Labonte Crosses Finish Line 20th at Dover International Speedway Sunday Afternoon
No. 47 SCOTT Products Toyota driver Bobby Labonte earned a respectable 20th-place finish in the 43rd Annual FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism at Dover International Speedway.
There were 17 lead changes among seven drivers and Jimmie Johnson came out on top by a margin of victory of 2.550 seconds over Kevin Harvick. Matt Kenseth crossed the finish line third, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fourth and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top-five.
Labonte started the 400-lap event in 22nd place as Mark Martin led the 43-car field to the green flag at the one-mile concrete oval in front of an estimated crowd of 85,000. During the course of the race there were seven cautions for 32 laps and the first caution of the race was a big one. It happened approaching lap 10 as Tony Stewart and Landon Cassill made contact setting off a chain reaction involving a total of 13 cars. The incident resulted in NASCAR red flagging the race for 19 minutes and 54 seconds.
While under red, Labonte communicated to his crew chief Todd Berrier and JTG Daugherty Racing pit crew how his car was handling.
"It's tight to the throttle; just tight, loose on entry and snaps on exit," Labonte said. "There's really no grip compared to yesterday. It needs more grip and to turn a little better."
"Got it," Berrier said. "Make sure you turn everything off under this red flag so we don't run the battery down."
As the red flag was lifted and the cars circled the track under yellow, Labonte came to pit road for four tires and fuel. Tire specialist Billy John also made an air pressure adjustment.
"We picked up a spot on that pit stop," pit coach Gary Smith told his crew after the stop.
"Their showing you in the outside lane," spotter David Green told Labonte on the restart at lap 12 in 22nd place.
Running inside the top 25, Labonte was fighting a loose-handling car.
"Way to hang on," Green said. "We can see you're loose."
"Loose, loose, loose," Labonte responded as leader Mark Martin peeked inside Labonte's Toyota.
The 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion headed to pit road at lap 69 for four tires, fuel and two rounds down on the track bar to tighten up his machine.
Berrier took advantage of a caution caused by oil on the track at lap 110.
"Come in," Berrier said. "We are changing tires again, making an air pressure adjustment; dropping the left front air.
"30 laps into your run, we're pretty good," Berrier continued. "We don't fall off much."
Easily maintaining a spot in the top 25, Labonte went back to work when the green flag was in the air at lap 115.
On this run, the car's handling seemed to teeter back and forth. Labonte pitted at lap 165 for the pit crew to address what he was feeling.
"It's terrible tight, then loose," Labonte said.
A debris caution was the team's next shot to take another stab at it.
"It's free on entry, tight in the middle," Labonte said. "It's tight, gets loose and then maintains."
"We're changing four tires and making an air pressure adjustment," Berrier said.
Labonte was seated in 20th place on this restart. The next pit stop at lap 293, Berrier called for four tires and a wedge adjustment.
When Kurt Busch's motor let go at lap 348, everybody headed to pit road for tires and adjustments. Labonte was 21st on the restart.
"We're racing the No. 11 Toyota for the Lucky Dog," Berrier said. "We're the only two cars one lap down."
As Jeff Burton faced the same fate as Busch, Denny Hamlin advanced onto the lead lap leaving Labonte in position for the Lucky Dog.
Unfortunately, that would be the final caution of the race. Labonte went on to post a 20th place finish at Dover.
This week the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to Long Pond, Penn. Live coverage of the Pocono 400 starts at 12 p.m. ET on TNT from Pocono Raceway. MRN Radio will also broadcast the event as well as Sirius XM Satellite Radio.