Michigan: Bobby Labonte race report

LABONTE FINISHES 28TH AT MICHIGAN AFTER FUEL CONSERVATION WOES FIELD BROOKLYN, Mich. (June 14, 2009) -- Bobby Labonte and the No. 96 Ask.com team fought a tight race car and finished 28th today in the LifeLock 400 at Labonte's favorite track, ...

LABONTE FINISHES 28TH AT MICHIGAN AFTER FUEL CONSERVATION WOES FIELD

BROOKLYN, Mich. (June 14, 2009) -- Bobby Labonte and the No. 96 Ask.com team fought a tight race car and finished 28th today in the LifeLock 400 at Labonte's favorite track, Michigan International Speedway. Fuel gambling from other teams kept the crowd of 90,000 fans on the edge of their seats as Mark Martin unexpectedly took the checkered flag on the final lap.

After a successful qualifying run on Friday, Labonte began today's event 17th as the command to start their engines came from renowned rock star Kid Rock. The green flag was flown at 2:20 p.m. in Brooklyn, Mich. and after only five laps Labonte reported the car to be tight in the center of the turns.

At lap 37, crew chief Ben Leslie brought Labonte down pit road for a wedge and track bar adjustment in an effort to free the car up in the turns. The Ask.com team got Labonte out of the pit box in 14 seconds as green flag laps continued. Labonte, now in 31st position, reported the Ford Fusion to be the tightest in turn three and by lap 52, he was passed by leader Jimmie Johnson.

The first of only three cautions of the day awarded Leslie with an opportunity to make more adjustments to the No. 96 Ford Fusion. Labonte radioed to Leslie that he lost grip on the race track and was forced to travel on the lower groove of the two-mile oval. Green-flag laps again took shape and by lap 91 Labonte radioed the car to be better in the corners but was still lacking grip.

On the ensuing pit stops, Leslie and Labonte exchanged detailed communication and adjustment techniques in an effort to improve their Ford Fusion. They went on to escape the fuel gamble made by many teams to finish 28th for the day.

"At the beginning I had a hard time getting the car to turn," said Labonte. "Then as the track warmed I really lost grip. It was better if I was alone on the bottom but if I tried to race anyone or take the top line, it was all over the place. Ben (Leslie) and the guys worked really hard today. It just wasn't our day."

Infineon Raceway will play host to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series next weekend for the Toyota/SaveMart 350.

-credit: hofr

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Labonte , Jimmie Johnson , Mark Martin