NASCAR Winston Cup Series UAW-GM Quality 500 Report: #18, Bobby Labonte
6 October 1997
#18 Bobby Labonte, Interstate Batteries Pontiac Grand Prix NASCAR Winston Cup Series UAW-GM Quality 500 Race Report Charlotte Motor Speedway LABONTE HAS ROLLERCOASTER DAY AT CHARLOTTE CONCORD, NC - Bobby Labonte's rollercoaster day in Sunday's UAW-GM 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway finished on a positive note for the driver of the Interstate Batteries Pontiac. Labonte owned the fastest car throughout much of the event but had to overcome a spin early in the race and engine problems down the stretch to finish a strong second to winner Dale Jarrett. Labonte dominated the early stages of the event, building up a seven second lead over second place Mark Martin at the 100 lap mark. Labonte encountered problems on lap 103 when he hit oil in turn 2 and spun. The accident collected the cars of Geoff Bodine, Ricky Rudd, Kevin Lepage and Jimmy Spencer. The spin dropped the driver of the Interstate Batteries Pontiac to 15th position at the time, the last car on the lead lap. Labonte was able to charge back to the front of the pack, working his way into the top-10 by lap 130. He grabbed the lead following a round of green flag pit stops on lap 232. He held the top spot for the next 52 laps until eventual winner Dale Jarrett eased by on lap 277. "The spin didn't hurt us at all," Labonte said. "I knew somebody was in the wall, but I didn't know there was oil over there in turn two. When I got there, I was pretty much OK, but a couple of cars locked up their brakes in front of me and I had to lock it up too. I got into the oil a little bit and spun around. That didn't cost me the win. We had a lot of guys a lap down, but it didn't cost us the win. The spin just cost us track position. We got back to the front later on, but Dale Jarrett and Dale Earnhardt were strong at the end. "The car started missing with about 60 laps to go. I switched ignition boxes, hoping that would cure the problem, but it still acted like it was running on seven cylinders. We looked at the car after the race and found out we had a cracked cylinder head. "My car was loose at the beginning of a run. We had a good car. I could run when I was by myself, but I got in some traffic and that killed me. Earnhardt came up on me and I just had to let him go. I couldn't even race. At the end of the run it got better, and that was just because it got a little tighter again. We had a really good race car. It just wasn't meant to be." Labonte remains seventh in the Winston Cup Series championship standings, 746 points behind leader Jeff Gordon. He trails sixth place Terry Labonte by 99 and leads eighth place Bill Elliott by 100 points. By Camp & Associates, Inc.