Bobby Labonte and the No. 43 Cheerios Racing/Trix, Lucky and Friends Dodge came home in the 11th position in the 600-miler. Labonte, who won the 1995 Coca-Cola 600 for his first Cup Series win, started the race from the 23rd spot. When the green...
Bobby Labonte and the No. 43 Cheerios Racing/Trix, Lucky and Friends Dodge came home in the 11th position in the 600-miler. Labonte, who won the 1995 Coca-Cola 600 for his first Cup Series win, started the race from the 23rd spot. When the green flag fell he had to deal with a 'tight' condition that was compounded by a lack of overall grip. Grip is a premium during the early stages of this race because it starts during the day, when the sun is beaming down. Labonte lost a lap early while fighting this condition. However, through hard work by everyone on the 'Helping Hands' pit crew, he was able to race himself in position for the 'Lucky Dog' Award, which he picked up on a lap192 caution.
By that time the sun had gone behind the grandstands and the car came to life. Crew chief Jeff Meendering made some outstanding calls from atop the pit box that had Labonte as one of the fastest competitors on the track by lap 240. On laps 275 and 291, in particular, the No. 43 Dodge was the fastest car on the timing and scoring monitor. By lap 325, Labonte had driven up to the sixth position. After a pit stop for four tires, Labonte restarted the race 13th as several cars took only two tires and beat him out of the pits. He was able to drive up into the top-10, but had to pit for fuel with only a handful of laps.
"That was a typical Coca-Cola 600," said Labonte. "The car was completely different at the start of the race than it was at the finish. We were pretty far off during the day, but the guys worked hard and the car was fast late in the race. I thought we were going to get a much better finish because the car was really flying at one point. But some guys took two tires, we had to put on four and the car was a little too tight in traffic. But it was a good night, overall."
Kyle Petty and the No. 45 Coca-Cola Dodge finished 36th Sunday. The team made several early adjustments to the setup but couldn't seem to find a 'balance' for the car. The splitter was being worn down due to the front of the car rubbing the track. During a long caution the team had a chance to examine the car and realized that the left shock had malfunctioned. After fixing the problem, the No. 45 was off the lead lap and spent much of the remainder of the event trying to catch back up to the leaders.
"We knew from the beginning that something wasn't right," sounded Petty. "When the car got into the turns it felt like we were running on the right rear all the way around the corner. The guys figured out what the problem was and the car started running a lot better, it was balanced and it was constant. We just didn't have time to catch back up."