Short-track stop -- Bobby Labonte racing cars and trucks at Martinsville DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 20, 2004) -- Except for family rides and farm vehicles, Bobby Labonte's (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet) last professional encounter with a...
Short-track stop -- Bobby Labonte racing cars and trucks at Martinsville
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 20, 2004) -- Except for family rides and farm vehicles, Bobby Labonte's (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet) last professional encounter with a truck came during a 1996 NASCAR Craftsman Truck series event in Phoenix, Ariz. A valve problem ended his run after only 31 of 186 laps, and now, almost eight years later to the day, Labonte will gear up for Saturday's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event -- the Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway.
No, he hasn't forgotten his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series day job; he'll still wheel his usual Joe Gibbs Racing entry in Sunday's Subway 500. But the chance to play teammate-for-a-day with NASCAR Craftsman Truck veteran Dennis Setzer -- an old late-model friend and foe of Labonte's -- was too much to resist.
"Dennis is a good friend, and he and I had some great battles back in the late 80's at Caraway Speedway (in Asheboro, N.C.)," said Labonte, who'll drive No. 47 Chevrolet Silverado for Morgan-Dollar Motorsports. "We were rivals, but very friendly rivals. ... All the times I raced him, I don't think he ever touched me or I ever touched him. It was just good, clean racing that was a lot of fun."
And competitive. If all else fails, Labonte certainly can tap his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup experience; he finished second in the April event at Martinsville, and he has one win, one pole, four top-five and 11 top-10 finishes at the tough little Virginia short track. Then there's incentive: This season, 11th place is worth over $1 million, and the driver who finishes in that spot will attend the Dec. 3 season-ending banquet in New York.
Last week, Labonte finished 17th at Charlotte, climbing to 14th in the standings. He's 226 points behind the current 11th-place driver, Jamie McMurray (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge), but only 10 behind 13th-place Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet).
"We need to get back on track and get back in the top 10," said Labonte, who's also been working with a new crew chief, Brandon Thomas, since midseason. "It's that simple. We've not performed at the level we need to, and while we're working hard to get there, we just haven't had the results. We had a good run at Martinsville in the spring and would like to finish one position higher than we did in April."