LABONTE CAUGHT UP IN TALLADEGA DRAMA, FINISHES 28TH TALLADEGA, AL. (April 26, 2009) -- Bobby Labonte and the No. 96 Ask.com Ford Fusion had a disappointing end to yesterday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway after a late-race accident ...
LABONTE CAUGHT UP IN TALLADEGA DRAMA, FINISHES 28TH
TALLADEGA, AL. (April 26, 2009) -- Bobby Labonte and the No. 96 Ask.com Ford Fusion had a disappointing end to yesterday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway after a late-race accident eliminated the team from contention with only nine laps remaining.
After an impressive qualifying round on Saturday, the No. 96 Ask.com Ford began Sunday's event in the 12th position. Labonte took the green flag amongst an estimated crowd of 142,000 fans and immediately began to gain track position, running as high as seventh in the dramatic drafting-style, superspeedway race.
An early race accident involving nine contenders, including points leader Jeff Gordon, brought out the first of nine cautions for the day. In an effort to avoid the collection of race cars, Labonte was forced onto the apron and then the grass, causing minor nose and splitter damage to the No. 96 Ask.com Ford. The prolonged caution allowed crew chief Ben Leslie to bring Labonte down pit road four times for repairs while remaining on the lead lap.
The field restarted on lap 12 and Labonte, now in the 32nd position with a repaired nose and splitter, began to gain track position. Long green lap segments allowed the field to separate at times and Labonte continued to race his way to the front of the field, running in the top-10 for many laps.
Five cautions for debris and a spin by the No. 2 car awarded Labonte and the Ask.com team time to pit for tires and fuel. With only 34 laps to go, Labonte was racing his way to the front, currently in the eighth position.
The last 16 laps of the Aaron's 499 made for exciting racing for the fans as each driver began to race for the checkered flag. A spin by the No. 18 car of Kyle Busch and the No. 1 car of Martin Truex, Jr. brought out a late race caution and Labonte found himself racing for track position from the 18th position.
With only nine laps remaining Labonte was hit from behind by Juan Pablo Montoya in the No. 42 car, eliminated the Hall of Fame entry for the day. Brad Keselowski went on to gain his first win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series after taking the lead from Carl Edwards with only yards left in the Aaron's 499.
"All day I tried to stay out of trouble," said Labonte. "You just don't know what's going to happen at Talladega. It's unfortunate for the guys. We had a fast race car and had the opportunity to finish in the top-10 or better. You just kind of hope for the best here and see where you end up. That late in the race the money is on the line, so you've just got to go and hope you stay out of the mess. Unfortunately for us, we weren't able to do that today."
Labonte and the No. 96 Ask.com team will take the green flag once again at Richmond International Raceway next weekend for the Crown Royal presents the Russ Friedman 400.