Mechanical Problems Slow Labonte Near the End of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Event at Watkins Glen
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (August 13, 2012) - Bobby Labonte nursed home a 27th-place finish as he encountered a mechanical problem under the hood of his machine in the closing laps of the Finger Lakes 355 at The Glen Sunday afternoon.
With four laps to go in the 90-lap event, Labonte started to experience a problem. Moments later, Labonte's spotter David Green communicated to crew chief Brian Burns and the JTG Daugherty Racing pit crew that there was smoke coming from the car as Labonte started to lose his momentum. The 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion rode it out to keep from losing even more positions in the finishing order. He was on his way to a top-20 finish before having issues.
"We were so close to the end of the race when something happened under the hood," Labonte said.
Labonte was not a lone ranger at the 2.45-mile road course, but at least he was able to finish the event unlike nine other drivers that were knocked out of the race due engine, suspension, rear gear, electrical or a brake problem.
When the two hour and 14 minute race commenced, Labonte was hanging around the top 25. Early on he reported that his No. 47 Freightliner/Miller Toyota Camry was loose on exit, needed forward drive and side bite on entry.
Burns radioed Labonte his plan for the first pit stop of the day.
"Here's what we are going to do Bobby," Burns began. "We'll make a wedge adjustment if the race stays green, change tires and add fuel. If it's under caution, we're going to pull spring rubbers."
"10-4," said Labonte as Kyle Bush had led all the laps up until that point.
While running 26th, Labonte was called to pit road under green at lap 20 for the team to make the adjustments Burns called for earlier. Somewhere along the way, a little time was lost and Labonte was a lap down to Busch.
It did not hurt the team. When Jamie McMurray brought out the yellow five laps later, Labonte returned to the lead lap as Burns opted for the wave-around.
"I was pretty loose on the end of that run," Labonte said.
Restarting 29th on lap 29, Labonte commented he was loose on exit.
"We've got you," Burns said. "We're going to pull the spring rubbers when we can. You're doing great. There's a number of drivers in the garage with mechanical problems."
On lap 47, Burns made the call for Labonte to come into the pits in two laps. It was not a routine stop and it was going to take more time than usual to pull spring rubbers out of both the left and right rear. They hoped to be able to do it under caution, but they never had that opportunity. Labonte got caught a lap down. Fortunately, a caution at lap 58 allowed him to do the wave-around again.
"If these guys don't go fast enough on the restart, I'm going to go past them - they didn't catch up last time," Labonte said.
"Stay out," Burns said. "We'll do the wave-around here."
As Brad Keselowski led the field back to green on lap 61, Labonte immediately came over the radio and said he had a flat left rear tire.
"Come to us," Burns said. "Let's change four tires here."
"Coming to you," Labonte said.
"Yes, you had a left rear going down," Burns said. "We're now good on fuel."
The team caught a big break when the yellow came out at lap 64. It kept them on the lead lap.
"Alright, some guys are going to stay out here because of the rain that's starting to come down," Burns said.
As the light rain stopped, Labonte was 25th while the field got back up to speed. The next caution occurred at lap 71 when Tony Stewart's machine snapped out from underneath him while running second.
"There's five cars behind us on the lead lap too," Green said.
"Let's stay out here," Burns said. "I don't think those guys will pit."
The Corpus Christi, Texas-native was 21st when the green flag was in the air at lap 74. Labonte maintained a spot inside the top 25 as the laps were winding down. Inside five to go is when he told Burns his car was experiencing problems. Fortunately, he was able to finish the event before it was a catastrophic failure.
Before an estimated attendance of 90,000, Marcos Ambrose won the Finger Lakes 355 in a wild finish besting Brad Keselowski. Jimmie Johnson finished third, Clint Boywer was fourth and Sam Hornish Jr. finish fifth. There were 10 lead changes among 5 drivers and 4 cautions for 13 laps.
The next race will take place at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday, August 19th. Live coverage on ESPN begins at 12 p.m. ET. MRN Radio and Sirius XM will also broadcast the event.