* Justin Labonte kicks off family reunion at "home track" * Friday offers off-track activities with close of NASCAR Busch Series garage NEWS & NOTES Justin Labonte true "Lone Star" at Texas ... On two previous occasions, the Corpus ...
* Justin Labonte kicks off family reunion at "home track"
* Friday offers off-track activities with close of NASCAR Busch Series garage
NEWS & NOTES
Justin Labonte true "Lone Star" at Texas ... On two previous occasions, the Corpus Christi-based Labonte family had two members racing in NASCAR Busch Series events at their "home track," Texas Motor Speedway. Last April, Justin Labonte (No. 44 U.S. Coast Guard Chevrolet) competed against his uncle, Bobby, who posted the better finish between the two with an 11th-place effort to Justin's 29th, the first race for the 24-year-old son of Terry at the venue. In 1997, Bobby dueled his brother in the inaugural NASCAR race at the then-new facility. Terry finished 18th while Bobby came in 28th. Currently 17th in the point standings in his first fulltime season in the NASCAR Busch Series, Justin will go it alone in the O'Reilly 300 on Saturday. Terry will still have an impact during the race, however, as the owner of Justin's team. Terry is entered in Sunday's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event, one of a select few races the two-time series champion has scheduled this year prior to his retirement. In addition to the participation of all three Labontes in this weekend's races, there will be more excitement for the family away from the track as well; on Wednesday evening, Terry will be inducted into the Texas Motor Speedway Sports Hall of Fame.
Unusal "off-day" Friday affords off-track events for teams ... The new impound procedure rules this year for the NASCAR Busch Series combined with a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series companion event that will not utilize impounding following qualifying have provided a quirk in the schedule where the NASCAR Busch Series will have an off-day on Friday at Texas Motor Speedway. The NASCAR Busch Series garage will close at 7 p.m. on Thursday and re-open at 7:30 a.m. race day, providing time on Friday for various non-race activities. Blake Feese (No. 5 Lowe's Chevrolet) will participate in the "First Book Speed Read Challenge" from 9 a.m. -- Noon at the Lowe's in Lewisville, Texas.
The event helps bring new books to local programs serving children from low-income families. For every word read at the event, Lowe's and First Book will donate one book to local children who need them most. Johnny Sauter (No. 1 Yellow Transportation Dodge) will challenge his team owner, James Finch and James Welch, president of Yellow, to a radio-controlled car race in front of Yellow Transportation employees at the company's Ft. Worth facility. Meanwhile, Team Rensi Motorsports, which fields the cars of Ashton Lewis Jr. (No. 25 U.S. Marine Corps Ford) and Jason Keller (No. 35 McDonald's Ford) has a golf outing planned, while Kenny Wallace (No. 22 Stacker 2 Ford) and his brother, Rusty, the 1989 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion and owner of the RWI NASCAR Busch Series team, will share announcing duties for the IROC race on Friday. The event will be televised at 8 p.m. ET on SPEED Channel. Additionally, Justin Labonte and the U.S. Coast Guard will host nearly 100 students from two local Ft. Worth schools at the track for lunch and an autograph session also on Friday.
Ford, Chevrolet in tight Manufacturer's race ... Through the first seven races of the season, each of the manufacturers in the NASCAR Busch Series has posted at least one victory. Last season after seven events, Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge also had at least one win between them, however, Chevy utilized the eighth race to go on a tear that produced 17 wins in the remaining 27 events to claim the Bill France Performance Cup. Chevy and Ford each have four victories in the previous eight races held at Texas Motor Speedway; Matt Kenseth's (No. 17 Waste Management Ford) win last year broke a three-year victory string by Chevrolet. Heading into Texas, Chevrolet and Ford are tied with three wins, and have 49 and 47 points, respectively, while Dodge has one win and 37 points. The championship is determined by a scoring system in which the highest-finishing manufacturer earns nine points, the second-highest earns six, the third-highest receives four and the fourth-highest, three.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
Randy LaJoie (No. 34 Dollar General Chevrolet), the 1996-97 NASCAR Busch Series champion, and Jason Keller have started all eight races at Texas Motor Speedway. ... Matt Kenseth, last year's race winner, has led the most laps (272) and the most races (five of the seven in which he has competed) at Texas. He has finished in the top 10 in six of his seven outings at TMS, good for second all-time at the venue. Kenseth joins last year's Busch Pole winner, Kyle Busch (No. 57 Spectracide Fire Ant Killer Chevrolet), Keller and Elliott Sadler (No. 90 CitiFinancial Ford) as former Texas polesitters entered in Saturday's race. ... Joe Nemechek (No. 87 Cellular One Chevrolet), the 2003 race winner and 1992 NASCAR Busch Series champion, owns four top-five finishes in seven races at Texas, best among all drivers.
Kenny Wallace now holds the longest streak for consecutive NASCAR Busch Series races without posting a DNF. He has been running at the end of the past 22 races. Martin Truex Jr. (No. 8 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet), the reigning series champion, had his streak of 42 straight finishes while running snapped at Bristol. Wallace's last DNF came on July 10, 2004, at Chicagoland, where he encountered engine problems. Ron Hornaday Jr. holds the record (74). ... Johnny Sauter can celebrate a milestone Saturday. The 26-year-old is aiming to make his 20,000th lap in a NASCAR Busch Series car. Sauter, who enters the Texas event 70 laps shy of the mark, would be only one of 14 drivers in Saturday's field to accomplish the feat. ... Only one of this season's NASCAR Busch Series Top 10 -- Truex -- was in that same position at this point last season. Five of the current Top 10 had not competed in the NASCAR Busch Series through the first seven races of 2004. ... Jon Wood (No. 47 Clorox/Wisk Ford) has moved from 31st to 10th in the point standings in the last five races. He is one of four rookies in the Top 10 this week. ... Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth look to pull triple duty this weekend, running in the NASCAR Busch Series race, the IROC competition and the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup event while Truex is slated for the IROC race as well. ... The U.S. Coast Guard will sponsor No. 0 Chevrolet driven by Mike Bliss in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race on Sunday in addition to its fulltime sponsorship of Justin Labonte in the No. 44 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Busch Series. ... Charles "Cully" Barraclaugh will take over as crew chief of Denny Hamlin's No. 20 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet. Barraclaugh was most recently crew chief for Matt Kenseth's NASCAR Busch Series entry. ... An appeal hearing before the National Stock Car Racing Commission for Shane Hmiel (No. 32 WINFuel Dodge) and Hmiel's car owner, Todd Braun, has been scheduled for Monday, April 25. Both were penalized for a rule violation at Bristol.
"For the first seven races, I give my team an 'A'. We've only had one bad race, which was Las Vegas. I won't give them an 'A-plus' because we haven't won yet." -- Kenny Wallace
"Maybe I can get a new nickname. Just call me 'The Exterminator.'"-- Kyle Busch on his car sponsor at Texas, Spectracide ant killer
"I will certainly get a lot of seat time this weekend, running all three races, so I hope that when we combine our past success here with the things I'll learn early this weekend, we'll be strong and come away with some good finishes." -- Matt Kenseth
FROM THE ARCHIVES
The Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award has been given in the NASCAR Busch Series since 1989 and several of the award's recipients have fared well in their careers since being honored. Four times the rookie of the year has gone on to win the series championship. No rookie has ever won the NASCAR Busch Series championship, but that trend could be challenged this year as Carl Edwards and Reed Sorenson stand 1-2 in the current rankings.
Joe Nemechek was the first driver to lead this parade. He won the Raybestos award in 1990 and won the NASCAR Busch Series championship in 1992. Johnny Benson was next with a rookie title in 1994 and a subsequent Series crown in 1995. In 2001, Kevin Harvick became the third driver to win the championship in his second season after winning the rookie title the previous year. Greg Biffle is the most recent driver to accomplish the feat with a 2001 rookie championship and a 2002 series title.
Other NASCAR Busch Series rookie title holders include Jeff Gordon, Ricky Craven and Steve Park, all winners in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. Gordon has four series titles to his credit while Park is one of only 11 drivers to win a race in all three of NASCAR's national series. Scott Riggs, the 2003 NASCAR Busch Series Rookie of the Year, won his first career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup pole last week at Martinsville while 2004 NASCAR Busch Series rookie winner Kyle Busch appears to be one of the future stars in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup competition.
What: O'Reilly 300 (Race No. 8 of 35 in the NASCAR Busch Series).
Where: Texas Motor Speedway, Justin, Texas.
When: 2:05 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 16.
Track Layout: 1.5-mile oval.
Race Length: 300 miles/200 laps.
Posted Awards: $1,396,315.
TV: FOX, 2 p.m., ET.
Radio: PRN, XM Satellite.
2004 Winner: Matt Kenseth.
2004 Polesitter: Kyle Busch.
NASCAR Busch Series Top 10: 1. Carl Edwards 1,106. 2. Reed Sorenson 1,025. 3. Clint Bowyer 955. 4. Kevin Harvick 875. 5. Martin Truex Jr. 864. 6. Ashton Lewis Jr. 863. 7. Kenny Wallace 835. 8. Denny Hamlin 814. 9. Shane Hmiel 749. 10. Jon Wood 726.
Pre-race schedule (all times local): Thur., April 14: Practice -- 11:15 a.m. -- 1:30 p.m. Qualifying -- 5:05 p.m. Cars impounded after qualifying.