Saturday's race also marked the 50th anniversary of "The King" Richard Petty's first start in NASCAR. On July 12, 1958, Petty started 13th and finished sixth in a NASCAR Convertible Division race. He would go on to enjoy the most successful...
Saturday's race also marked the 50th anniversary of "The King" Richard Petty's first start in NASCAR. On July 12, 1958, Petty started 13th and finished sixth in a NASCAR Convertible Division race. He would go on to enjoy the most successful career in the history of American motorsports.
Bobby Labonte and the No. 43 Cheerios Racing/Richard Petty 50th Anniversary Dodge finished 29th on Saturday. He began the race from the 20th position as rain washed out the qualifying session on Thursday and the field was set by 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup owner points. Chicagoland Speedway installed lights during the off-season and Saturday's race was the first Sprint Cup race held at night on the 1.5-mile oval. This forced the teams to abandon their notes from previous races because not only were they competing under different track conditions, but this was the first race at Chicagoland with the new chassis as well.
At the start of the race, B. Labonte radioed to crew chief Jeff Meendering that his No. 43 Dodge was "loose" entering the corners, but "tight" on exit. Meendering made several air pressure and chassis adjustments and during the middle portion of the race B. Labonte had one of the fastest cars on the track. As the race continued into the night and the track conditions continued to change, the handling on the car began to fade. On lap 246, B. Labonte spun while racing in heavy traffic. The veteran kept the car off the wall, but was relegated to a 29th place finish.
"With this being the first night race at Chicago, none of the teams were really sure what the track conditions would be like," said B. Labonte. "Our car was just too tight, especially in the middle of the corners. It was better in the middle of the race, but then it went away again. We made a lot of adjustments, but the car just didn't respond. I'm proud of my team because we fought hard all night."
Terry Labonte and the No. 45 Marathon/Richard Petty 50th Anniversary Dodge crew finished 38th on Saturday night. Like his brother, T. Labonte also had to deal with a car that was "tight" in the middle of the corners. Crew chief Stewart Cooper made several wedge adjustments that helped the car. However, as the race moved to the final laps and the track itself "tightened" up the No. 45 Dodge would not turn enough for T. Labonte to move up from the 38th position.
"We figured that the car would be tight at the start because it was a night race and the track had a lot of grip," sounded T. Labonte. "So we built a lot of adjustability into the chassis and it helped for a while. But these cars just aren't as responsive to change and we were just too tight there at the end of the race."