While this season has seen its share of wet weather, it is a rare occasion to see rain in the Valley of the Sun. However, during a lap 36 caution period, rain began to fall on the one-mile oval and forced the race to go under the red flag for 22...
While this season has seen its share of wet weather, it is a rare occasion to see rain in the Valley of the Sun. However, during a lap 36 caution period, rain began to fall on the one-mile oval and forced the race to go under the red flag for 22 minutes. The last time a race was interrupted by rain at Phoenix was in 1998.
Bobby Labonte and the No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge team finished 19th in Sunday's race. Labonte began the race from the 41st position, but quickly began to pick off the cars in front of him by using the low line around the racetrack. He had moved up 16 positions by the time the race restarted after the rain delay. Once the rain moved out the sun began to beam down on the track, the grip level of the asphalt diminished. Labonte had to deal with a chassis that was "loose" getting into and off of the flat corners at PIR. Several chassis adjustments improved the condition and Labonte was one of the fastest cars on the track at lap 248. While battling on lap 273 to get the 'Lucky Dog' award, Labonte was involved in a multi-car accident. The damage was minor and the No. 43 crew did a masterful job in getting the repairs made without Labonte losing a lap. Labonte continued to keep himself in position to get his lap back, but the caution did not fall his way until the race was inside of ten laps to go. No 'Lucky Dog' award is given inside the final ten laps. The 22 spots that Labonte improved from the green flag to the checkered flag were the most of any driver.
"The car was just really 'loose' after the rain delay, especially on entry," said Labonte. "The asphalt here is pretty worn out and that compounds whatever problems you have. Everyone fought hard and we put ourselves in a good position to get our lap back, but we couldn't get a caution when we needed it. At times our car was really good. That's encouraging."
Kyle Petty and the No. 45 Wells Fargo Dodge finished Sunday's race in the 39th position. Petty, who was making his 23rd start at PIR, began the race from the 35th position. Like his teammate, Petty also moved up in the running order after the drop of the green flag. Unlike his teammate, however, Petty was dealing with a racecar that was "tight" getting through the flat PIR corners. Petty was also involved in the multi-car wreck on lap 273. His damage was too severe for repairs to be made so that he could return to the track.
"I really couldn't see what was going on in front of me and before I could slow down I ran into the back on the '09," said Petty. "The car was pretty good at the start of the race. I don't know if the sun going down had any affect, but it just wouldn't turn as the track cooled off."