Pocono: Petty Enterprises race report

Dodge Motorsports driver Kasey Kahne picked up his second points-paying win of the season by taking the checkered flag in Sunday's Pocono 500 at the Pocono Raceway. Kahne started the race from the pole position. Brian Vickers and Denny Hamlin ...

Dodge Motorsports driver Kasey Kahne picked up his second points-paying win of the season by taking the checkered flag in Sunday's Pocono 500 at the Pocono Raceway. Kahne started the race from the pole position. Brian Vickers and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top three finishers.

Sunday's race featured near record heat in the Pocono area. Rain fell, albeit it shortly, during this race for the second consecutive year. The race was briefly red-flagged while the track crews could dry the surface. It was run without further interruption.

Bobby Labonte and the No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge team finished 11th in the Pocono 500. It is the third 11th-place finish for the team during the 2008 Sprint Cup season. Labonte, a three-time Pocono winner, began the race from the 38th position. He radioed to crew chief Jeff Meendering that he was fighting a 'loose' car getting into each of Pocono's three corners and a 'tight' car from the center of the corner to the exit. Meendering, along with great pit stops from the No. 43 pit crew, began to adjust the car to Labonte's liking, while also picking up precious spots on pit road. By lap 46 Labonte was running in the 23rd position. On lap 57 he was fighting to jump inside the top-20.

It was during the middle portions of the race that Meendering began to develop a pit strategy that almost paid off heavily. Meendering alternated brilliantly between four-tire, two-tire and fuel-only pit stops. Not only did this vault Labonte to his highest running order of 3rd by lap 82, but it also put the No. 43 on a pit cycle with three other cars. This pit cycle saw Labonte make a green-flag pit stop on lap 164, a stop that would have allowed him to make it to the end of the race while the majority of the other competitors would have had to come in for one more round of fuel. However, a lap 177 caution negated this strategy, but Labonte was able to tie his best finish of the season.

"All of the guys on pit road did an awesome job. This is one of the best team efforts of the season," sounded Labonte. "Jeff made great calls. The pit crew had great stops, one after another. It was hard to pass out there today. You could pull up to a guy's bumper, but passing them was another story. So the positions that we were able to pick up on pit road were important to how we finished."

Two-time Sprint Cup champion, Terry Labonte, and the No. 45 Paralyzed Veterans of America Dodge team finished 30th on Sunday. Like his brother, Labonte is a multiple winner at the Pocono track. He was also 'tight' in the center of the corners, especially in turn 3. On lap 69, Labonte was the unfortunate victim of a wreck not of his own making. The No. 45 Dodge received only minor damage to the front splitter, but that is a crucial area to front downforce. The crew of the PVA entry did nice work on pit road to fix the splitter. By lap 133, Labonte was running in the top-25. Crew chief Stewart Cooper also used a mix of four-tire, two-tire and fuel-only stops. However, the car reverted back to the 'tight' condition late in the race.

"It felt good to get back in the car, but man, it was hot out there today," said Labonte. "We didn't quite get the finish we wanted, but I think we learned a few things that will help us at Michigan this weekend. These cars are different than anything I've ever driven. I figured a lot of stuff out today, nuances of the car and things like that. The crew did an awesome job today. Hopefully we can build on this at Michigan."

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will head to the Michigan International Speedway next weekend for a 400-mile event. Friday's qualifying session will be telecast on the Speed Channel. It will be broadcast on the Motor Racing Network (MRN) and Sirius Channel 128.

-credit: pe

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Kasey Kahne , Brian Vickers , Denny Hamlin