Indianapolis: Bobby Labonte race report

LABONTE EARNS 23RD-PLACE FINISH AT THE BRICKYARD Rain has become just as much a tradition at the famed-Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as kissing the bricks and this year was no exception, as showers on Saturday morning delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup ...

LABONTE EARNS 23RD-PLACE FINISH AT THE BRICKYARD

Rain has become just as much a tradition at the famed-Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as kissing the bricks and this year was no exception, as showers on Saturday morning delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup track activity for much of the day. Fortunately, Bobby Labonte and the No. 96 Ask.com team put in several hours of practice on Friday and posted fast lap times. Labonte was pleased with the handling and setup of his Ford and looking forward to a respectable qualifying run. Unfortunately, a miscue during his qualifying laps left Labonte with a 31st-place starting position for Sunday's Allstate 400 at The Brickyard.

"I blew turn two," said Labonte following his qualifying run. "I just screwed up and overdrove it. Three and four weren't bad and getting to speed was fine, I just went into turn two trying to get everything and I just didn't lay it right on the brake to get in to the turn."

Despite the disappointing qualifying result, the winner of the 1999 Brickyard 400 and his No. 96 team were eager to go racing. However, the drop of the green flag, Labonte reported that his No. 96 Ford Fusion was handling "tight". Throughout a series of scheduled pit stops the Ask.com team worked to resolve the issues, even with their efforts Labonte was never completely satisfied with his Ford. When 160 laps were complete, Labonte crossed the finish line in 23rd place.

The green flag waved and pole winner, Mark Martin led the 43-car field into turn one at The Brickyard. Before one lap was made around the 2.5-mile track, caution was thrown due to the No. 7 car spinning in turn four. Labonte's No. 96 Ask.com Ford Fusion was scathed just a bit during the incident, but incurred no damage. Green flag racing resumed on lap four with Labonte scored in 28th position.

Lap 31 saw the first round of green flag pit stops and Labonte made his way down pit road for four tires and fuel along with wedge and air pressure adjustments in hopes of remedying the "tight" handling conditions Labonte reported during the first run.

The adjustments didn't seem to help, as Labonte continued to run in and around 27th place and maintained that his Ford was still "tight". Crew chief Ben Leslie tried several more adjustments throughout the race, but tight handling conditions still plagued Labonte's No. 96 Fusion. Despite the problems, Labonte managed to pull off a 23rd-place finish.

"We just didn't have a great handling car today," said Labonte. "We have a lot of work to do to get over this learning curve, but I feel like with teamwork it can be done. These Ask.com guys work very hard and deserve better finishes."

Jimmie Johnson, winner of three of the past four races at The Brickyard, became the first driver to win in consecutive years in 16 NASCAR races at Indy. It was the third win this season for the three-time defending Cup Series champion. Mark Martin finished second. Current points leader Tony Stewart, a two-time Brickyard winner, was third and followed by Greg Biffle and Brian Vickers. Kevin Harvick finished sixth and was followed by Kasey Kahne and David Reutimann. Four-time Brickyard winner Jeff Gordon was ninth and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top 10.

-credit: yr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , David Reutimann , Brian Vickers , Mark Martin