DARLINGTON, S.C. (Sept. 2, 1998) Interstate Batteries Pontiac driver Bobby Labonte will take his fourth stab at Winston's "No Bull 5" $1 million bonus when he takes the green flag for Sunday's Pepsi Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. ...
DARLINGTON, S.C. (Sept. 2, 1998) Interstate Batteries Pontiac driver Bobby Labonte will take his fourth stab at Winston's "No Bull 5" $1 million bonus when he takes the green flag for Sunday's Pepsi Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Labonte is one of five drivers eligible for the bonus if he can win the race. The others are Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Mike Skinner and Dale Earnhardt. Each is eligible after posting top-five run's in last month's Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis.
Drivers are eligible for the award by virtue of a top-five finish in a preceding designated race. Labonte's first try at the million came in the season-opening Daytona 500. He finished second. His second try came at Charlotte in the Coca-Cola 600. He finished fourth. At the Brickyard 400, Labonte came close again, but had to settle for third. He's the only driver who has been eligible for the bonus every "No Bull 5" race this year.
"That was one of our goals from the beginning of the season," Labonte said. "We figured if we could at least make ourselves eligible for the million each time out, we'd increase our chances of winning it at least once. It's hard enough to win a race these days, much less when there's a million dollar bonus on the line."
Labonte has been a model of consistency since the Coca-Cola 600. In 12 starts, he's posted 10 top-10 finishes and is a season-high fifth in the point standings. He'll need that momentum heading to Darlington, where a Pontiac driver hasn't won since Joe Weatherly turned the trick in 1963 -- a span of 70 races.
"Anything can happen Sunday," Labonte said. "We've always run good at Darlington. You just have to be right at the right time. Jeff Gordon didn't have the best car there last year in the Southern 500, but he was there at the right time and able to win. One more lap and Jeff Burton probably would have won."
Gordon has won five of the last six races overall, and he'll be the favorite at Darlington based on the fact he's won four of the last six races there. But Labonte will certainly be forecast as a top contender. He posted top-10 runs in each of his Darlington races last year and in March's TranSouth 400 was running in the top-10 late before blowing a motor.
Crew chief Jimmy Makar thinks his team has the stuff to get Labonte to victory lane.
"The positive thing about the "No Bull" deal is that we all felt like somebody was going to win it at Indianapolis, and sure enough, Gordon did," Makar said. "Too many good cars that run good at Indy were in the running for it. The main thing now is that we have another stab at it. When we get to Darlington, there's a million dollars on the line again. We're in the running for it again. We're the only car to be in the running for it every single time. We feel real proud about that. We're going to get one of the million dollars before it's over with."
For Labonte, the fourth time may finally prove to be the charm.
Source: NASCAR Online