Chicagoland: Bobby Labonte race report

LABONTE CLIMBES 21 POSITIONS, FINISHES 21ST AFTER WAVE-BY GAMBLE JOLIET, Ill. (July 11, 2009) -- The excitement of night racing took shape tonight at Chicagoland Speedway with driver Bobby Labonte completing the challenging task of climbing 21...

LABONTE CLIMBES 21 POSITIONS, FINISHES 21ST AFTER WAVE-BY GAMBLE

JOLIET, Ill. (July 11, 2009) -- The excitement of night racing took shape tonight at Chicagoland Speedway with driver Bobby Labonte completing the challenging task of climbing 21 positions in the LifeLock.com 400, finishing 21st after taking a gamble for track position. The No. 96 Hall of Fame entry sported the DLP paint scheme as DLP Texas Instruments served as primary sponsor tonight for the first of eight races this season.

Labonte and the DLP team had a rough start to the three-day weekend in Joliet, Ill. After qualifying in the back of the field and testing multiple setups and adjustments during practice, the No. 96 seemed to just not be fast on the race track. That would change for the DLP team on Saturday.

Labonte took the green flag in 42nd position before a crowd of 70,000 fans. With only 15 laps complete, Labonte had climbed 10 positions but reported the car to be loose getting into the turns and tight through the center.

The first of seven cautions of the night at lap 38 opened pit road with crew chief Ben Leslie bringing Labonte down pit road for several adjustments to the car, four tires and fuel. The DLP crew hustled Labonte off pit road in 13.6 seconds and he took the green flag in 28th position, 14 positions higher than his starting position.

Two long green-flag runs spread the field out and Labonte was passed by race leader, and later race winner, Mark Martin. The second caution fell close to the midpoint of the LifeLock.com 400 at lap 130. Leslie radioed for another round of adjustments to the car, four tires and fuel. Labonte, a lap down, still reported the car to be loose upon entering the turns and tight throughout.

The DLP team's fourth pit of the night came under green-flag laps and Labonte fell a second lap down. With cautions appearing to be few and far between, Labonte was one of 27 cars not on the lead lap. An opportunity to gain laps back came at lap 210 when the third caution opened pit road. Leslie radioed for Labonte to stay on track, taking the wave by and gaining a lap back. Labonte gained four positions in the gamble and again went under green with old tires and only 15 laps worth of fuel left.

Leslie's call paid off when a spin by Sam Hornish Jr. brought the field under caution and Labonte was able to pit for much-needed fuel and tires. With only 44 laps remaining, Labonte was scored in 24th. A series of three more cautions and two pit stops ended the race for the evening. Labonte climbed 21 positions, finishing 21st for the day.

"It was a rough weekend and it is absolutely amazing we were able to pull off a 21st-place finish," said Labonte. "I've got to give credit to Ben (Leslie) and the guys. It was pretty ugly all weekend, but everyone stayed positive and stuck it out. We were better in the end because we all kept our chin up. I think we've got some things to figure out to be better moving forward but I feel we were really able to salvage one tonight."

Labonte and the No. 96 Ask.com Ford Fusion will race in two weeks in the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. ESPN will carry the race live beginning at 1 p.m. EDT.

-credit: hofr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Bobby Labonte , Sam Hornish Jr. , Mark Martin