hamilton Jr. said. ¿He got this thing dialed in. The Team Marines Ford with Robert Yates Motors, that just says it all. Our spotter (Ronnie Russell) kept calming me down throughout the race when we got behind. ¿I never thought I could come to New Hampshire and pick up a trophy, but I was able to. I knew we had the car to beat, it just cut so well through the center of the track. My dad (Bobby Hamilton) kept kicking me in the tail and keeping me straight. He¿s wasted a lot of money to help get me to this spot. We finally got one.¿ During a caution period with 70 laps to go, Hamilton Jr. came in with the lead. He went back out on the track after a four-tire and fuel pit stop, but the lug nuts on his left rear tire weren¿t tightened, so he was forced to come back into the pits and lost a lot of track position. Methodically, he made his way through the field and eventually got back to the point with the same dominant car he had the previous weekend at Richmond International Raceway, when he led a lot of laps but ran out of gas with 11 laps left. A couple of the contenders were taken out early. Jeff Burton¿s engine blew in the first few laps. On a re-start on Lap 7, points leader and defending race winner Jason Keller appeared to check up and was hit from behind by Stacy Compton. The front of Compton¿s car was heavily damaged, as was the back and front of Keller¿s car. Keller was forced to pit and wound up going behind the wall in order for his crew to repair a damaged radiator. Keller came into the race with a 34-point lead over Sprague, and his back-of-the-pack finish obviously cost him the top spot in the Busch Series standings. It¿s the first time in 35 races ¿ since Talladega a year ago ¿ that Keller failed to finish a race. ¿It turned out to be a really bad day,¿ Keller said. ¿I don¿t know what happened in front of me. I thought they would take off and they didn¿t. This is a setback, but if we keep running like we have, then we¿ll be okay. ¿We were out there trying to just stay out and get points, but the motor finally went bad. We tried and tried to fix it, but the radiator was bad and it just got hot. It was just a tough break for us.¿ Sprague now leads the Busch Series standings by 64 points over Keller. LaJoie is 122 points back in third, followed by Riggs, who's 132 points in the rear. Hamilton Jr. moved up to ninth in the points. Greg Biffle looked strong early on as well. He passed Hamilton Jr. for the lead on Lap 72, but four laps later, his engine blew, handing the lead back to Hamilton Jr. and causing a caution. With Burton and Biffle, it wasn¿t a good day for engines for Roush Racing. Biffle came into the race fifth in the Busch Series points standings. ¿No it hasn¿t been (a good day for Roush),¿ Biffle said. ¿We were told before the race that we were turning too many rpms, and we should have taken gears out. We just got too greedy with it. We had a car that could win here, and everybody was excited about how well we were running. This will hurt us in the points.¿ The leaders pitted under the caution, and Bodine emerged out front. Hamilton¿s crew had trouble in the pits, and he came out sixth, but 10 laps after the re-start, he had taken over third place. Hamilton Jr. initially took over the lead from pole sitter Shane Hmiel on Lap 12. He led the next 60 circuits around the ¿Magic Mile.¿

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