Martinsville: Bobby Labonte preview

Some Questions Answered at Bristol Martinsville Holds New Challenges This weekend, Bobby Labonte and the ...

Some Questions Answered at Bristol
Martinsville Holds New Challenges

This weekend, Bobby Labonte and the #43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge team head to the .526-mile Martinsville (Va.) Speedway for Sunday's Goody's Cool Orange 500. Teams will again race NASCAR's next generation car after their debut last weekend at the Bristol (Va.) Motor Speedway. Labonte finished 22nd in his first race with the Dodge Avenger.

The finish propelled the Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge team to 14th in championship points. Labonte has cumulated a total of 525 points and is 50 points out of the top 12. The top 12 drivers are entered into the "Chase for the Nextel Cup Championship" after the first 26 races of the season. Labonte and the team will take their momentum into Martinsville Speedway where Petty Enterprises and Labonte both have had success.

Petty Enterprises has a record 19 wins at Martinsville. They have also cumulated a total of 75 top-10 and 53 top-five finishes. They have an average finish of 14th at the track. Labonte has 28 career starts at the track and was a winner in 2002. He has 13 top-10 and six top-five finishes at the flat, paperclip-shaped oval.

Comments from Labonte as he prepares for this weekend's Goody's Cool Orange 500:

"We know a little bit more about our Dodge Avenger now since we came away from Bristol. We don't know everything we need to know, but at least we know more. Everyone learned something or took something away from Bristol. We have a starting point, but Martinsville is a whole lot different than Bristol. Martinsville is a place where it's about keeping your fenders clean and using a lot of brakes.

"This new generation car is going to react differently at Martinsville. The cars will slow down a little bit more because there is more 'drag' on these cars. It will react a little bit more like the Craftsman Truck Series trucks do. But, the trucks don't run 500 laps. The brake ducts that we run and the inlets that we use, the brakes have gotten a lot better, but it's possible we could see more problems that we've seen in the past.

"We are testing before we go to Martinsville for Martinsville. That will hopefully help us, but there is nothing you can do to prepare for actual race conditions. I don't know how, if you hit someone with the 'nose' of the car, if it will affect the splitter (front end of current Dodge Avengers have 'splitters' instead of air dams) or not. There is a slight possibility that slight damage might be more severe than in the past. It's another piece of the puzzle that will probably be put together this Sunday.

"Like Bristol was, Sunday's race will still be a typical Martinsville race. It's still going to be hard to pass on the outside. It's really hard to do that. The only time you could pass on the outside was when they 'grooved' it. That made it more slippery on the bottom and better up top. That just made everyone race up top. Now everyone is back on the bottom. The top is a longer line around the track. You can pass a wounded guy on the outside, but you better plan on doing your work on the bottom.

"We plan on doing a lot of work again this weekend. We want to continue the climb in points and have a good run with our Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge.

-credit: pe

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Labonte