Sunday, August 16, 2009

Labonte Edges Blaney For Last When Engine Fails at Michigan

Bobby Labonte picked up the 9th last-place finish of his career in Sunday’s Carfax 400 at the Michigan International Speedway when his #96 DLP Ford fell out with engine problems after completing 18 of the race’s 200 laps.

The 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, Bobby Labonte’s inaugural season with Yates Racing’s cooperative with Hall of Fame Racing has been marred by several poor finishes. Aside from a strong fifth-place finish in last March’s Shelby 427 at Las Vegas, Labonte has finished in the top 15 just one other time, in the rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600 at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Coming into Michigan last week, Labonte was 27th in points. He qualified 33rd with a speed of 183.290 mph.

In the opening laps of Sunday’s race, Labonte’s Ford was off the pace, struggling with an engine miss that kept him in the back. When rain brought out the first caution on lap 7, Labonte came down pit road early for the crew to check his car. David Gilliland’s #71 went behind the wall that same lap, just before the red flag stopped the race for 19 minutes. When the race resumed, Labonte’s hood was up on pit road, his crew changing the spark plugs. The race restarted on lap 12 and, on lap 19, last-place leader Dave Blaney went behind the wall. Gilliland returned to the track, 9 laps down, by lap 26, and Labonte came back on the track on lap 30. Still running in last, Labonte had hardly completed 18 laps when he pulled behind the wall a second time with a blown engine. Though he tied Blaney’s 18 laps completed, Labonte remained the last-place finisher of the race.

The race marked Labonte’s first last-place finish since he drove the flagship #43 for Petty Enterprises in the 2007 Goody’s Cool Orange 500 at Martinsville. The #96 had not finished last since then-rookie Andy Houston crashed out Cal Wells’ McDonald’s Ford just one lap into the 2001 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis. The Hall of Fame Racing team, which once owned the #96 team in its entirety, had never before finished last. For Yates Racing, their most recent last-place finish came with road racer Marc Goosens when his #90 CitiFinancial Ford wrecked in the 2006 AMD at the Glen at Watkins Glen.

43) #96-Bobby Labonte / 18 laps / engine
42) #66-Dave Blaney / 18 laps / overheating
41) #36-Mike Skinner / 33 laps / vibration
40) #71-David Gilliland / 39 laps / vibration
39) #87-Joe Nemechek / 40 laps / electrical

1st) Dave Blaney (5)
2nd) Mike Bliss, Patrick Carpentier, David Gilliland, Joe Nemechek, Tony Raines (2)
3rd) Tony Ave, Todd Bodine, P.J. Jones, Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte, Joey Logano, Mark Martin, Mike Wallace (1)

No comments: