Early Race Incident Disrupts Labonte's Efforts in the No. 47 BUSH'S® Beans Toyota at Texas Motor Speedway
FORT WORTH, Texas (April 15, 2012) - - Damage sustained to the right side of Bobby Labonte's No. 47 BUSH'S® BEANS Toyota from another car ruined his chances for a solid finish in the 16th Annual Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Labonte did what he could to make the best of the night following the incident crossing the finish line 27th in the 334-lap race at the 1.5-mile track in front of an estimated attendance of 159,200.
"After there was contact with another car, it would not run down the straightaway," Labonte said. "It just killed it."
Labonte and his JTG Daugherty Racing team were optimistic heading into the weekend with the same car they raced at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this season. As race number seven began with Martin Truex Jr. leading the way, Labonte started off tight in the center. Making forward progress, he commented to crew chief Todd Berrier about what he was experiencing at lap 31.
"It's pushing badly," Labonte said. "I have to wait on it so long in the center that it kills the right front tire."
Berrier called Labonte to pit road for four tires, fuel and two rounds up on the track bar during the first pit stop of the race under green at lap 46. Every millisecond counts on pit road and as Labonte was entering his pit box, crucial time was lost due to the No. 5 car of Kasey Kahne leaving his box at the same time in the adjacent pit stall. Labonte slid back to 33rd and fell victim to going a lap down.
Matters became worse as Labonte was fighting to make up ground to advance onto the lead lap. That's when there was contact made between Labonte and the lead lap car of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Fortunately a debris caution happened a few laps later at lap 66 for the team to access the right side damage. It was the first of two cautions for 10 laps.
"Let's look at the right side, the crush panels and everything and also pull a spring rubber out of the left rear," Berrier said as the pit crew also changed four tires and added fuel.
"It's loose in, tight and then loose," Labonte told Berrier right before he made the call for repairs and adjustments.
The JTG Daugherty Racing pit crew hurried to make all the changes and repairs to the body of the car to put Labonte back on track in 31st place.
The car was tight in the center and the damage was bad enough to affect the handling of the car the rest of the race.
"It got really tight on me," Labonte said. "The front tires are killed and it slides everywhere."
A caution debris at lap 94 allowed the team to take another stab at trying to help the slightly battered car, which was pancaked on the right side.
This time Berrier called for four tires, fuel, a packer out of the front and one round up on the track bar.
When the green flag was in the air at lap 100, Labonte was shown in 32nd place on the scoring monitor.
"It's free on entry and exit and tight in the center," said Labonte before his next pit stop for four tires and fuel at lap 142.
The Corpus Christi, Texas-native continued to provide reports and the pit crew made adjustments accordingly at laps 188 and 233. Closing in on lap 300, Labonte had his hands full with an extremely loose race car.
"It's wicked loose," Labonte said. "It becomes so loose the longer we go."
At lap 260, he was reporting he was loose in and off the corners and it needed to be tightened up on their next stop. Berrier called for four tires, fuel and two rounds down on the track bar on lap 284 as Labonte returned to the track in 27th place.
"Nice save," spotter David Green told Labonte at lap 292.
"It's loose, loose, loose," Labonte said.
The 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion was able to keep the car from spinning out and salvage a 27th place. Labonte is currently 121 points out of first place and 25th in the driver points standings leading into the next race.
This week the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits Kansas Speedway. Live coverage of the STP 400 on FOX begins at 12:30 p.m. ET.