Labonte breaks slump with Martinsville victory

MARTINSVILLE, VA. (April 14, 2002) ­ Since winning the 2000 Winston Cup championship, Bobby Labonte has struggled. Things suddenly got better Sunday for driver of the Interstate Batteries Pontiac.Labonte took the lead in the Virginia 500 NASCAR...

MARTINSVILLE, VA. (April 14, 2002) ­ Since winning the 2000 Winston Cup championship, Bobby Labonte has struggled.

Things suddenly got better Sunday for driver of the Interstate Batteries Pontiac.Labonte took the lead in the Virginia 500 NASCAR Winston Cup race at Martinsville Speedway on lap 446 and raced to his first victory in front of a sellout crowd.It was Labonte's first win of the season, just his second since his championship season and first Winston Cup win at Martinsville.

"I think this should help us turn things around. You get really down in this deal and it really affects you a lot," said Labonte, who picked up $168,078 for his 19th career Winston Cup win.

"We just plain-out sucked a lot the last year and a half or so, so this is great to win on a track that we're not usually accustomed to running good at or even having a really legitimate shot at winning. It's become our better tracks, all of a sudden ­ the short tracks have this year."

Matt Kenseth wound up second in the DeWalt Power Tools Ford, followed by Tony Stewart in the Home Depot Pontiac.

The race finished under caution after Kyle Petty spun in the fourth turn on lap 499. There were 14 caution flags on the day.

Stewart led the most laps of the day, 152 laps. Jeff Gordon led the second most laps, 68, but wound up in 23rd, two laps off the pace after being penalized twice for pit-road infractions.

Dale Jarrett, who won this race a year ago, made a charge toward the front after going a lap down, and wound up fourth in the UPS Ford. Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top five in the Budweiser Chevrolet. Earnhardt Jr. led 41 laps.

Stewart seemed to be on the way to his second Martinsville Speedway victory, but a pit stop late in the race proved costly.

"We had the best car out here all day and we gave it away," said Stewart. "I was right with (crew chief) Greg (Zipadelli) on the call to come in and take two and nobody else came and then we got screwed by everybody else staying out. But we had the best car all day."

Terry Labonte turned in one of his best runs in recent years at Martinsville, finishing sixth. Ricky Rudd wound up seventh, followed by Mark Martin, Jeff Burton and Kurt Busch.

Winston Cup racing returns to Martinsville Speedway on October 20 with the running of the Old Dominion 500. Tickets are now on sale at Martinsville Speedway and can be purchased by calling 877-RACETIX.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Tony Stewart , Kyle Petty , Kurt Busch , Mark Martin