Exclusively for Motorsport.com by DC Williams
2000 Nextel Cup Champion Bobby Labonte has added the July 29-31 Grand American Rolex Series race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., to his 2005 Grand American Rolex Series race schedule.
The brothers Labonte teamed, along with open-wheel's Brian Herta and sportscar specialist Jan Magnussen, for the Rolex Series' season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona. After qualifying seventh in a 62-car field the team covered 2,403 miles and finished ninth overall - twice running in the race leaderboard's top-five on Daytona International Speedway's 3.56-mile road course.
"I've had a lot of fun running that car," Labonte said. "But I've got so much more to learn in doing it. Fortunately (team owner) Kevin (Doran) is an good friend who's willing to put up with me doing that."
"It was a mutually beneficial deal," Doran said of his teaming with Bobby Labonte for the one-off CTS race. "He needed to run some laps to learn Phoenix and I wasn't going to turn him down."
"It's pretty much the same thing now insofar as Bobby's concerned," Doran continued. "In a highly-competitive series like Cup, every point counts. And though they only hold two races on road courses, it's important to do as well as possible regardless of where they're racing."
"During the Rolex 24, Bobby kept getting faster as the race went on and put in his fastest laps during his last stints in the car - after most of the race had been run. That shows he was getting more comfortable with the car and I expect he'll just keep getting better."
To that end, Doran anticipates teaming Labonte with a sportscar hot shoe, possibly with Magnussen for the second time this year, so that Labonte can learn how to best attack the tricky, tight 16-turn, 2.3-mile dedicated road course in Birmingham.
Terry Labonte, with whom Bobby will pair for the other two remaining scheduled Rolex Series races, is expected to be with son Justin Labonte for a Busch Series race scheduled for the same weekend.
Also, word has it that Bobby Labonte will take a demonstration spin in the No. 44 Pontiac-Doran in pre-race ceremonies at the May 1 Aaron's 499 at Talladega Motor Speedway. However, his tight, pre-race schedule must first be massaged to allow him to undertake it.