Loudon: Petty Enterprises race report

Bobby Labonte and the No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge team garnered their first top-ten finish of the season by coming home 10th in the rain-shortened Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The finish was Labonte's ...

Bobby Labonte and the No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge team garnered their first top-ten finish of the season by coming home 10th in the rain-shortened Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The finish was Labonte's tenth top-ten finish in 27 starts at the paperclip oval.

Kurt Busch picked up his first win of the season in a race that was shortened by 17 laps due to rain showers that moved through the area.

B. Labonte began the race from the second position, which was his best starting spot since 2004. When the green flag fell, B. Labonte radioed to crew chief Jeff Meendering that his No. 43 Dodge was "tight" from the center of the corner to the exit. However, he kept his car inside the top-five until the first round of pit stops, which came under green on lap 65. Meendering made several air pressure and track bar adjustments as the track surface itself began to "tighten" up.

With rain threatening the area, Meendering and B. Labonte came up with a pit strategy to capitalize on the potential of a shortened race in hopes that they would pick up valuable track position at the right time. In switching between four-tire, two-tire and fuel-only stops, the team had to endure the occasional loss of positions on pit road to teams that were making fewer services and adjustments. However, the team remained steadfast with their strategy and when the rain finally began to fall on lap 284, B. Labonte was running in the 10th position.

"Jeff made great calls all day long on pit road," said B. Labonte. "That allowed us to pick up track position at the right time. Everyone knew that rain would be coming through the area later in the day. On our last pit stop we just took fuel and that put us close to our fuel window. We never came back in and were sitting in the top-ten when the rain fell. You don't like to manufacture finishes like this all the time, but we'll take it now. It rounds out a good weekend for the Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge team."

Terry Labonte and the No. 45 Victory Junction Gang Camp Dodge team finished 35th in Sunday's event. T. Labonte also had to deal with a car that was "tight" in the center of the corners on the flat oval. New Hampshire has long straights and sharp corners and this usually leads to cars developing a "push" with the front tires. Crew chief Stewart Cooper made several adjustments on the car and T. Labonte radioed that it was better just before the rain started to fall.

"Having a 'tight' racecar is pretty typical here at New Hampshire," sounded T. Labonte. "It gets worse when you are in heavy traffic. I was happy with the car everywhere else on the track, but the center was just too tight. That's where we were losing ground. But this team is still getting better each week and I'm looking forward to going down to Daytona."

-credit: pe

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Kurt Busch