Next two races a challenge for Labonte Interstate Batteries Pontiac driver Bobby Labonte is coming off a second-place finish in last Saturday's Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway, allowing him to vault from seventh to fifth in the...
Next two races a challenge for Labonte
Interstate Batteries Pontiac driver Bobby Labonte is coming off a second-place finish in last Saturday's Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway, allowing him to vault from seventh to fifth in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series point standings.
But with three races remaining on the schedule, the real challenge for the Joe Gibbs Racing team comes in the next two events. First up is Sunday's Dura-Lube/Kmart 500K at Phoenix, followed by the ACDelco 400 at North Carolina Speedway. Labonte hasn't fared well at those tracks recently, and if he wants to finish the season in the top-five of the point standings, he has to perform in the next two races. The final race at Atlanta, Labonte has won the last two seasons.
"I've won a pole at Phoenix, but traditionally, we haven't raced too well there," Labonte said. "But now I think our flat track program has really improved. We finished third at Indianapolis and fourth at Pocono. That gives us hope. It's real important to run good at Phoenix so we can maintain our hold on fifth in the point standings."
Labonte's hold on that position is a precarious one. He leads sixth-place Jeff Burton by four points, and seventh-place Jeremy Mayfield by eight. Labonte trails fourth-place Rusty Wallace by 109 points.
Labonte is seeking to become the highest finishing Pontiac driver in the point standings since Rusty Wallace finished second in a Grand Prix in 1993.
The two fastest superspeedways were definitely a help to Labonte in the point standings. In the four races at Daytona and Talladega, Labonte registered a win, two seconds and a sixth. He won three poles, and his average finish was a whopping 2.7. Now he needs that kind of success to transfer to the shorter speedways at Phoenix and Rockingham.
"Traditionally, we've had some flat track woes over the years and Phoenix is a flat track, but that seems to be one of our strongpoints this year," crew chief Jimmy Makar said. "We really seem to have turned the corner on our flat track program and we're looking forward to going to Phoenix and running in the top-five and proving our program there."
Labonte is confident his team can get the job done. Nearly every goal the team set for itself in the preseason has been accomplished. The last one is to finish in the top-five in the point standings.
"It just boils down to what you focus on and what you work on," Labonte said. "We said we wanted to improve our flat track program and we did that. We wanted to win a race before the last race at Atlanta, and we've won twice already. We've done all that. Maybe we didn't set our goals high enough. Maybe we need to say we're going to win all the races and the championship, and who knows, we might just do it. Then we'd say, 'Wow, we just didn't set our goals high enough.' You put your heart and mind to it and figure out what you have to do and make it better and you do it.
Labonte is ready to do it at Phoenix.
Source: NASCAR Online