* Homecoming: Labonte family one to watch on and off the track * Good finish at a good time: Much-needed momentum boosts drivers heading into Texas * History lesson: Texas Motor Speedway the latest venue for Lone Star State racing NEWS AND...
* Homecoming: Labonte family one to watch on and off the track
* Good finish at a good time: Much-needed momentum boosts drivers heading into Texas
* History lesson: Texas Motor Speedway the latest venue for Lone Star State racing
NEWS AND NOTES
Local Flavor: Can't Spell Texas Without Labonte ... The Labonte family, which hails from Corpus Christi, Texas, feels quite at home at Texas Motor Speedway. And all three of its driving members will see action this weekend -- brothers Terry Labonte (No. 44 GMAC Chevrolet) and Bobby Labonte (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet) in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, and Terry's son Justin Labonte (No. 44 U.S Coast Guard Chevrolet) in the NASCAR Busch Series.
It's a particularly exciting week for Terry Labonte, who retired from a fulltime NASCAR NEXTEL Cup schedule following last season. The former two-time series champion will be inducted into the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame on Wednesday evening, joining the late Lee Shepherd in the class of 2005, and while Labonte will compete in a handpicked number of races in 2005 and 2006, he's happy with the transition to part-time racing. This week's event will be his third of 2005. He finished 36th at California and 18th at Bristol.
Both Labonte brothers have excelled at Texas. Terry has five top-10 finishes in eight races there, the most of any driver, plus a win in 1999 and a Bud Pole in 2000. Bobby Labonte is coming off last week's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series win at Martinsville Speedway, which makes him the 11th driver in NASCAR history to win a race in all three national series -- the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. But he's also tough at Texas; Bobby Labonte is the only driver to claim two Bud Poles there, doing it in 2003 and 2004. His average starting position of 6.25 also is the best of any driver with more than two Texas starts.
They Needed That: Good Finishes A Boon Heading To Texas ... Tough starts and tough luck are a tough combination early in the season, but several NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers broke through with much-needed results last Sunday at Martinsville. Among those riding momentum into Texas are Ricky Rudd (No. 21 Motorcraft Ford), whose seventh-place finish was his first top-10 effort this season; Joe Nemechek (No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet), whose 10th-place finish was his best thus far; Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge), whose second-place finish was his best of 2005; and Sterling Marlin (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge), whose sixth-place finish was his best.
All four drivers also gained in the point standings. Rudd jumped three spots to 34th. Nemechek also climbed three spots to 28th. Kahne saw the biggest jump, six spots to 18th, while Marlin moved from 13th to 12th-place.
Elliott Back In Action At Texas ... Former NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion Bill Elliott returns to the track this weekend, driving the No. 91 Stanley Tools Dodge for Evernham Motorsports. Like Terry Labonte, Elliott is running a part-time schedule -- his second season of doing so. He finished 43rd at California and 22nd at Atlanta.
Nextel's Wake Up Call ... This week's guests are Bobby Labonte, Terry Labonte and Justin Labonte. They'll visit with media at the Texas Motor Speedway infield media center beginning at 10 a.m. Friday.
Personal History In The Making ... Two drivers are expected to mark career milestones this weekend. They are:
* Robby Gordon (No. 7 Jim Beam Chevrolet) -- his 175th NASCAR NEXTEL Cup start.
* Dale Jarrett -- his 350th consecutive NASCAR NEXTEL Cup start.
NASCAR Diversity Head Praises Joe Gibbs Racing ... Chris Bristol, who competes in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series Late Model Stock Car division at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway as part of Joe Gibbs Racing's diversity development program, made history Saturday by becoming the first African-American driver to win a race at the track. Meanwhile, 140 miles to the north at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va., another Joe Gibbs Racing diversity/development driver, Aric Almirola, also won a NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series Late Model Stock Car event.
NASCAR Director of Diversity and Special Projects, Tish Sheets, offered her congratulations to the Gibbs team.
"Chris, Aric, and the entire Joe Gibbs Racing organization have a lot to be proud of, and not just because of their on-track victories," said Sheets. "They've worked hard to earn their success and they have embraced the idea of making NASCAR more inclusive and more open to people of all backgrounds. Joe and J.D. Gibbs are to be commended for supporting the dreams of these drivers and inspiring our industry to grow and welcome diversity. I'm thrilled to see these outstanding young drivers succeed and we look forward to more moments like this in the future."
Back In Front: Chevrolet Alone Atop Series Manufacturers Standings ... After six races in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season, Chevrolet remains out front in the series' Manufacturers Championship standings, with Ford in second place and Dodge running third. Chevrolet holds the lead for a second consecutive week thanks to Jeff Gordon's win last Sunday at Martinsville. Chevrolet now has four wins; Ford has two. ... Chevrolet has won the Manufacturers Championship 28 times while Ford has won 15 times; the other 10 years the championship has been awarded, it has been won by Hudson (3), Dodge (2), Buick (2), Oldsmobile (1), Pontiac (1) and Plymouth (1). ... Points are earned thusly: Nine points to the highest-finishing car type; six points to the second-highest finishing type; four points for the third-highest finishing type. ... Chevrolet has won the championship the last two years. ... Jimmie Johnson is currently the leading Chevrolet driver, as the series point leader. Greg Biffle, second in points, is the top Ford driver. Rusty Wallace is the leading Dodge driver, standing seventh in the points.
From The Archives: Racing Enjoys Rich Texas History ... The 2005 Samsung/RadioShack 500 will be the 18th NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race in the state of Texas. The first race dates back to 1969 at Texas World Speedway, a 2-mile high-banked tri-oval just outside College Station. Eight NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races were held there from 1969 to 1981, with Chrysler cars winning five events. Richard Petty won three of those races. Bobby Isaac won the inaugural event in 1969 driving a Harry Hyde-prepared Dodge. Benny Parsons won the last event in 1981 in a Bud Moore-owned Ford. Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough and Buddy Baker won the other races at Texas World Speedway.
Houston's half-mile paved Meyer Speedway hosted one NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race -- the 150-mile "Space City 300" on June 23, 1971. Bobby Allison won it in his own Dodge, claiming his fifth straight win that season.
Texas Motor Speedway opened in 1997. Jeff Burton won the first Interstate Batteries 500 for Roush Racing. Mark Martin made it two in a row for owner Jack Roush when he won the 1998 event. Matt Kenseth took a third win for Roush in 2002. Robert Yates Racing has two Texas wins -- Dale Jarrett's 2001 victory and again in 2004 with Elliott Sadler. Corpus Christi's Terry Labonte became the first native Texan to win a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race in Texas with his 1999 win. Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s first career victory came in the 2000 DirecTV 500. Ryan Newman's 2003 Samsung/RadioShack 500 victory marked the first DaimlerChrysler win in Texas since Richard Petty's 1973 win at the old Texas World Speedway.
Texas Trophy The Latest To Commemorate Locale .... Sunday's Samsung/RadioShack 500 marks the third consecutive NASCAR NEXTEL Cup event that rewards its winner with a unique keepsake. At Bristol Motor Speedway two weeks ago, Kevin Harvick received quite a sizeable silver trophy that measures four feet, four inches tall and weighs 43 pounds. It's topped by a silver-winged "Victory Lady," a design that's been used for Bristol winners since 1963.
Last week at Martinsville, Jeff Gordon received a "Grandfather" clock -- his fourth clock for his fourth career win at Martinsville. The tall case clock is manufactured by the Ridgeway Clock Company, located just a few miles south of the track, and has been the reward for Sunday winners at Martinsville since 1966.
This week at Texas, the winner will receive a replica of a regional icon, cowboy boots. The Justin Boot trophy also acknowledges a local industry, the Justin Boot Company, which is a neighbor of Texas Motor Speedway. Two feet tall, and weighing 52 points, the Texas trophy features handmade stainless steel and silver spurs, and has been awarded to NASCAR NEXTEL Cup winners since 2002. The original, wood-carved by local artisan Robert Cortez, is on display at the track.
On the Right Track
• Bill Elliott holds the track qualifying record of 194.224 mph, set in 2002.
• Terry Labonte holds the event speed record of 144.276 mph, set in 1999.
• No driver has repeated as winner in eight previous NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races at Texas.
• Ford leads all manufacturers with five wins in eight races at Texas.
• Chevrolet leads all manufacturers with four poles at Texas.
On Deck: Phoenix International Raceway ... Race No. 8 on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup schedule will be Saturday, April 23 -- the Subway Fresh 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Phoenix, a 1-mile oval, has been part of the schedule since 1988 when the race winner was Alan Kulwicki. ... The Subway Fresh 500 marks the first spring event at PIR, which hosts two events for the first time this season. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is defending champion of the fall event; Bobby Labonte was last year's polesitter for the fall event.
The race: Samsung/RadioShack 500. (Race No. 7 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season.)
The track: Texas Motor Speedway in Justin, Texas (1.5-mile oval).
The date/time: Sunday, April 17, 1:20 p.m. (ET).
TV: FOX, 12:30 p.m. (ET).
Radio: PRN/XM Satellite.
Posted awards: $6,886,746.
Race length: 334 laps, 500 miles.
Track layout: 1.5-mile oval.
2004 winner: Elliott Sadler
2004 polesitter: Bobby Labonte
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Jimmie Johnson 977. 2. Greg Biffle 817. 3. Elliott Sadler 795. 4. Mark Martin 779. 5. Tony Stewart 774. 6. Jeff Gordon 772. 7. Rusty Wallace 771. 8. Ryan Newman 753. 9. Kurt Busch 746. 10. Dale Jarrett 732.