BUSCH: Bobby Labonte Michigan preview

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C., Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2004 -- The following are Michgan pre-race notes and quotes for Bobby Labonte, driver of the No. 18 Wellbutrin XL Chevrolet (NEXTEL CUP) and No. 19 Banquet Chevrolet (Busch Series) for Joe Gibbs...

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C., Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2004 -- The following are Michgan pre-race notes and quotes for Bobby Labonte, driver of the No. 18 Wellbutrin XL Chevrolet (NEXTEL CUP) and No. 19 Banquet Chevrolet (Busch Series) for Joe Gibbs Racing.


* Labonte will attempt to start his 25th NEXTEL Cup race at historic Michigan International Speedway. He won both races at the legendary track in 1995 and won the 1999 fall race.

* In 24 starts at Michigan, Labonte has nine top-five finishes and has won the Bud Pole, four times, including capturing both poles in 2003.

* Labonte has 15 top-10 finishes at MIS in 24 starts (63 percent). Between the 1993 fall race and the 2000 fall race, Labonte finished in the top 10 in 13 of 15 races, including nine consecutive races from the fall race in 1996 through the fall race of 2000.

* In 2003, Labonte won both Bud Poles at Michigan and finished second in the spring race, finishing just .774 of a second behind winner Kurt Busch. Labonte finished a disappointing 37th in the fall race, falling out after 140 laps with engine problems.

* In the June race at MIS, Labonte started 12th and finished eighth.

* Labonte has five top-five and nine top-10 finishes in 2004.

* After finishing 11th at Watkins Glen, Labonte fell one spot in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup point standings, moving from eighth to ninth. He has 2,714 points and is 429 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson, three points behind eight-place Kevin Harvick and 58 points ahead of 10th-place Jeremy Mayfield.

* Labonte has had success at the four tracks remaining on the schedule before the "Chase for the NEXTEL Cup" begins Sept. 19 at New Hampshire.

* Michigan -- three wins, nine top-five finishes and four Bud Poles

* Bristol -- two top-five and four top-10 finishes in the last six races at the track.

* California -- four top-five finishes including second in 2003 and fifth in 2004.

* Richmond -- average finish of 3.6 in last three races at RIR

* The primary car for the GFS Marketplace 400 is chassis No. 62, the car Labonte drove in All-Star events at Charlotte in 2003 (third-place finish) and 2004 (13th-place finish). The car was also used at the first Pocono event in 2003 when Labonte finished 16th. It has served as a back-up car in six events in 2004.

* The back-up car will be No. 87, the car Labonte drove to second place with March 21 at Darlington and the car he won the Bud Pole with April 2 at Texas. He finished fifth with the car May 2 at California, eighth June 20 at Michigan International Speedway, 13th May 30 at Charlotte, 15th Aug. 8 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and 18th July 11 at Chicagoland Speedway. Labonte also used the car at the fall race at Atlanta in 2003, where he started second and finished fifth.


* Labonte will attempt to start his second NASCAR Busch Series event of the season. He started ninth and finished 11th driving the No. 29 ESGR Army Nat'l Guard-Reserve Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing in the O'Reilly 300 April 3 at Texas Motor Speedway.

* Labonte will compete in his first Busch Series event at MIS since he finished second there in 1998. In five Busch Series races at MIS, Labonte has one win (1994), and finished lower than sixth only once (23rd, 1992).

* 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.

* 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 162 starts in Busch Series competition and has scored nine wins, 48 top-fives and 88 top-10 finishes. He has finished in the top-10 in 54 percent of his Busch Series starts.

* 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.

* Since the 1998 season, when he drove five Busch Series races, Labonte has only competed in two Busch events, Las Vegas in 1999 and Texas in 2004. He broke his shoulder blade in practice for the March 1999 Darlington Busch Series event, but did not miss a NEXTEL Cup Series start. However, he did not compete in that Busch Series race, nor any other until 2004.

* The primary car for the Cabela's 250 will be JGR Busch chassis No. 1858, which is a new car that was tested by Labonte at MIS last month.

* The back up car is JGR Busch chassis No. 2045, which Mike Bliss drove at Las Vegas, Charlotte and Texas. He started on the pole and finished 12th with the car at Las Vegas.

*Over the wall team is NEXTEL Cup crew with a few changes. Cook is front-tire changer instead of rear; Lee is rear-tire changer instead of jackman and von Olhausen is jackman instead of windshield. Armstrong is tire specialist rather than front-tire changer.


BOBBY LABONTE (No. 18 Wellbutrin XL Chevrolet and No. 19 Banquet Chevrolet; 2000 NASCAR Champion):

"Michigan has always been my favorite track. It just has everything going for it. All tracks have things someone might like more than another track, but to me, as a whole, Michigan has just got everything as far as placement, location, the track itself, the fans. A little bit of everything just seems like it goes a long way there. It's always a treat to go to Michigan, and when you run good there it helps."

(About winning both NEXTEL Cup poles in 2003): "We were on a roll there at that part of the year, and we were able to win both poles there last year and ran really good in those races. But, I would trade those two poles for two victories. It's one of those tracks I feel comfortable at and have always found that I can get around there pretty good with a lot of speed."

(About the points chase heading into MIS): "We've had some good success at Michigan and finished eighth there in the June race. We know we can run well there, so we need to take advantage of that and get a good result."

(About competing in the Busch and NEXTEL Cup races): "I'm looking forward to the challenge. I don't run too many Busch races anymore, so to compete at Michigan, which is my favorite track, will be a pretty neat deal. We were able to put a deal together with ConAgra foods to run the Busch Race with Banquet as a sponsor. I have a great relationship with them and look forward to putting on a good show and, hopefully, taking them to Victory Lane. It's going to be a great Busch race because I think there are like 10 or 11 NEXTEL Cup drivers who will be competing in it. I know Tony (Stewart) and Rusty (Wallace) are driving and so is Mark Martin. Plus there are guys like (Kevin) Harvick, (Matt) Kenseth, (Greg) Biffile and Michael Waltrip who run a lot of Busch races anyway. It should be a really good race for the fans. The Busch Series definitely helped my career. I had a lot of fun racing full-time in the series and winning the 1991 title certainly is one of the highlights of my career. I like getting back in the series every once in a while. It's been really cool this year because I raced in Texas, which is where I was born, and then at Michigan, which is a track I obviously enjoy competing at."


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About this article
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Bobby Labonte , Michael Waltrip , Kevin Harvick , Joe Nemechek , Jimmie Johnson , David Green , Mark Martin
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing