Bristol II: Bobby Labonte preview

Bristol Gives Perspective First Repeat Track for Car of Tomorrow This weekend, Bobby Labonte and the ...

Bristol Gives Perspective
First Repeat Track for Car of Tomorrow

This weekend, Bobby Labonte and the #43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge Avenger team head to the .533-mile, high-banked Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway for Saturday night's Sharpie 500.

Labonte and the #43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker team recently made a change. Last weekend's 3M Performance 400 was the team's first race with new crew chief Doug Randolph. They started fourth and finished ninth. Labonte is now 18th in points.

This weekend's Sharpie 500 will be Labonte's 30th start at Bristol and career start 498. He has scored three top-five and nine top-10 finishes at the track. Labonte's average finish at the track is 19. His best finish was third in 2003. He ran an impressive race there in March 2006, posting a fifth-place finish after starting 30th.

Comments from Labonte heading into this weekend's race at Bristol:

"I think we had a good start with Doug at Michigan. We qualified fourth and that really put us in a good position and helped us finish ninth. It was a hard race to get a good finish because so much had changed with the track. We sat there for so long on Sunday and Monday was a long day too. The track changed so much, but I think we have a really good start with Doug. He made a difference quickly and hopefully we can build on that this weekend.

"It's pretty important for us to qualify up front at Bristol. Hopefully we can have another strong qualifying run because you want a pit stall in the frontstretch. It's a pretty big advantage to pit on the front. You can still have a good finish if you pit on the back, but it's easier to pit on the front. It's something that is unique to Bristol, pit road is pretty different, but that just means qualifying means a whole lot more. The pressure will be on us to get a good qualifying run on Friday.

"The race won't be too bad. It's going to be the first track we've ever come back to that we already have notes with our Avenger. That's a huge plus. That is a really big deal. We have been going in blind to so many of these tracks using the new car. This is an opportunity to go back and see what worked and what didn't work. These cars are different and we have different notes than the other cars. We can at least start a database of information and knowledge now.

"It's going to be a measuring tool for NASCAR too. They will be able to go back and compare the races. What are the biggest differences? Where are the gains? Where do the cars need to improve? Things like that. There will now be an opportunity to compare and contrast. It will be more important for the drivers and teams, but I am sure NASCAR can look at things too.

"The Avenger has been good for us. It's been great for Hendrick and Gibbs, but I think we've had some good runs with it too. We've tested a lot with it to prepare for the races we've had. We have a top ten with it at Phoenix and that helped us get momentum with the car. Martinsville, we wrecked, but we think we had a pretty good car. The road courses weren't bad with it. We've had some struggles too, but I think we feel pretty good about the car.

"It's hard to make big judgments about the car at Bristol. Bristol will always be a 'bump-and-run' type of track. Guys will stick to the bottom and nudge each other to pass. It's not really about aerodynamics, it's not about engineering, but it is all about creating excitement. That's why this place will be packed on Saturday night."

-credit: petty racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Labonte