Three-Time Pocono Raceway Winner Labonte Set For Tricky Triangle Return
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series arrives at Pocono Raceway’s 2.5-mile Tricky Triangle for the 14th race of the season this weekend.
For Bobby Labonte, who is racing the No. 47 Clorox Toyota on Sunday, he figured out how to trick the competition three times for trips to victory lane with Joe Gibbs Racing. He swept both races in 1999 and won again in July 2001.
“I’ve had a lot of success at Pocono,” said Labonte, who has five top-five and nine top-10 finishes in addition to his three victories at Pocono. “It’s a strange track with obviously three distinct type corners. Some people choose to make Turn 3 the main corner they concentrate on with straightaway speed. I think that’s true for most people’s case. This year NASCAR is letting us go back to a gear-ratio that we can shift with that’s different from the past and a lot of guys haven’t done that there. This race this time will have more wear and tear on equipment than we have seen in the past couple of years - - as far as reliability with transmissions and engines go. So, we have to be prepared for that. It’s a matter of the durability of our equipment, to make sure it is as durable as possible to handle it for 500 miles.”
The track is getting rougher...
Crew chief Frank Kerr and his JTG Daugherty Racing team are looking forward to going to Pocono with a three-time winner at one of the most unique tracks on the circuit boasting three distinct corners and straighaways varying in length.
“It is a challenging track setup wise because the three corners are so different,” Kerr said. “So, you have to pick whether you want to get through Turn 1 better or if you want to work on Turn 3 more. It’s an interesting place for the drivers and crew chiefs to figure out a setup that works on both ends. The track is getting rougher too because of Mother Nature.”
“It’s good to have a guy like Bobby that has experience,” Kerr continued. “As Bobby mentioned, NASCAR is allowing us to change our ratios in our transmissions so we can shift this year. We will probably shift twice around the track. That is how it was back when Bobby won those races. Having the experience of knowing that you can shift and where to shift will help along with taking care of the motor.”
Kerr knows his team needs a shot in the arm following some tough weeks.
“We have not been running good these past few weeks and we are working hard to improve everyday and focusing on making our aero package better,” Kerr said. “Right now, all three teams (JTG Daugherty Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing) are doing everything possible to run better. It’s not just our teams facing this; there are a number of great teams that are looking to get more competitive right now. We know we are a little behind, but we are not sitting still and we are working on things.”
Labonte supports Kerr and his JTG Daugherty Racing team on figuring out what may have went wrong in the most recent events to make it right moving forward and vice versa.
“We left Kansas scratching our heads as far as what happened,” Labonte said. “We thought we were fairly decent in practice and then ended up with a way different race car in the race than we anticipated. There’s definitely a concern of how that happened and why it happened. We’ve looked at a lot of different things. The aero package is one thing and a couple things we tried differently. We thought we were gaining at Kansas, but we were not. We might have to take a couple steps back to figure out what we did wrong and make it right.”
Switching gears from performance to appearances, yesterday Labonte had a successful turnout at his Bobby Labonte Foundation golf tournament benefiting Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) raising $107,000.
"This was our first year partnering with JDRF and it was a great first step," said Labonte. "We met our goals, exceed them actually, and everyone had fun doing it. I can't thank all the sponsors enough who donated and all the celebrities who took time out of their day to come out and play. We're looking to make it even better next year."
Tonight, Labonte is racing in the seventh annual Prelude to the Dream all-star dirt Late Model race at the half-mile Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, which is benefiting four of the nation’s top children’s hospitals - - Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, N.C., Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Children’s Medical Center Dallas. Labonte is on Team St. Louis along with Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Justin Allgaier, Kenny Wallace, Ron Hornaday and Ricky Carmichael. This year’s Prelude to the Dream is a team event. The race is carried this evening on HBO Pay-Per-View, 8 p.m. EDT (5 p.m. PDT). Ordering information and up-to-the minute racing information is available at either www.PreludeToTheDream.org or www.HBO.com.
“It’s a good time,” Labonte said. “Everybody is as competitive as you could imagine. It’s for fun and for a great cause, but oh by the way, we are all here to win. It’s a fun night, but competitive for everyone. We are going up there to help Tony (Stewart) raise money for four children’s hospitals and just being a part of it is special. I’ve been lucky to race in the Prelude to the Dream for a few years. I always enjoy it and wish we could do more.”
Thursday before wheels are up on the team plane out of Statesville, N.C., Labonte, K&N Pro Series East driver Coleman Pressley and JTG Daugherty Racing are visiting Barium Springs Home for Children only minutes away in hopes of bringing awareness to local children that struggle with a background of abuse, neglect and poverty.
“We’re looking forward to spending the day with the children and we’ve got a full fun day of activities prepared for them,” Labonte said. “We’re taking our entire team up there to perform live pit stops and we are making it a career day too. This visit is for the children to have fun and at the same time tell people in our community how they can donate or volunteer. For more information, visit www.bariumsprings.org.”
Pressley has been at the forefront of the planning phases for the team’s visit along with JTG Daugherty Racing co-owner Jodi Geschickter and others.
“This is something really positive that we are doing as a team to help bring a smile to their faces,” Pressley said. “Not only do we want make it a fun day for the kids, but hopefully we can inspire each of them. We want people in the community to know that Barium Springs is close to home. We are trying to bring awareness to Barium Springs and educate people on how they can help these children. I’ve been fortunate to be able to help with our visit and I know that Thursday will be a special day for all of us.”
Founded in 1891, Barium Springs Home for Children is committed to a safe and nurturing family life for every child in North Carolina. Barium Springs provides early childhood development for low income families, and a safe place to live for abused or neglected children through group homes, foster care and adoption. The agency also offers therapeutic education as well as intervention services for children still living in the community. Headquartered near Statesville, Barium Springs currently employs almost 300 professionals—serving almost 2,000 NC children and families last year.
“Our staff and children are extremely excited about our upcoming visit from JTG Daugherty Racing,” says John Koppelmeyer, president and CEO of Barium Springs Home for Children. “The race team plans to share many positive messages with our children about teamwork, a positive attitude and the importance of hard work. We are very grateful that the team would take time out of their busy race schedules to visit with our children and staff. And, we believe it will make a large impact on these kids’ lives.”
-source: jtg racing