For the two Petty Enterprises entries, drivers Kyle Petty and Bobby Labonte started the evening as two of only five men to start each of the 16 Sprint Cup races held here at what was previously known as California Speedway. For Labonte, it...
For the two Petty Enterprises entries, drivers Kyle Petty and Bobby Labonte started the evening as two of only five men to start each of the 16 Sprint Cup races held here at what was previously known as California Speedway.
For Labonte, it was 500 hard-fought miles in a brand-new #43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge chassis, finishing on the lead lap in 21st position, while Petty drove the #45 Well's Fargo Dodge to a 38th place finish, one lap behind the leaders at the finish.
Labonte ran in the top-20 for much of the event, but fell a lap behind on lap 133. While racing aggressively to regain the lap, Labonte smacked the wall hard on lap 167, but did mostly cosmetic damage to the #43 car. Soon after hitting the wall, Labonte made several sparkling passes to become the 'Lucky Dog' (the first car one-lap down), and regained a spot on the lead lap when the yellow flag fell on lap 180.
"This is a brand new car," said Labonte, "so we weren't sure what to expect. It wasn't bad, but it didn't feel very fast on the straightaways. I was racing really hard to get the Lucky Dog and I hit the wall hard. The car felt like it almost stopped - as if I was welded to the wall or I shifted down into third gear. It was weird, but it didn't hurt the car. The crew really did a good job tonight to keep me on the lead lap. We could have used some more speed, but a lead lap finish is something we can build upon."
Kyle Petty had a similar night, fighting with heavy traffic throughout the event. The Wells Fargo team made a four-tire stop on lap 146 in 13.15 seconds, which gained Petty six positions to 26th place, but the car wasn't as fast as necessary in the early laps of each green flag run.
"It took our car about 10 laps each time to get up to speed," Petty explained. "Once we got that far into a run, we were pretty good, but by then you're so deep in traffic it's almost impossible to work your way forward. If I really hit my marks, the car was fast and I could run laps in the 43-second range. But if I missed turn one just a little bit, it'd be a 44-second lap for sure. I think we've come a long way from the last time we were here at this place (in February, when the team lagged behind the leaders by 14 laps) to finish only one lap down. That's progress."