Labonte Finishes 25th During Rainy Evening at Richmond International Raceway
RICHMOND, Va. (September 10, 2012) - Bobby Labonte's No. 47 BUSH'S Beans Toyota took the checkered flag in 25th-place in the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway. The race was delayed, slowed and even red-flagged due to sporadic rain in front of an estimated crowd of 89,000 that watched Clint Bowyer clinch his second victory of the season. Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon earned the two hard-fought Wild Card spots for the 2012 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Gordon finish second, Mark Martin was third, Tony Stewart fourth and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top-five in the 400-lap event with 17 lead changes among 10 drivers and six caution flags for 41 laps.
Pole-sitter Dale Earnhardt Jr. kicked off the night leading the 43-car field to green after running the first six laps under caution. Not long after the drivers were cut loose, NASCAR implemented a competition caution at lap 45.
Crew chief Brian Burns called Labonte to pit road for four tires, fuel and adjustments.
"It's loose on entry, tighter in the center and off and when I hit the throttle, it doesn't seem to take off," Labonte said. "The car goes away too fast."
"You're showing more right front build up on your tires than we had in practice," Burns said.
As Labonte needed his car to turn better in the center, he entered the top 25 approaching lap 70.
At lap 127, Labonte passed Gordon to enter the top 20. At the same time, leader Denny Hamlin caught and passed Labonte at lap 130. However, the 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion was still making progress picking off cars one by one. He positioned his No. 47 BUSH'S Beans Toyota in 18th place as rain brought out the caution at lap 137. Hamlin was still the leader.
"It still needs to turn better in the center," Labonte said.
As rain became persistent, Labonte headed to pit road at lap 139 for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment.
"The rain is really picking up," Labonte said.
At lap 152, NASCAR called the drivers to park on pit road as they red-flagged the event. Labonte climbed from the window of his Camry and headed to debrief with Burns and the rest of his JTG Daugherty Racing team in his pit stall.
"You're one of the best cars out there," said general manager Bobby Hutchens.
"I want to get the rest of this race in to pick up more positions," Burns said. "You look really good out there.
At 11:37 p.m. ET, the cars were back on track ready to take the green at lap 155. Labonte restarted 18th.
"We're ready to start over again and see what we've got, Burns said.
For some odd reason, Labonte's car gradually faded and he fell outside the top 20 at lap 165. At lap 193, Labonte seemed to make forward progress again passing Aric Armirola for 22nd.
As he headed to pit road at lap 229 for four tires and fuel, Labonte had moved into 21st. As a caution occurred at lap 234, Labonte updated Burns and his team.
"The car for some reason just would not go like it did earlier," Labonte said. "It must have been too low on air pressure. It's looser on entry and tighter in the center."
Restarting in the top 25, Labonte's biggest battle was being tight in the center and extremely loose off the corners.
Rain came again and brought out another caution at lap 277, which allowed Labonte and the field to get four fresh Goodyear tires and fuel.
"We made an air pressure adjustment," Burns said.
Back to green flag racing at lap 282, Labonte seemed to be destined to finish 25th. That's about where he ran the rest of the race. In the end he crossed the finish line 25th. After running so strong in the first half of the race, the team was disappointed with the outcome.
"We'll take the car back and take a look at it at the shop and try to figure out what went wrong there," Burns said.
"Thanks everyone," Labonte said. "We had a really good car the first half of the race."
Entering Chicagoland Speedway the top 12 drivers competing for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship are:
(1) Greg Biffle 914;
Live coverage of the GEICO 400 from Chicagoland Speedway at 1 p.m. ET airs on ABC and MRN Radio. Sirius XM will also carry the race.