Flat Tire Results in 24th-Place Finish for Labonte and JTG Daugherty Racing at Sonoma
SONOMA, Calif. (June 25, 2012) - A flat right rear tire forced Bobby Labonte and his No. 47 Clorox Toyota team to settle for a 24th-place finish in the 24th annual Toyota/Save Mart 350 that was won by Clint Bowyer Sunday afternoon.
Approaching lap 65 of the scheduled 110-lap event that ended with a green-white-checkered finish, Labonte experienced a problem that turned out to be his tire having a slow leak. The 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion had no choice, but to pit his No. 47 Clorox Toyota under green for four fresh tires. It caused the JTG Daugherty Racing team to go one lap down. With the race only having two caution flags for seven laps, Labonte never had the opportunity to recover.
"It's unfortunate it happened," Labonte said. "We had so many folks from Clorox cheering us on. Their headquarters are so close and we really wanted to put on a good show for them."
It was shaping up to be a good weekend for JTG Daugherty Racing and Labonte seemed pleased with handling during practices. He went on to qualify 18th for race number 16 at the 1.99-mile road course nestled in Sonoma, Calif.
As the race began, Labonte stayed inside the top 20 until he lost forward drive around lap 20. Labonte also communicated to his crew chief Todd Berrier that his engine was running a little hot.
"Keep an eye on it and keep us updated on your temperatures," Berrier said.
Seven laps later the engine seemed to cool off, but Labonte was experiencing challenges with handling.
"It's tight in the center both ways and loose off," Labonte said.
"10-4 on being tight both ways and loose off," Berrier said. "We'll get you fixed up here soon."
On lap 31, Berrier instructed Labonte to bring his No. 47 Clorox Toyota to pit road for four tires and fuel. Labonte left pit road scored in 31st place, but quickly moved into the top 25 a handful of laps later. As he was on the march, he made another report.
"It's tighter in the middle and looser on exit," Labonte said.
At lap 60, Labonte was adamant something was wrong with his machine and asked the crew to be ready to take a look underneath the car.
"It feels like the sway bar might have broke," Labonte said. "I'm pretty sure it's the sway bar."
"Nothing's dragging, so just hang on here," Berrier said.
As the race team was hoping for a caution, they were prepared to assess the situation. All the sudden, the chatter on the radio was that Labonte actually had a flat tire.
"You have a flat right rear tire," Berrier and spotter David Green chimed in on the radio. "Bring it in."
The slow leak made Labonte have to pit under green for tires, dropping him one lap down.
"Well, of course, it wasn't the sway bar," Labonte said. "It was a slow leak that seemed like forever."
"We'll try to get our lap back," Berrier said.
Unfortunately, the team never had the opportunity to rally back from the tire incident. They went on to finish one lap down in 24th-place.
This week the division travels to Kentucky Speedway. Live coverage of the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on TNT. PRN and Sirius XM will also broadcast the event.