Burns & JTG Daugherty Racing Crew Continue to Improve as Labonte Rallies to a 14th Place Finish at Dover
DOVER, Del. (October 1, 2012) - Good calls from crew chief Brian Burns and hard driving by 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte in the No. 47 Kingsford Toyota Camry landed the team a respectable 14th-place finish in the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway that was won by Brad Keselowski.
The JTG Daugherty Racing team recovered quite nicely after Labonte experienced problems with the front end of his machine shaking violently. The issue at lap 93 forced Labonte to pit under green flag conditions for the team to check to see if he had a tire going down or a loose wheel. Before pitting for four tires, Labonte was the last car on the lead lap in seventh place and had been running strong. He lost two laps due to the unscheduled pit stop at lap 96.
"We were running inside the top 10 and that's where we would have more than likely finished today, but something happened to the front end," Labonte said. "The car started shaking violently. Oddly enough, we could not find anything wrong with the tires after we pitted under green."
There's no doubt the team was well on their way to a top 10 finish before the incident because Labonte's machine was that good thanks to the dedication and determination of his JTG Daugherty Racing team. On top of that, Labonte had a solid starting position for the 400-lap event in 16th place.
Even though his car was tight off exit in the beginning of the race, Labonte kept everyone at bay until he started losing grip at lap 27. Losing only one spot, he protected 17th place with the top 15 in his sights.
"You're still running really good lap times," spotter David Green said. "You're doing a good job keeping the 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) behind you too."
"It's losing total grip," Labonte said. "And, the back end is not as secure as I'd like it to be."
Not long after lap 60, teams prepared for their first round of pits stops and headed to pit road. As several drivers already pitted, Labonte was waiting his turn. Burns keyed the radio at lap 67 telling Labonte to bring in his Kingsford Toyota Camry. Quick to react, Burns immediately called it off as the yellow flag waved at lap 68 for an incident involving the No. 36 car.
"Stay out, stay out," Burns said. "Save fuel because you are low on fuel."
Labonte had been on the lead lap, but the way the caution fell it pinned him one lap down. However, he immediately advanced onto the lead lap because he was the first car one lap down.
"We are the Lucky Dog," Burns said.
When the dust settled and the field cycled through, there were only seven cars on the lead lap and Labonte was in the seventh position. Finally, luck went the team's way.
"There are only six cars on the lead lap and we are going to be P7," Burns said. "Bring it in and we are going to change four tires and add fuel.
We are not going to touch the track bar like we talked about earlier.
"Our qualifying effort really paid off this weekend for us," Burns continued after the pit stop. "And, your tires look really good. We're in good shape here."
Labonte was in good shape indeed as he restarted in seventh place on lap 76 while everyone else was either a lap or two down. Kyle Busch was the leader and the rest of the lucky ones on the lead lap were Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson, Keselowski, Jeff Gordon followed by Labonte.
"You're doing a great job here today on exit," spotter David Green told Labonte.
At lap 88, Labonte updated Burns that he was tighter on late exit of the corners as Kyle Busch led the way.
"It's getting tighter late exit," Labonte said.
The radio was quiet for a few laps until all of the sudden Labonte said he must pit at lap 93 maybe thinking he had a tire going down or something else.
"I have to pit," Labonte said. "I have to pit now. I'm coming to you."
He pitted under green at lap 96 relinquishing his seventh place position for four tires and fuel. It placed him two laps down and in 25th place when it was said and done. As drivers began to pit around lap 147, Labonte found himself back in seventh place. He maintained his top 10 run until having to pit again under green at lap 172 for four tires and fuel.
In 27th place on the next caution at lap 178, Labonte and his team were not giving up.
"We just made it into our pit window," Burns said. "We will do the wave around here to get one of our laps back. There are only six cars on the lead lap right now."
"Tires feel flat," Labonte said.
"At the beginning of the run, drivers are having the same problem with buildup on their tires," Burns said.
Labonte was 25th when the green flag dropped again at lap 182. He was 17th when the yellow flag was in the air at lap 246.
"Bring it in for four tires and fuel," Burns said. "We're going to make an air pressure adjustment too."
Labonte went back to work in 21st place at lap 252. Under yellow at lap 308, Burns made a gutsy call for Labonte to do the wave around again.
"Save gas because we are going to do the wave around," Burns said.
It paid dividends when another caution happened at 316. It placed Labonte in the top 15 for the restart at lap 321. Labonte was able to pass Sam Hornish Jr. on lap 368 for 14th. That's where Labonte would stay for the remainder of the race.
"Good way to recover," general manager Bobby Hutchens said to Labonte as he was climbing out of his car after the race.
"Something happened and I had to bring it in under green," Labonte said. "It's unfortunate that happened. This would have been a top 10 day for us. We're definitely gaining on it."
This week the teams are at Talladega Superspeedway where just about anyone has a shot at winning. Live coverage of the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 on Sunday, October 7th starts at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN and MRN Radio. Sirius XM Satellite will also carry the event.