By JTG Racing
Labonte Eyes Options For Dealmaking At Daytona
Bobby Labonte raced for the win in the closing laps of the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway (DIS) in February. Labonte pushed Trevor Bayne to victory and snatched a fourth-place finish after leading once for two laps in the season-opener. Now, Labonte returns with the No. 47 Kingsford Toyota Camry eager to claim his 22nd career victory.
“In February, we had an opportunity to win,” Labonte said. “We have that in the back of our minds as we return. We had a good run and a safe day. We were able to be in the right place at the right time. Everybody did a good job all around. We are looking forward to returning and we hope to have the same type of performance with better results.”
The 2000 champion’s last trip to victory lane took place ironically in Florida, but at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16th, 2003. He has 115 top-five and 200 top-10 career finishes to his credit with six of those top-five and nine top-10 finishes taking place at DIS.
“I came close to winning there a few times,” Labonte said.
To win at Daytona, Labonte is going to have to have the right partner since the two-car draft will come into play Saturday night. His team JTG Daugherty Racing team is technically aligned with Michael Waltrip Racing, but he’s keeping his options open for many reasons.
“I did that math and there’s three so that leaves an odd person out,” said Labonte, who is housed in the same facility with David Reutimann and Martin Truex Jr.’s teams. “I don’t think there will be much difference this time at Daytona and you will see two-car drafting throughout the whole race - - not just toward the end of the race. Other than Daytona being narrow, Talladega (Superspeedway) was proof of how drafting will be. I’m sure the grip level will be similar. Sure, it will be hotter and it may make a little difference, but like I said, I’m sure you will see two-car drafting during most of the race.
“I think you have to have several options in case something happens,” Labonte continues. “We’ve got some ideas. You are not necessarily going to run with the same person for 160 laps.”
A strong finish is just what Labonte and his JTG Daugherty team needs following Infineon Raceway. A top-15 run was derailed when another car made contact with Labonte’s machine sending it hard into the fence resulting in a 38th-place finish.
“We could have walked away with a respectable finish, but we got taken out just by racing, which sometimes just happens,” Labonte said. “One thing about us, I’ve got a great group of guys and everybody has kept upbeat. They are working real hard to be better than we are. We’ve had better days. It’s just a tough sport, sometimes you have good days and some days you have bad days.”