Wind blows the wrong way for Labonte By Dave Rodman TALLADEGA, Ala. (Oct. 11, 1998) At Talladega Superspeedway, drivers' fates often hinge on how the "wind" is blowing. And for Bobby Labonte the air was apparently moving the wrong...
Wind blows the wrong way for Labonte By Dave Rodman
TALLADEGA, Ala. (Oct. 11, 1998) At Talladega Superspeedway, drivers' fates often hinge on how the "wind" is blowing. And for Bobby Labonte the air was apparently moving the wrong direction at the end of Sunday's Winston 500. Labonte's Interstate Batteries Pontiac ran in the top-10 throughout the 188-lap race. With two laps to go he was fourth, but jetted to second behind leader and eventual race winner Dale Jarrett's Quality Care/Ford Credit Ford at the end of the backstretch. That's where Labonte, the winner of Talladega's spring race, took the white flag. But Jeff Gordon dive-bombed him low going into Turn 1, by the terminus of the backstretch on the last lap he was side-by-side with Jimmy Spencer battling for fourth, and by the end of the 2.66-mile lap he was sixth. Whew! "Pass, get passed, pass, get passed, pass, get passed," Jimmy Makar, Labonte's crew chief, said. "That was typical Talladega. Depending on who you were and who was helping you and who was going forward and who was going backward, you were a victim of the air around here. That's what happened to us." Labonte, who had displayed a dominant car at the "World's Fastest Speedway" in Bud Pole Qualifying and races over the past year, was a lot blunter in his assessment. "It's restrictor-plate racing, man," he said. "That's the way it is. I was looking behind me, trying to see what was happening more than anything to make your strategy for what's in front of you. I can't really remember a whole lot of it, it was so crazy. "I was trying to get second place." But he didn't have a lot of help, when it came right down to it. His brother, Terry, who was incensed with his brother's desertion at the end of the DieHard 500 in April, lanced across his bows in Turn 2 on the last lap on his way to third. Gordon, who had helped to push him into second with less than two to go, had a good enough car that he displayed that strength and single-handedly dealt with Bobby Labonte going into turn one on the last lap before finishing second, .140-second behind Jarrett. For Interstate Batteries team owner Joe Gibbs, winning NFL Super Bowls sure seemed a lot easier than figuring out the end of a NASCAR Winston Cup Series restrictor plate race. But he still credited his "field generals." "Bobby's just a great driver," Gibbs said, playing psychologist with a second straight restrictor plate grinder coming up on Saturday in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway. "I don't think the car was quite as good as we've had. I think at the end there it was just where everybody wound up. Everybody kind of got scattered and we probably finished the worst that we could finish considering where we were entering that last lap. "I know Bobby's down about it, Jimmy's down about it. We've got to look at it as, 'hey, we gave it our best shot. We went for it.' Towards the end like that you really can't set any concise game plan out there where somebody is going to try to work together. "One good thing about it is that we can take this great Pontiac and race it at Daytona."
Source: NASCAR Online