Bobby Labonte - Coca-Cola 600 Race Report

Coca-Cola 600 Race Report

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
No. 43 Cheerios Racing/Trix, Lucky and Friends Dodge
May 25, 2008
1.5-mile Lowe’s (N.C.) Motor Speedway

1. Kasey Kahne, Dodge
2. Greg Biffle, Ford
3. Kyle Busch, Toyota
4. Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet
5. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Chevrolet
11. Bobby Labonte, Cheerios Racing/Trix, Lucky and Friends Dodge
36. Kyle Petty, No. 45 Coca-Cola Dodge

Kasey Kahne picked up his second Coca-Cola 600 trophy by winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ longest race on Sunday night at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Kahne also won the Sprint All-Star race at the 1.5-mile venue last Saturday. Greg Biffle and Kyle Busch rounded out the top-3 finishers.

The race featured 11 caution periods, well below the record of 22 set in 2005 after the famous “levigating” process. It also had the same feel of the 2007 event as many of the leaders had to come down pit road for fuel in the waning stages of the race, setting up a wild scramble to the checkered flag.

Bobby Labonte and the No. 43 Cheerios Racing/Trix, Lucky and Friends Dodge came home in the 11th position in the 600-miler. Labonte, who won the 1995 Coca-Cola 600 for his first Cup Series win, started the race from the 23rd spot. When the green flag fell he had to deal with a ‘tight’ condition that was compounded by a lack of overall grip. Grip is a premium during the early stages of this race because it starts during the day, when the sun is beaming down. Labonte lost a lap early while fighting this condition. However, through hard work by everyone on the ‘Helping Hands’ pit crew, he was able to race himself in position for the ‘Lucky Dog’ Award, which he picked up on a lap192 caution.

By that time the sun had gone behind the grandstands and the car came to life. Crew chief Jeff Meendering made some outstanding calls from atop the pit box that had Labonte as one of the fastest competitors on the track by lap 240. On laps 275 and 291, in particular, the No. 43 Dodge was the fastest car on the timing and scoring monitor. By lap 325, Labonte had driven up to the sixth position. After a pit stop for four tires, Labonte restarted the race 13th as several cars took only two tires and beat him out of the pits. He was able to drive up into the top-10, but had to pit for fuel with only a handful of laps.

“That was a typical Coca-Cola 600,” said Labonte. “The car was completely different at the start of the race than it was at the finish. We were pretty far off during the day, but the guys worked hard and the car was fast late in the race. I thought we were going to get a much better finish because the car was really flying at one point. But some guys took two tires, we had to put on four and the car was a little too tight in traffic. But it was a good night, overall.”

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will head to the Dover (Del.) International Speedway this weekend for the Best Buy 400 benefiting Student Clubs for Autism Speaks. Friday’s qualifying session will be telecast on the Speed Channel. It will be broadcast on the Motor Racing Network (MRN) and Sirius Channel 128.

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