NASCAR Winston Cup Series ACDelco 400 Preview: #18, Bobby Labonte
22 October 1997
#18 Bobby Labonte, Interstate Batteries Pontiac Grand Prix NASCAR Winston Cup Series ACDelco 400 Advance North Carolina Motor Speedway LABONTE OUT TO CRUSH 'THE ROCK' ROCKINGHAM, NC - Bobby Labonte is on a tear in the Interstate Batteries Pontiac with two consecutive second-place finishes, but he looks to go one step better in Sunday's ACDelco 400 at North Carolina Motor Speedway, by crushing the competition at the superspeedway nicknamed "The Rock." Labonte begin his bridesmaid binge at Charlotte in the UAW-GM Quality 500. He had the dominant car before spinning on lap 103. He still returned to the top spot and led 141 laps -- more than any other driver -- but couldn't overcome a cracked cylinder head that zapped his engine of power in the closing laps. The following week at Talladega, Labonte rode his brother Terry's bumper to the finish line for his third runner-up finish of the season. Labonte also finished second in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis. Labonte has eight top-five and 17 top-10 finishes in 29 starts this season. He's seventh in the point standings, 107 points behind Dale Earnhardt in sixth. Labonte is in the midst of a late season rally, having posted three top-five finishes in his last four starts. "You see with a lot of guys when they start running better, it kind of propels them through the next few races," Labonte said. "They kind of hit upon things, and everything is working together. I think after two strong runs like we've had, we're going to run good at Rockingham. Everyone on the team feels that way. "That's the kind of attitude you've got to have. It's hard to have that kind of attitude if you don't run good, but if you run good it will help out. Running well the last two races, and really over the last month, makes the race team excited about it. It's a team sport, and all the guys are excited about the next race after a good weekend." Labonte's goal is to not only win a race, but move up in the point standings after a long stay in seventh. Labonte hasn't budged from seventh-place for 18 races, dating back to June's Miller 500 at Dover. The Joe Gibbs Racing team went through a two-race slump beginning with that Dover race, and have never been able to entirely make up all the lost ground in points. That minuscule segment of the 32-race schedule spelled a big difference in the team's season, Labonte says. "I think we kind of fell in the black hole for those two races," Labonte said of his disappointing runs at Dover and Pocono. "When you're trying to run top-five in points and you have a bad weekend like we did at Dover and Pocono, then you say, 'No wonder why we're not in the top three anymore.' We're seventh, and you've got to finish in the top-five week-in and week-out to keep up with the other top guys." But Labonte is pleased with his team's overall performance, sparked by crew chief Jimmy Makar and the strong engines of John Wilson. "I think we've really had a strong team this season," Labonte said. "We've kept plugging along. Our performance lately helps out and makes us think we might be able to get to sixth in points or fifth if we keep on running like we're running. We're going to try and do the best we can to finish as high as we can." After stirring second-place runs in the last two races, Labonte can only go one step higher. By Camp & Associates, Inc.