Martinsville II: Petty Enterprises race report

Chad McCumbee finished Sunday's race in 25th position in the No. 45 Marathon American Spirit Motor Oil Dodge. McCumbee was making his Sprint Cup debut at Martinsville. Early on, the car was a too 'tight' for McCumbee's liking. Crew chief ...

Chad McCumbee finished Sunday's race in 25th position in the No. 45 Marathon American Spirit Motor Oil Dodge. McCumbee was making his Sprint Cup debut at Martinsville. Early on, the car was a too 'tight' for McCumbee's liking. Crew chief Stewart Cooper called for several chassis adjustments, including track bar and wedge changes, and McCumbee race his way inside the top-25 by the middle portion of the race. Brakes are known to be an issue at Martinsville because they take a lot of stress. McCumbee radioed that his brake pedal was softening late in the race. He was still able to find a rhythm to get a good finish and gain the respect of the Sprint Cup veterans.

"We really went through everything today," said McCumbee. "We were tight in the middle and I had decent drive off most of the race. I think that we had a little bit of a rear brake issue. The longer that we ran, the looser that we got. Later in the runs, we got really good in the center (of the corners), but lost our forward drive. It was my first time at Martinsville. I learned a lot. We're getting our notebook bigger and bigger so next time we come here, we'll be really good."

Bobby Labonte and the No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge team finished 37th on Sunday. Labonte, making his 32nd start at the half-mile oval, was looking to add to his career totals of one win and six top-five finishes at the track. The team had a fast car in the 'spring' race at Martinsville and had confidence going into the race that they were even better prepared this time. When the green flag fell, Labonte had to deal with a car that was 'loose' getting into and off of the flat corners, with no forward 'bite.' Forward 'bite' is necessary to pass coming off of the corners and crew chief Jeff Meendering quickly began to work on this condition. This began to improve and Labonte began turning very fast lap times by the middle portion of the race. However, on lap 256 he was hit from behind to bring out a caution. The damage was minimal and the crew did a great job in making repairs to the car. Looking to come home with a solid finish, on lap 432 Labonte radioed that something felt wrong in the drive train. A broken rear end gear was diagnosed and the problem forced Labonte behind the wall for repairs, virtually ending his day.

"Today was a struggle," said Labonte. "The handling just never came around like we hoped it would. The pit crew had some great stops, we were throwing a lot at the car and the guys were getting me out pretty quick. The wreck wasn't bad. We were still running decent lap times after that. I never had any idea that the rear-end gear was going out. When you are fighting forward bite broken rear-end gears can usually happen."

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will head to the Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway for this weekend's Pep Boys Auto 500. Friday's qualifying session will be telecast on ESPN2. It will be broadcast on the Performance Racing Network (PRN) and Sirius Channel 128.

-credit: pe

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Labonte , Chad McCumbee