Petty Enterprises continued the consistent racing that has come to define their season thus far. Both teams overcame ill-handling racecars, along with a little bad luck, to garner a pair of top-25 finishes for the second consecutive race.
Bobby Labonte and the #43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge team finished 19th after starting 13th in Sunday's event. They battled adversity, but came through with a top-20 finish. Labonte received a Lucky Dog Award to help the team battle back from a lap down, early on, after the car stalled on pit road. From there the Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge was tight in the middle of the corner and loose off the corner all afternoon. However, the team made changes on every pit stop and Labonte found himself running inside the top-15 in the latter stages of the race. While running in the 14th position, with a top-10 firmly within reach, Labonte was squeezed up into the outside wall by another competitor. The No. 43 machine suffered enough damage that Labonte could only muster a 19th place finish as a result. Labonte is now 19th as the team battles for a spot in the championship chase. They are 153 points out of the 12th spot.
"I really don't know what happened when the car stalled on pit road," said Labonte. "I believe the carburetor was loading up with fuel. When we got our lap back I made a promise to my guys that we wouldn't lose another lap because they had been working so hard. I believe that we could have finished in the top-10, but guys started racing really hard there at the end and ended up running out of racetrack. We got squeezed up into the wall pretty hard there. After that I was just trying to nurse it home because the car was a handful. It's unfortunate because what could have been a really good points day for us actually resulted in a finish that dropped us a spot in the standings."
Kyle Petty and the #45 Marathon American Spirit Motor Oil Dodge team passed a lot of cars for the second week in a row. Despite a tight racecar, which was compounded by the abrasiveness of the Darlington asphalt, Petty moved up 17 positions from where he started. Ambient temperatures were hovering around the 75 degree mark for much of the day, allowing the leaders to run a frenetic pace. Petty ended up going two laps down due to his tight condition. However his 25th place finish kept him 31st in the championship standings. Petty is only four points out of the top-30. He is 360 points out of the 12th, and final, spot in the Chase for the Championship.
"We were just really tight on some sets of tires and ended up burning them up," said Petty. "That is just Darlington, man. If you are abusing any one of your tires, it is multiplied because of the track. I am anxious to see this place after it is paved. This place will frustrate you, but my team gave me a good car. We were running really fast lap times in the middle of the race, but the hole we were in was already too big.
The NASCAR Nextel Cup Series next heads to the 1.5-mile Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. for two weeks of racing. Saturday, May 19th, will be the annual NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge. Sunday, May 27th is the Coca-Cola 600, the longest race of the season. The NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge will be shown live on the Speed Channel. The Coca-Cola 600 will be shown live on FOX. Both races will be broadcast live on MRN Radio.