Bristol: Bobby Labonte race report

BOBBY LABONTE GAINES ONE POSITION IN POINTS STANDING AFTER 21ST-PLACE FINISH AT BRISTOL Bristol, Tenn. -- All eyes were on the cloud-filled skies in Bristol, but that didn't stop NASCAR Champion Bobby Labonte and the No. 71 TaxSlayer.com Chevy...

BOBBY LABONTE GAINES ONE POSITION IN POINTS STANDING AFTER 21ST-PLACE FINISH AT BRISTOL

Bristol, Tenn. -- All eyes were on the cloud-filled skies in Bristol, but that didn't stop NASCAR Champion Bobby Labonte and the No. 71 TaxSlayer.com Chevy team from strategically picking off one competitor at a time to climb 22 positions on the track for a 21st-place finish and gain one spot in the Cup points standings.

Labonte was forced to start in the rear of the field after a mid-practice wreck on Friday that required the No. 71 team to quickly prepare its back up car, chassis number 227, which had not seen on-track action this year. Despite a valiant effort by the team, the crew ran out of time in practice, forcing Labonte to qualify without having any practice laps in the car.

The car went a lap down early to eventual race winner Jimmie Johnson, but a gutsy call by crew chief Doug Randolph to stay out during the first caution allowed Labonte to return to the lead lap and continue to pick his way through the traffic at the world's fastest half-mile and gain 22 spots from his starting position.

Randolph and crew adjusted on the car through 10 caution periods, two of those for rain, as Labonte fought tight conditions most of the day. Fortunately, the storms held off over the speedway, allowing for all laps to be completed and a solid finish for the team.

"When you start at the rear of the field at Bristol, it's really tough to pass cars because the track is so short," Labonte said. "These guys did a great job getting this car ready for me to race today, so I just had to go out there and get all of the positions I could by passing one car at a time. It was a solid team effort."

The TRG Motorsports team now holds the 29th position in points and is guaranteed a starting spot in next weekend's race, regardless of Labonte's Past-Champion's Provisional. A goal that team owner Kevin Buckler is most proud of his young team for reaching.

"It's great for us, as a company, to be able to go to Martinsville next week well inside of the top-35 and know that we're set for the show," Buckler said. "It's really amazing to see this team get stronger each and every week and I'm looking forward to great things as we move forward in the season."

Labonte and the No. 71 crew will take part in a two-day test at Charlotte Motor Speedway this week to get a feel for the new spoiler, set to replace the car's current wing at Martinsville.

Fans can catch the new spoiler's debut when NASCAR's short track tour continues in Martinsville on March 28.

-source: trg motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Labonte , Jimmie Johnson , Kevin Buckler
Teams TRG Motorsports