LABONTE FINISHES 12TH IN PROLONGED COCA-COLA 600 CONCORD, N.C. (May 26, 2009) -- Bobby Labonte and the No. 96 Ask.com team finished 12th in yesterday's rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. The postponed race from ...
LABONTE FINISHES 12TH IN PROLONGED COCA-COLA 600
CONCORD, N.C. (May 26, 2009) -- Bobby Labonte and the No. 96 Ask.com team finished 12th in yesterday's rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. The postponed race from Sunday evening's rainout left the field again waiting out rain showers until the race was officially deemed complete at lap 227 with 259.5 miles to go.
Labonte began the Coca-Cola 600 in 20th position under cloudy skies with rain showers moving into the area. At lap six, the field of 43 cars was brought under caution as rain was reported in turns one and two. With only six laps complete, Labonte had climbed to 18th position. The green flag was given to the field again at lap 11 but a second caution at lap 16 for debris on the track opened pit road. Crew chief Ben Leslie radioed for Labonte to stay out in an effort to not loose track position.
Labonte radioed to Leslie that the car was free coming into the corner and tight in the center. A competition caution at lap 40 brought Labonte down pit road and Leslie radioed for several adjustments to the car, four tires and fuel. Labonte took the green flag again listed in 20th position.
The fourth caution for the day was brought out for rain in turn two. Labonte had climbed to 15th position but reported the car to be getting tighter in the center of the turn. In an effort to improve the handling, Leslie brought Labonte down pit road for additional adjustments.
The first of three red flags came out at lap 162 and the cars were parked on the apron of the track to honor the troops that serve our country with a moment of silence. The brief break allowed rain to move over the track, bringing out the second red flag of the day at lap 176. The cars would be parked on pit road for about an hour as NASCAR dried the track.
After restarting the race, crew chiefs and drivers began to weigh their options as the halfway point of 600 miles was passed. The last caution of the day for rain gave each team the opportunity gamble for track position. Leslie radioed for Labonte to come down pit road for two tires. The two Goodyears would give Labonte an edge over the new leaders who had not pitted for tires. However, the prolonged red flag segment would eventually end the Coca-Cola 600, 24 hours after its original start time.
"It's just one of those things," said Labonte after the race was called. "We didn't want to gamble and stay out there at the end because we would have been in bad shape should we have restarted. I think Ben (Leslie) was smart to call only two tires. That kept us in 12th position and kept us in good shape for a restart. We struggled with the car early but had made some adjustments and were feeling pretty good about what we had for the second half of the 600 miles. I'm happy with the 12th-place finish but wish we had been able to race some more."
Labonte and the No. 96 Ask.com team will race at Dover International Speedway next weekend in the Autism Speaks 400.