The Callahan Report: Some races can be decided in Florida; Stewart and Labonte big winners

12 November 2000

By Terry Callahan
Motorsports Editor, The Auto Channel
HOMESTEAD, FL: All eyes in America have been focused on the race in Florida during the past week. While the race for the presidency remains undetermined, democrats and republicans cheered together as two decisive victories were settled in Florida Sunday. Tony Stewart captured his sixth victory of 2000 by winning the Pennzoil 400 at Homestead. Bobby Labonte locked up his first NASCAR Winston Cup title by finishing in fourth place.

While Florida residents have trouble deciding who should be president, there is no doubt who is the king of speed in the sunshine state. Sunday marked the second time the NASCAR Winston Cup drivers have attacked the South Florida asphalt at Homestead. Tony Stewart's name is the only one on the winner's trophy. Stewart won the Homestead race as a rookie in 1999.

Bobby Labonte headed into Homestead needing only to finish fifth place or better to win the 2000 championship or finish anywhere ahead of Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Burton. Labonte put the exclamation point on his championship by doing both. Labonte finished on the lead lap. He was two laps ahead of Jeff Burton and three laps ahead of seven-time Winston Cup Champion Dale Earnhardt.


Bobby Labonte

"We had a great year, a great run," Labonte said. "It's pretty great to beat the guys we beat. It's just awesome. I was hoping it was going to happen, but you never know until it's over."

Considering Bobby Labonte's steady performance throughout 2000, the race for the championship was over long ago. Sunday marked the eighteenth time the driver from Corpus Christi Texas finished in the top five this year.

Labonte capturing the championship overshadowed Stewart's series leading sixth win. The same thing happened to Stewart last year. Defending Winston Cup Champion, Dale Jarrett captured the title at Homestead in 1999 while Stewart had a subdued celebration in victory lane.

The second year driver from Rushville, Indiana understands the importance of winning a championship. He has several of his own in the other racing series. Stewart has three USAC crowns and is a former champion of the Indy Racing League.

Stewart was on the stage at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in 1999, a place reserved for the top ten finishers in the championship race. Stewart has another good seat saved for him at the 2000 banquet.

Bobby Labonte established another first Sunday. By winning the 2000 NASCAR title, he becomes the first "brother" to share the title "Winston Cup Champion". Terry Labonte, Bobby's older bother, won the championship in 1984 and 1996.

Jeremy Mayfield finished in second place Sunday, more than 4 seconds behind Stewart. Mark Martin crossed the finish line in third place just ahead of Bobby Labonte. Stewart led 166 of the 267 laps.

Ricky Rudd gave Stewart the most serious run at the Pennzoil 400. Rudd, who is seeking his first win in two seasons, had engine problems late in the race that dropped him to 6th place.

Dale Earnhardt finished in 20th place, never in contention for the win.

The Pennzoil 400 was an exciting break from the other yawner-of-a-race in Florida. But nowrepublicans and democrats return to your corners. The American eyes will re-focus on the "other race" Monday.

Editors Note: To view hundreds of hot racing photos and art, visit The Racing Photo Museum and the Visions of Speed Art Gallery.

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