Labonte Finishes 14th in Action-Packed Bristol Night Race with BUSH’S Beans Toyota Camry
BRISTOL, Tenn. (August 26, 2012) - - Bobby Labonte worked hard Saturday night to avoid Bristol Motor Speedway’s mayhem to bring home a 14th-place finish in the No. 47 BUSH’S Beans Toyota Camry during the 52nd Annual Irwin Tools Night Race.
“We needed this finish,” said crew chief Brian Burns. “It almost feels like a win.”
“The guys did a great job tonight,” said Labonte.
The 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion started the 500-lap event mired in traffic at the .533-mile oval with 36 degree banking. Labonte was forced to start near the rear of the field because qualifying was rained out on Friday and the lineup was set by the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rulebook.
As Casey Mears led the 43-car field to the green flag, Labonte started 36th and was free on entry and exit with a high oil temperature.
“The oil is at 290,” Labonte said over the radio to crew chief Brian Burns.
“We’ll pull some tape when you pit,” Burns said.
There were 13 caution flags for 87 laps. Labonte’s first pit stop of the night came under a debris caution at lap 84. Burns called for four tires, fuel and an air adjustment.
“It’s tight in the center and no grip,” Labonte said. “And, it’s snappy loose late exit.”
“You’re good as the top 10,” spotter David Green said to Labonte.
The next round of pit stops also took place under the yellow flag at lap 122 due to an accident involving Sam Hornish Jr. and David Ragan.
“It’s tighter than it was, corner exit,” Labonte said. “Car vibrates too.”
“We’ll change four tires, add fuel and go up on the track bar, which will help your car be better off the corners,” Burns said.
Labonte restarted 23rd before pitting again under caution that was caused by Ragan spinning in Turn 4 at lap 142.
“It’s a little tight there, but better,” Labonte said.
“We’ll do two tires here and go up a round on the track bar,” Burns said.
Labonte maintained his run around the top 25.
“It’s getting looser,” Labonte said. “It’s tight past the center.”
“We’ll maybe put wedge in it to help entry,” Burns said.
The pit crew had the opportunity at lap 192 with a caution involving Juan Montoya, Ryan Newman and Jeff Burton in Turn 4.
Back to racing at lap 198, Labonte was 23rd. He was a little too tight as he made more laps. Then it was four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment under yellow at lap 225.
“We’re going to leave the wedge in and go one more round on the track bar,” Burns said as Labonte entered his pit box.
Of course, track position was crucial all night and at lap 272, Burns called for only two tires and fuel hoping for better track position. It placed Labonte 18th on the restart at lap 276.
As Labonte fought being too tight up on top of the track, the caution was out at lap 322 when Regan Smith and Kurt Busch ran into trouble. The JTG Daugherty Racing pit crew changed four tires and added fuel on lap 325.
While some teams ahead of Labonte pitted at lap 352, Burns made the call to keep him out for track position. It placed Labonte in 10th place.
“Roll up top as much as you can,” Green said. “The 48 is in your mirror.”
Labonte did a great job staying inside the top 20 until another caution happened at Lap 413.
“I need to be tighter in and freer off,” Labonte said.
“Alright, one round in the left rear and four tires guys,” Burns said.
Labonte was back to work trying to chase down the top 10 as the green flag was in the air at lap 419.
“It’s dragging the splitter,” Labonte said when a debris caution occurred at lap 423.
“Stay out,” Burns said. “We pushed it over when we did the wedge, but the air pressure should help it.”
Labonte was 19th during the green at lap 429. He moved into the top 15 at lap 444 and remained there. He went on to cross the finish line in 14th place.
Denny Hamlin won the event. Jimmie Johnson finished second, Jeff Gordon was third, Brian Vickers fourth and Marcos Ambrose rounded out the top-five.
Next up on the schedule is Atlanta Motor Speedway. Live coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN and PRN Radio. Sirius XM will also carry the race.