Bobby Labonte to compete in Busch, NEXTEL Cup events at Michigan HUNTERSVILLE, N.C., Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2004 -- Michigan International Speedway has been Bobby Labonte's favorite track for quite some time, and he'll get double the enjoyment Aug.
Bobby Labonte to compete in Busch, NEXTEL Cup events at Michigan
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C., Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2004 -- Michigan International Speedway has been Bobby Labonte's favorite track for quite some time, and he'll get double the enjoyment Aug. 20-22 when he competes in both the NASCAR Busch and NEXTEL Cup Series events at the historic 2-mile oval.
Labonte will join 10 other drivers competing in both the NEXTEL Cup and Busch Series races at MIS.
Prior to driving the No. 18 Wellbutrin XL Chevrolet in the GFS Marketplace 400 NEXTEL Cup event on Sunday, Aug. 22, Labonte will drive the No. 19 ConAgra Foods Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing on Saturday, Aug. 21 in the Cabela's 250 NASCAR Busch Series race at MIS.
"I'm looking forward to the challenge," Labonte said. "I don't run too many Busch races anymore, so to compete at Michigan, which is my favorite track, will be a pretty neat deal."
It's not just the outstanding facility, the fans or the surrounding area that makes MIS a Labonte favorite. He's been quite successful the facility, scoring three NEXTEL Cup wins (June and Aug. 1995, Aug. 1999) and one Busch Series win during his career (1994).
It is a pivotal weekend for Labonte, who will make his 25th NEXTEL Cup start at MIS, as only four races remain before the final 'Chase for the NEXTEL Cup,' begins Sept. 19 at New Hampshire.
After an 11th-place finish at Watkins Glen, Labonte fell one spot in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup point standings, moving from eighth to ninth. He has 2,714 points and is 429 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson, three points behind eight-place Kevin Harvick and 58 points ahead of 10th-place Jeremy Mayfield.
"We've had some good success at Michigan and finished eighth there in the June race," Labonte said. "We know we can run well there, so we need to take advantage of that and get a good result."
In 24 starts at MIS, Labonte has 15 top-10 finishes (63 percent) and between the 1993 fall race and the 2000 fall race, finished in the top 10 in 13 of 15 races, including nine consecutive races from the fall event in 1996 through the fall race of 2000.
He has qualified quite well at the 2-mile oval, having won the Bud Pole four times, including capturing both poles in 2003. Labonte has started in the top 10 in 12 of 24 starts (50 percent).
Interestingly, all but five of those 24 starts have come in the green Interstate Batteries Chevrolet. However, the car Labonte drives in the NEXTEL Cup race at MIS will have a different look than usual. Instead of the normal green, Labonte's car will carry the colors logo of Wellbutrin XL, a medicine indicated for the treatment of major depressive disorder in patients 18 years and older. Wellbutrin XL is serving as primary sponsor on the No. 18 car in eight of the 38 races this year.
"It's been pretty neat having Wellbutrin XL come on board for the eight races this year," Labonte said. "They've been a great bunch of people to work with and have been very active with their sponsorship. They bring the "Racing For Life" mobile health unit to a lot of the races and fans have an opportunity to get nearly $1,000 worth of free health screening for everything from hypertension, type II diabetes, osteoporosis, asthma, men's health, smoking cessation, migraine, and depression. I've been through it and it's a really great exhibit for the race fans. It will be in Michigan, so I'd encourage fans to get out there and get screened. It's definitely worth it."
The day before the NEXTEL Cup event, Labonte will compete in his first Busch Series event at MIS since he finished second there in 1998. In five Busch Series races at MIS, Labonte has one win (1994), and finished lower than sixth only once (23rd, 1992).
"We were able to put a deal together with ConAgra foods to run the Busch Race," Labonte said. "I have a great relationship with them and look forward to putting on a good show and hopefully taking them to Victory Lane. It's going to be a great Busch race because I think there are like 10 or 11 NEXTEL Cup drivers who will be competing in it. I know Tony (Stewart) and Rusty (Wallace) are driving and so is Mark Martin. Plus there are guys like (Kevin) Harvick, (Matt) Kenseth, (Greg) Biffile and Michael Waltrip who run a lot of Busch races anyway. It should be a really good race for the fans."
Labonte raced in the Busch Series event at Texas on April 4 driving the ESGR Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. He started ninth and finished 11th in his first Busch Series race in nearly five years. He won the 1991 Busch Series title and lost the 1992 series crown to Joe Nemechek by just three points, still the smallest margin in Cup, Busch or Truck history. Labonte remains the only driver in history to win a Busch Series title and a NEXTEL Cup title.
"The Busch Series definitely helped my career," Labonte said. "I had a lot of fun racing full-time in the series and winning the 1991 title certainly is one of the highlights of my career. I like getting back in the series every once in a while. It's been really cool this year because I raced in Texas, which is where I was born, and then at Michigan, which is a track I obviously enjoy competing at."
The GFS Marketplace 400 is sold out, but will be broadcast live at 2 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 22 on TNT and MRN. Fans interesting in seeing Labonte compete in the Cabela's 250 can call (800) 354-1010 or log onto www.mispeedway.com. The race begins at 1 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 21 and will also be broadcast live on TNT and MRN.