Labonte to return in Pepsi 400 By Dave Rodman BROOKLYN, Mich. (Aug. 19, 2000) After a miraculous week of "rollercoaster therapy," two-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Terry Labonte will make his return to the driver's seat in Sunday's Pepsi 400...
Labonte to return in Pepsi 400
By Dave Rodman
BROOKLYN, Mich. (Aug. 19, 2000) After a miraculous week of "rollercoaster therapy," two-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Terry Labonte will make his return to the driver's seat in Sunday's Pepsi 400 presented by Meijer at Michigan Speedway. Sunday's $2,167,970 Pepsi 400 (1 p.m. ET, live TV ESPN; MRN Radio 12:30 p.m.) will open a seven-race stretch that may ultimately decide the NASCAR Winston Cup championship.
Labonte, who suffered a broken leg and a concussion in a wreck in the July 1 Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway, had his 655-race NWC consecutive races string broken earlier this month at the Brickyard 400 when he experienced dizziness in practice. Labonte also sat out the Global Crossing @ The Glen last weekend.
He had planned to have Todd Bodine drive his Kellogg's Chevrolet again this weekend as he had at Indianapolis until he endured a weekend with plenty of coaster-like ups and downs that resulted in a "cure" of his "benign paroxysmal positional vertigo."
The inner ear disorder, basically an "imbalance" that results in dizziness and blurred vision, was pinned down on Monday by Labonte's friend and local "country doctor," Dr. Tom "Doc" Brewer, who coincidentally competes on the Goody's Dash Series, NASCAR Touring.
Labonte tried to test his NASCAR Busch Series car at Bristol but had to quit due to his disoriented state after just five laps. In desperation, he called Brewer from his hauler in the Bristol infield. Brewer, according to Labonte's father Bob Labonte, instructed him to perform a series of movements.
Brewer then asked Labonte how he felt. The driver said the room "was turning around in circles," Bob Labonte said Friday morning at Michigan. Brewer pronounced the inner ear disorder at that point and immediately moved to get Labonte with a specialist at Methodist Hospital in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Labonte tested his brother Bobby's Interstate Batteries Pontiac on Wednesday at USA International Speedway in Lakeland, Fla., on Wednesday with no problems, then rode go-karts for a while and took a trip to the Paramount Kings Dominion amusement park on Thursday to ride rollercoasters and other "thrill rides" to try to recondition his inner ear.
The therapy was a success.
The bottom line was Labonte arrived in Michigan on Friday afternoon and practiced his car, with a back of the pack showing, in Saturday morning's one-hour session. However, in Happy Hour in the afternoon, Labonte wicked it up to the 10th best lap in the 43-car field.
"With that paint job, I had to come back," Labonte said in deference to the 'Tony the Tiger' Kellogg's Frosted Flakes scheme on his Hendrick Motorsports car. "I felt great -- I didn't have any problems.
"I've read that there may be recurrences (of the vision problem) but I feel fine. It's good to be back -- it was tough to sit on the pit box and watch what my car was doing out there. I plan on going the (400-mile) distance tomorrow, but of course we'll have Todd standing by."
Bodine won the NASCAR Busch Series NAPAonline.com 250 on Saturday and is ready to go after qualifying the car 33rd. Labonte will have to drop to the rear of the field at the start for substituting for the qualifying driver.
"Todd did a great job for us at Indy and here in qualifying," Labonte said. "We didn't have to change a thing on the car. We had a good happy hour -- we were just fine-tuning and working on our race set up."