Atlanta's 'Mr. November' gets a win in March By Dave Rodman NASCAR Online HAMPTON, Ga. (March 9, 1998) - Bobby Labonte scored a victory for the third different manufacturer in four NASCAR Winston Cup Series races this season when he ...
Atlanta's 'Mr. November' gets a win in March By Dave Rodman NASCAR Online HAMPTON, Ga. (March 9, 1998) - Bobby Labonte scored a victory for the third different manufacturer in four NASCAR Winston Cup Series races this season when he dominated the last 47 laps and won the $1,970,887 PRIMESTAR 500 Monday at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the Interstate Batteries Pontiac. A chilly-looking Bobby Labonte accepts the trophy for his third NASCAR Winston Cup Series win in his last four tries at Atlanta. Labonte started 14th in the Joe Gibbs-owned Grand Prix, and maintained a low profile for the first two-thirds of the 325-lap event around the 1.54-mile quad-oval. But when he grabbed the lead during an exchange of pit stops at lap 279, there was no catching Labonte, who has won the last two season-ending NAPA 500s at AMS. He averaged 139.501 mph for three hours, 36 minutes and 12 seconds and won $106,800. The race ended under caution with Labonte holding a comfortable advantage of more than 20 car lengths over Dale Jarrett, the defending winner of Atlanta's spring NASCAR Winston Cup Series race. The seventh yellow flag of the race flew when Lake Speed spun in Turn 4 in the Cartoon Network Ford and Jeff Burton slapped the wall coming off Turn 2 in the Exide Batteries Ford.
Rounding out the top-five were teammates Jeremy Mayfield in the Mobil 1 Ford and points leader Rusty Wallace in the Miller Lite Ford, and Raybestos Rookie of the Year leader Kenny Irwin, who had a breakthrough event by leading his first laps of the 1998 season and leading a field-best 111 laps in all.
"We made some late-race adjustments and they worked," Labonte's crew chief, Jimmy Makar, said. "This has always been one of my favorite tracks and Bobby likes it, too. He's one heckuva little driver and he can drive with the best of 'em anywhere."
"I told the guys I didn't want to wait until the last race of the season to win this year, and here we are in Victory Lane at Atlanta," Labonte said after using a cellular phone to call his wife Donna and son Tyler, who he said missed one of his victories for the first time in his career.
Five different drivers swapped the lead five times over the last 100 laps in the competitive race, which saw 29 lead changes among 14 drivers.
Ford again dominated the top-10, with eight cars listed. Todd Bodine, who qualified for his first race of the season and led 46 laps, was victimized by a mismatched set of tires and finished 10th. Dick Trickle, Kenny Wallace, Burton and Johnny Benson placed sixth through ninth.
"We had a good car and this shows what we can do when we get into races," Bodine said. "That's the goal now, to get into races, because we know we can compete with these guys and run up front." Irwin posted his first top-10 start of the year, beginning the race in fifth; then matched it with a top-five finish despite crew chief Marc Reno being fired in the week prior to the race. "I thought we had as good a chance as anyone to win," Irwin said. "We just came up a little short. I needed this for the confidence of the whole team today, and we did all right." Labonte ended the day as the driver with the highest average purse won in the track's history, $67,490 per race. He has averaged a 12th place finish in 11 starts and his his total winnings are $742,389. Labonte has the highest winning percentage -- 27 percent -- of any driver with more than one start at AMS. Bob Burdick won his only start at AMS, in the spring race in 1961 -- ironically the last time a Pontiac had won the spring event here.
Source: NASCAR Online