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BGN: Bobby Labonte to Drive Shell Pontiac at Darlington

19 March 1998

DARLINGTON, SC - Bobby Labonte will drive the #44 Shell Pontiac in the upcoming Diamond Hill Plywood 200 at Darlington Raceway in place of Tony Stewart. The March 21 event marks Labontes first 1998 appearance in NASCAR Busch Grand National Series (BGN) competition.

Darlington is the first of nine NASCAR BGN events Stewart will miss due to the contractual commitment he has with Menard Racing to compete in the full 1998 Indy Racing League (IRL) schedule. Labonte will assume Stewarts driving duties for the majority of the remaining eight conflicting BGN events.

When Tony came onboard with Joe Gibbs Racing, explained Labonte. We knew there would be races that conflicted with his IRL schedule. It has always been the plan for me to drive several of the conflicting Busch races to ensure Shells presence is maintained in the series.

Prior to this season, Labonte was the owner/driver of the Shell-sponsored team running a limited BGN schedule. Following the sale of the team to Joe Gibbs Racing, Shell Oil Company made the decision to continue as the primary sponsor for 1998.

` I am looking forward to working with the Shell Pontiac team again, Labonte said. Bryant (Frazier, crew chief) and the crew are off to a great start this year with Tony. They have come together as a team to develop consistency and continuity. Since we have all worked together in the past, the teams rhythm wont be affected by my driving the car. We look forward to a good run at Darlington.

Labonte has eight NASCAR BGN victories to his credit. He has garnered 46 top-five and 85 top-ten finishes and was crowned the series champion in 1991. In previous Darlington Raceway competition, Labonte has five top-five finishes, his best being two second place finishes.

Shell is an associate sponsor of Labontes #18 Joe Gibbs Racing NASCAR Winston Cup car. Currently ranked sixth in the Winston Cup point standings, Labonte captured his first victory of 1998 last week in the Primestar 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The Diamond Hill Plywood 200 is scheduled for Saturday, March 21 beginning at 1:00 p.m. (EST). The race will be broadcast live via MRN radio to over 200 affiliates nationwide. ESPN will broadcast the race same-day tape-delayed at 4:00 p.m. (EST).

Shell Oil Company is one of America's leading oil and natural gas producers, manufacturers, transporters and marketers of oil and chemical products. It is a recognized pioneer in technology for oil and gas exploration and the largest gasoline marketer in the United States. Headquartered in Houston, Texas, Shell Oil is an affiliate of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Companies.