Labonte Finishes 29th at Darlington Raceway in the No. 47 SCOTT Products Toyota Camry
DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 14, 2012) - Bobby Labonte crossed Darlington Raceway's finish line in 29th-place during the 63rd Annual Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway Saturday night. It was a long night for the 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion as he tried to overcome handling and motor challenges in the race that ended under a green-white-checkered flag finish with Jimmie Johnson capturing Hendrick Motorsports 200th win.
Labonte started 22nd (27.631 seconds) alongside Joey Logano while Greg Biffle snatched the pole turning a time of 27.281 seconds (180.257 mph). The rest of the top-10 starters were Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Regan Smith and Jeff Burton.
As the 43-car field took the green flag, Labonte communicated to his JTG Daugherty Racing team that his No. 47 SCOTT Products Toyota Camry was pushing. At lap 9, he thought that maybe he had a tire going down. Fortunately, that was not the case and Labonte was able to inch away from the cars behind him while running inside the top 25.
At lap 28, Labonte made another update.
"It's tight, then loose," Labonte told crew chief Todd Berrier.
"Bring it in," Berrier said as Labonte was on pit road at lap 47 for four tires, fuel and adjustments.
When Labonte left pit road, he keyed up his radio.
"The motor misses," Labonte said. "Also, got a vibration."
"You're good on your tires," spotter David Green said.
Labonte's troubles caused him to go one lap down to leader Kyle Busch at lap 53 as he continued to report a vibration. After pitting at lap 98 for four tires, fuel and adjustments, his machine would not turn in the center in Turns 3 and 4.
Following his next pit stop for four tires, fuel and adjustments at lap 145, Labonte was shown in 29th place.
"We have no grip with these tires," Labonte said.
A debris caution at lap 171 allowed Labonte to enter pit road for routine service and for the pit crew to address the tightness of his car. Restarting 27th at lap 179, Labonte continued to report problems under the hood.
The team continued to do their work on the car at lap 195 and 231.
"This stop we are going to pull a packer out too," Berrier said.
Labonte was 28th as the green flag was back in the air at lap 235. Before pitting again at lap 279, the car continued to vibrate and was really loose. His machine's handling was such a handful that the car snapped out from underneath Labonte, but he was able to keep it off the wall.
"Good job of saving it," said Green.
"We've got flat tires now," Labonte said.
"Do what you can to get around here and bring it into the pits," said Berrier as Labonte was on pit road at lap 299.
"We're good on the car," said Berrier. "Nothing is torn up."
Labonte restarted in 31st place at lap 303 while Martin Truex Jr. led the field to green.
"The engine almost shut off," Labonte said under caution at lap 315. "I know there's nothing you really can change about that, but I wanted to let you know."
Labonte made another pit stop on lap 333 and eventually went on to finish the race in 29th place during the 368-lap extended event in front of 63,000 NASCAR fans. There were 22 lead changes among 8 drivers before Johnson took the trophy and 8 cautions for 38 laps.
This week the teams are home, racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Sprint Showdown on Saturday May 19th begins at 7 p.m. live on SPEED followed by the Sprint All-Star Race.
On Sunday, May 27th the Coca-Cola 600 will air live on FOX at 5:30 p.m. ET.