INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2001 - Bobby Labonte won the IROC at Indy race and the True Value IROC series championship the hard way Aug. 4 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Defending NASCAR Winston Cup champion Labonte won the 40-lap race...
INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2001 - Bobby Labonte won the IROC at Indy race and the True Value IROC series championship the hard way Aug. 4 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Defending NASCAR Winston Cup champion Labonte won the 40-lap race after starting from the rear of the 11-car field. He passed Tony Stewart for the lead for good on Lap 34, holding off fellow Winston Cup driver Stewart by .324 of a second at the finish. Labonte's average speed was 155.239 mph.
1999 Indianapolis 500 winner Kenny Brack finished third.
Labonte finished atop the True Value IROC standings with 68 points, earning a $250,000 champion's bonus. Stewart was second with 58 and Brack third with 57. Labonte led Brack 44-43 entering this race. The annual four-race series is racing's "all-star game," as 12 top drivers from different series compete in identically prepared Pontiac Firebirds.
"It was a good day and a lot of fun," Labonte said. "I'm glad to do that on the 25th anniversary (of IROC).
"What it was all about this year, it was about Dale (Earnhardt). I put a little No. 3 on my car. My car was black. It was like it was an omen. Dale was up there (champion) last year. It sure is an honor to be up there after him."
The close finish between Labonte and Stewart capped their spirited battle over the final 20 laps.
Labonte led the race on a Lap 20 restart, with Stewart alongside in second. On Lap 26, Stewart took the lead with a low move on the back straightaway of the historic 2.5-mile oval.
For the next seven laps, Labonte stayed glued to the rear bumper of Stewart's Pontiac Firebird. Stewart tried to drive different lines on both straightaways in an effort to break Labonte's draft. It failed.
On Lap 34, Labonte passed Stewart for the lead on the back straightaway. Stewart then nosed forward for the lead entering Turn 3 in his silver Firebird. But then Labonte's black Firebird regained the lead on the front straightaway for good.
Stewart made one last stab at the lead on Lap 35. Stewart tried to pass Labonte on the outside of Turn 1, but Labonte held him off. Stewart then tried to move outside Labonte in Turn 4, and Labonte's car wiggled. Stewart then clipped the outside retaining wall in Turn 4, and Labonte pulled away.
"This car was really loose most of the day," Labonte said. "I tried all I could do to stay off of him (Tony Stewart). I tried my best to get past him. I wrecked, and he was in the wall. I'm glad we won the race. I didn't want to race like that. We traded a little bit of paint - didn't really mean to."
Said Stewart: "It was fun. I wouldn't have run that close with anybody else. I trust Bobby more than I trust anybody. To race anybody that close, that's the only guy I would have done it with. I ran out of real estate."
The race had two caution periods. The first was caused by debris on Lap 20. The second was caused on the restart after that first caution when NASCAR Winston Cup driver Jeff Burton - who led the first 19 laps after starting from the pole - and defending Indy Racing Northern Light Series champion Buddy Lazier collided in Turn 3. Both drivers hit the outside retaining wall but were unhurt.
NASCAR Winston Cup driver Dale Jarrett finished fourth in the race, followed by Indy Racing Northern Light Series driver Al Unser Jr., Winston Cup driver Ricky Rudd, Indy Racing driver Eddie Cheever Jr., NASCAR Busch Series driver Jeff Green, Indy Racing driver Mark Dismore, Burton and Lazier.