Bristol II: Bobby Labonte preview

BOBBY LABONTE SHARPIE 500/FOOD CITY 250 NOTES AND QUOTES HUNTERSVILLE, N.C., Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2005 -- The following are Sharpie 500/Food City 250 pre-race notes and quotes for Bobby Labonte, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries...


HUNTERSVILLE, N.C., Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2005 -- The following are Sharpie 500/Food City 250 pre-race notes and quotes for Bobby Labonte, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet (NEXTEL Cup) and the No. 19 Hunt's Chevrolet (Busch Series) for Joe Gibbs Racing.


* Labonte's No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet will feature custom graphics with NBA Superstar Lebron James and POWERade's new FLAVA23 sports drink on the hood. The car will feature James' stylized comic book character, "King James," soaring through the air on the way to the rim for a signature dunk. James will be at Bristol to witness the debut of his likeness on the hood of a NEXTEL Cup car.

* Labonte will attempt to start his 26th NEXTEL Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway. He has never won a NEXTEL Cup race at the .533 of a mile oval.

* Labonte has eight top-10 finishes at Bristol, including a career-best third in April 2003.

* In the spring race, Labonte was in seventh-place on Lap 332 of the 500-lap race when he was caught up in a 13-car accident between Turns 3 and 4. He finished 22nd, 32 laps down.

* Last week, at Michigan, Labonte started 18th and finished 16th.

* Bad luck has plagued Labonte throughout the 2005 season. He has failed to finish in nine of the 23 races due to accidents or engine problems.

* Labonte is 24th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup point standings. He has 2,209 points and trails 23rd-place Casey Mears by eight points.

* The primary car for the Sharpie 500 is chassis No. 74, the car Labonte used to win the pole and finish fourth with in 2003 at Las Vegas. Labonte also drove the car in 2003 at California, where he finished second and at Pocono 2, where he finished 30th (engine). The car was driven in 2004 at Dover where Labonte started 18th and finished 25th in the spring and started sixth and finished 14th in the fall. Labonte also used the car in August at Bristol where he started 19th and finished 16th and in November at Darlington when he started 15th and finished ninth. The only time in 2005 the car has been used was at Bristol in the spring.

* The back-up car is chassis No. 78, the car Labonte used at Dover, where he finished 38th after engine problems ended his day after just 51 laps. The chassis was also used in 2004 at both Pocono races where he finished third and 29th (accident). Also in 2004, Labonte used the car to finish eighth at Las Vegas, 18th at Atlanta (spring), 18th at New Hampshire (fall) and 17th at Charlotte (fall). In 2003, the car was used in the second Atlanta race, where Labonte finished fifth. Chassis No. 78 was also used at both Michigan races and the Kansas race. Labonte won the pole for both races at Michigan and finished second in the car in the first Michigan race. He started fourth in the car at Kansas.


* The Food City 250 is the fourth of eight Busch Series races the Labonte will compete in for Joe Gibbs Racing and ConAgra Foods. Labonte finished sixth at Charlotte, 16th at Chicagoland and seventh at Michigan. In addition to Bristol, Labonte will compete at: Richmond, Sept. 9 (Banquet); Kansas, Oct. 10 (Banquet), Texas, Nov. 6 (Slim Jim), and Phoenix, Nov. 12 (Slim Jim).

* On April 13, 1991, Labonte scored his first career Busch Series win in the Budweiser 250 at Bristol International Speedway, driving the No. 44 Penrose Firecracker Oldsmobile. Labonte's good friend, David Green, finished second, while the late Dale Earnhardt finished third.

* Labonte has six career Busch Series starts at Bristol and has never finished lower than 15th. In addition to his win in April 1991, Labonte has finished second, sixth and eighth and has an average finish of 7.5. He has not raced in the Busch Series at Bristol since the fall of 1997.

* In April 1990, Labonte won his first career Busch pole at Bristol. He also won the pole for the August race.

* Labonte has 167 starts in Busch Series competition and has scored nine wins, 48 top-fives and 91 top-10 finishes. He has finished in the top-10 in 54 percent of his Busch Series starts.

* Labonte won the 1991 Busch Series championship on the strength of two wins and 21 top-five finishes. He lost the 1992 title by just three points to Joe Nemechek. The three-point margin is the closest points finish in the history of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, Busch Series or Craftsman Truck Series competition.

* Labonte made his Busch Series debut in 1982 at Martinsville Speedway. He finished 30th and won $220. He then competed in the two races in 1985, six in 1988 and seven in 1989 before competing full-time for the first time in 1990.

* Labonte's last Busch Series victory came in the Diamond Hill Plywood 200 March 21, 1998 at Darlington Raceway in the No. 44 Shell Pontiac.

* The primary car for the Food City 250 is Chassis No. 1958, a new car that has not been raced before.

* The back-up car is chassis No. 1840, which was used in seven races in 2003 by Coy Gibbs.


BOBBY LABONTE (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet; 2000 NASCAR Champion, 1991 Busch Series Champion): "We've got a pretty full week at Bristol doing both the NEXTEL Cup and Busch Series events. It's going to be busy, that's for sure. It's a pretty neat deal to have Lebron James and POWERade FLAVA23 on the car. We've done a lot of really cool paint schemes over the years, The Passion of the Christ, the "Let's Roll" car, we had Cal Ripken Jr. on the car one year, a Pro Football Hall of Fame car for Joe Gibbs -- the Lebron car certainly ranks right up there. He's a tremendous basketball player and I'm looking forward to meeting him and hopefully putting on a good show for him. The night race at Bristol is pretty unique. I don't think there is anything really like it on the schedule. You need a little bit of luck on your side at Bristol because the wrecks are going to happen and not getting caught up in them is difficult. Things happen so fast and it's hard to get through a wreck when it happens right in front of you. You try to be patient and stay calm in the car, but sometimes your emotions can get the best of you there is beating and banging going on for 500 laps."


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Bobby Labonte , Joe Nemechek , Casey Mears , Coy Gibbs , David Green , James King
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing