BUSCH: Watkins Glen Terry Labonte preview

TERRY LABONTE SEEKS THIRD VICTORY IN WATKINS GLEN BUSCH GRAND NATIONAL 200 WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- Terry Labonte was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, and now resides in Thomasville, N.C. And in the last weekend of June, the 1984 NASCAR Winston...

TERRY LABONTE SEEKS THIRD VICTORY IN WATKINS GLEN BUSCH GRAND NATIONAL 200

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- Terry Labonte was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, and now resides in Thomasville, N.C. And in the last weekend of June, the 1984 NASCAR Winston Cup champion makes himself at home in the Finger Lakes of upstate New York at the annual Busch Grand National race.

Labonte has top-three finishes in all four Busch Grand National events at the Glen. He won the inaugural race in 1991, and took his second victory last year. In between, he placed third behind Ernie Irvan and Todd Bodine in 1992, and second to Bill Elliott in '93.

On June 25, Labonte will be looking for another victory in the event, which is now expanded to 200 miles.

"We got a pretty good record at Watkins Glen, and I hope we can keep it up," Labonte said. "We've got a pretty good car, the MW Windows Chevrolet. We put a good effort into the car preparing for the Watkins Glen race, because that's a place we know we can always run strong.

"But it seems like it gets tougher every year," Labonte said. "Plus the race will be longer this year. That means an extra pit stop, and an extra set of tires."

Pit strategy played a role in Labonte's 1994 victory. Labonte was running at the front of a tight group of cars, when he looked in his mirror and saw that Sterling Marlin slowed with a blown engine.

"I was in my window where we decided we could pit, and I took a chance and pitted a little earlier than we planned," Labonte recalled. "I saw an incident and thought a caution would come out, and it did."

Labonte took the caution on pit road -- just as NASCAR closed pit road, giving him a "free" pit stop. He was unchallenged the rest of the way, winning by six seconds over Scott Lagasse (relief driving for Bobby Dotter) and Tracy Leslie.

"The regular Busch Grand National guys are running awfully good," Labonte said. "Johnny Benson and Chad Little are up front at just about every place we've been. Phil Parsons has been running real strong, and there are plenty of other guys running good. It's going to be tough -- we've got a lot of good cars this year."

While Winston Cup drivers have won every BGN event at Watkins Glen, and have dominated many of the Busch Grand National races at other circuits, the regulars have turned the tables in 1995. Steve Grissom's triumph at Bristol was the lone victory for aWinston Cup regular in 1995 BGN competition, with Labonte being the most consistent performer from the ranks of the invaders.

Labonte competed in 10 of the first 12 events on the 1995 Busch Grand National schedule in the MW Windows Chevy, and was tenth in the point standing. He has five top five finishes, with his best a second in Richmond. In his "regular" job, driving Rick Hendrick's Kellogg's Chevrolet, Labonte won the race at Richmond. He is also 10th in the Winston Cup point standings entering the race at Pocono, with four top five finishes.

Practice and qualifying for the Busch Grand National 200 will be held on Friday, June 23. Final qualifying, plus the 12th running of the Glen Continental IMSA Exxon World Sports Car event, will be held on Saturday. Sunday's slate opens with three races, the IMSA Street Stocks in a three-hour race at 8:30 a.m., followed by the Barber Dodge Pro Series and U.S. Formula Ford 2000. The Busch Grand National 200 takes the green flag at 1:45 p.m. For ticket information, call (607) 535-2481. J.J. O'Malley/Watkins Glen International

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