CAREER NEARING END?
Bobby Labonte will not start in the #47. The 2000 series champion for Joe Gibbs racing, with 705 career starts, one less than Rusty Wallace, and 21 victories, 32nd on the all-time wins list has been all but invisible the last few seasons unless captured in one of the “big ones” where multiple cars get wiped out. He will continue racing having been enlisted to race in James Finch’s #51 Chevies, Finch speaking openly of closing down his shop perhaps after the Brickyard 400 in
late next month. Labonte has only two finishes in the top 20 in 2014, 15th
in the Daytona 500 and 19th in Richmond.
Once one of the top drivers in the sport since 2004 when he won no races, Labonte’s career has been in a long downward spiral. He left Joe Gibbs racing in 2005 to energize Richard Petty’s enterprise at a t the King’s operation was in financial ruin. In 2006, Labonte scored 3 top 5’s and 8 top 10’s. Since that season, Labonte has only two top 5’s total, one in 2009 and another in 2011. Since 2007 with three top 10’s, he has typically only managed two top 10’s a season but none in 2010. Leaving Petty after 2007, Labonte has been little more than a journeyman driver, barely a cut above “start and park” entries, a convenience for underfunded teams whose available past champion provisional’s could assume him a starting spot.
Bobby Labonte was part of a crew of exciting drivers who moved from the then Busch series to Cup racing in the early 90’s along with Jeff Gordon, Jeff and Ward Burton, and Joe Nemechek, a crew of drivers to form the generation to succeed the likes of Bill Elliot, Dale Earnhardt, Darrell Waltrip, Rusty Wallace, and Mark Martin. Ward Burton is gone. Nemechek is racing a little more this year in a very marginal capacity having been one of the originators of the shameful “start and park” fraud. Jeff Burton has struggled working with a premium team with Richard Childress but where he will be next year is uncertain. Even four time champ, Jeff Gordon, struggles to find himself positioned to win having struggled for two seasons.
It’s hard to imagine a resurgence for Bobby Labonte but surely he might be able to hang around for a paycheck for the foreseeable future with his champion provisional cache, clearly JTG Daugherty working with Michael Waltrip equipment is anxious to find the winning formula and is turning to A.J. Allmendinger for at least the next few races to see if they can find the right combinations.
ON THE TRACK:
The buzz from practice and qualifying is speed. Finally the Ford drivers are right in the mix of competition with
perhaps taking a bit of a fall back. Certainly Jack Roush, a Michigan fellow, must feel some relief to
see Carl Edwards in the 99 Ford on the pole (and second in the points) but this
has been a very difficult season for Ford so far.
Meanwhile, much attention will focus on Dale Earnhardt Jr. who won last year’s race and enjoyed his last two races in the
. Wolverine State
|2||78||Kurt Busch||Chevrolet||Furniture Row/Sealy||201.8790|
|3||5||Kasey Kahne||Chevrolet||Farmers Insurance||201.2130|
|6||22||Joey Logano||Ford||Shell Pennzoil||200.7250|
|7||33||Austin Dillon(i)||Chevrolet||American Ethanol||200.6300|
|8||20||Matt Kenseth||Toyota||Home Depot Husky||200.5680|
|10||42||Juan Pablo Montoya||Chevrolet||Target||200.4450|
|11||11||Denny Hamlin||Toyota||FedEx Express||200.4060|
|12||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Chevrolet||National Guard/Man of Steel||200.1000|
|13||56||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||NAPA Auto Parts||200.0500|
|14||14||Tony Stewart||Chevrolet||Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1||199.7890|
|15||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr. #||Ford||Zest||199.7610|
|16||2||Brad Keselowski||Ford||Miller Lite||199.7500|
|19||16||Greg Biffle||Ford||3M/Give Kids a Smile||199.3800|
|20||51||Bobby Labonte||Chevrolet||Phoenix Construction Services||199.3580|
|22||55||Mark Martin||Toyota||Aaron's Dream Machine||199.2140|
|25||21||Trevor Bayne(i)||Ford||Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center||198.4290|
|26||38||David Gilliland||Ford||Long John Silver's||198.3640|
|27||15||Clint Bowyer||Toyota||5-hour Energy||198.2920|
|29||24||Jeff Gordon||Chevrolet||Drive to End Hunger||197.9220|
|30||98||Michael McDowell||Ford||Phil Parsons Racing||197.2170|
|31||34||David Ragan||Ford||Taco Bell||196.8130|
|33||83||David Reutimann||Toyota||Burger King/Dr.Pepper||196.2760|
|34||30||David Stremme||Toyota||Widow Wax||196.2660|
|35||39||Ryan Newman||Chevrolet||Quicken Loans||195.7370|
|37||10||Danica Patrick #||Chevrolet||GoDaddy||194.9000|
|38||35||Josh Wise(i)||Ford||MDS Transport||193.9080|
|39||32||Ken Schrader||Ford||Federated Auto Parts||193.0920|
|41||93||Travis Kvapil||Toyota||Burger King/Dr.Pepper||192.8330|
|42||87||Joe Nemechek(i)||Toyota||Belle Tire||191.9900|
|43||19||Mike Bliss(i)||Toyota||Plinker Tactical||187.1490|
|DID NOT QUALIFY|
|44-DNQ||44||Scott Riggs||(unsponsored)||No Label||184.3930|