Daytona Labonte Rolls at the Big Tracks

Labonte rolling at the big tracks DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 1, 1998) Considering Interstate Batteries Pontiac driver Bobby Labonte's recent restrictor-plate racing record, it could be "lights out" for the competition in Saturday's Pepsi 400,...

Labonte rolling at the big tracks

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 1, 1998) Considering Interstate Batteries Pontiac driver Bobby Labonte's recent restrictor-plate racing record, it could be "lights out" for the competition in Saturday's Pepsi 400, the first NASCAR Winston Cup Series night race at Daytona International Speedway.

Labonte is on a roll in restrictor-plate races. In his last three starts at Talladega Superspeedway and Daytona, Labonte has registered finishes of second, second and first. The string started with his in the DieHard 500 at Talladega last October, continued with a runner-up finish to Dale Earnhardt in the season-opening Daytona 500 and culminated with a win in April's DieHard 500 at Talladega, after Talladega's spring and fall races switched in the off-season.

The win at Talladega was Pontiac's first in 41 restrictor-plate races.

To make matters bleaker for the competition, Labonte is on a finishing tear. He's registered five top-10 finishes in his last six starts. His fourth-place effort in Sunday's Save Mart/Kragen 350 at Sears Point Raceway pushed him to sixth place in the point standings.

The Corpus Christi, Texas, native is ready to pull off his first career win at Daytona.

"That would be huge," Labonte said. "Daytona is the place every driver wants to win. Sure you want to win the Daytona 500, but if I can't do that a win in the 400 would be the next best thing."

Despite his lofty restrictor-plate numbers recently, Labonte says few people probably remember his Bud Pole and second-place run in the Daytona 500. That's because Earnhardt finally broke through with a win in his 20th try in that race. The race ended under caution with Labonte hot on Earnhardt's tail.

"I don't think anybody knows we finished second at Daytona," Labonte said. "But I do. I was the first one to see Dale win it. We definitely remember it. I would have ended up in the pond. I really had a head of steam and then I got to Dale's bumper and I was trying to figure out what to do. By the time I was going to make a move the caution came out. I learned a lot up to that point and I don't know if I could have gone any further anyway. I know he was worried about us and I was wanting to get by him, but it was going to be hard to do. Like I said, I probably would have ended up in the pond (infield Lake Lloyd)."

Labonte was again masterful in the closing laps of the DieHard 500, getting around brother Terry for the lead with a handful of laps to go with a nifty pass to the outside.

"It was a really big win for us," Labonte said. "It's hard to win those superspeedway races. We've had really good success the last four or five restrictor plate races. We finished second at Daytona behind Dale. To win the Talladega race was really neat. They are really hard to win."

Labonte is pleased with the progress of the Joe Gibbs Racing team, but admits the Jimmy Makar-led outfit is out for more.

"I think we have it to a certain degree and we're looking for a little more," Labonte said. "I'm not saying we're as good as we want to be, but we're still better than we have been. We're probably better suited to the mile-and-a-half race tracks, and of course, the speedways. But we run good on the other ones at times. We've just got to do it week in and week out."

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Bobby Labonte
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing