NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Tag Archives: Bobby Labonte

Ousting A Veteran Driver At His Best Track For An Unproven Rookie: Par For The Course In NASCAR

It was announced this week that 2000 Winston Cup Champion Bobby Labonte was going to be replaced in effect, by Roush Fenway Craftsman Truck Series driver Erik Darnell in seven of the final 12 races this season. Labonte started this season as the latest driver of the No. 96 Hall of Fame racing machine, which in recent years has been piloted by such luminaries as Tony Raines and J.J. Yeley. With Labonte’s name between the A and B pillars of the car, and sponsor Ask.com on the hood - replete with some memorable if awkward commercials – the team was able to survive what was almost certainly an untimely demise following the conclusion of the 2008 NASCAR season. Now as the 2009 schedule approaches the Chase cut off in a couple of weeks, it appears that Labonte will in effect be cut off from the No. 96 Ford – a car in which he has pulled yeoman’s duty in this year. Moreover, it occurs on the weekend that the series comes to what has been the best track in Labonte’s illustrious career.

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Mirror Driving: Montreal To Cup?, Atlanta Angst, And Where Have All The Rookies Gone?

*The Nationwide Series ran a wild and crazy race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Sunday, with rain tires and a roller coaster running order jumbling up the finish. Was the competition overall better than last year, and is this a venue where NASCAR should explore sending the Cup teams at this point?* Beth: It wasn't bad, but I wouldn't be too quick to move the Cup Series there. Jeff: I agree; while I liked the race, the circuit is just not ready for Cup. Amy: I’m with you two. I thought the race was decent, but in my opinion, it's a good venue for a NNS standalone -- and that’s it.

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Is Erik Darnell’s Best Chance Bobby Labonte’s Last Hurrah?

Bobby Labonte's poor performance behind the wheel of the No. 96 has to be at least a partial determining factor in not securing the funding needed for all 36 races. That opened the door for him to be replaced by a younger, sponsor-friendly alternative Monday, and with Roush Fenway having no shortage of those these days it's no surprise Erik Darnell has been installed in a seat once reserved by Labonte's Hall of Fame Racing for seven of the final 12 events. Yet while the move will undoubtedly anger traditionalists all across NASCAR nation, it's hard to fault Yates Racing for forcing out a guy whose best years may well be behind him for good.

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Joey Logano: No One Is Better Than Joe Gibbs At Picking A Winner

If it appears that the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota driven by rookie Joey Logano has become increasingly more visible in recent weeks, it is because he's begun to emerge from the back of the pack and become more of a weekly contender. Perhaps no driver entered the country’s top stock car series with higher expectations heaped on him than the young Middletown, Connecticut native. However, at this point in the season Logano is not disappointing those that had faith in his much heralded, but unproven abilities entering 2009. Chief among Logano's supporters were his employers at Joe Gibbs Racing - J.D. Gibbs and his father, Joe.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: 2009 CARFAX 400 at Michigan Edition

What a weekend for Brian Vickers! After winning poles in both the Nationwide and Cup Series at Michigan International Speedway, Vickers scored his second career Cup win on Sunday and came close to scoring the sweep Saturday in the NNS race. Now within 12 points of the Chase, Vickers’ place in this week’s column is no surprise. But with fuel mileage on the minds of many, the MIS race saw a team or two use their gas tanks to keep the momentum going, while several others saw their August success run dry before the checkered flag. Here are this week’s *HOT*, *WARM*, and *COLD* drivers following the 400-miler...

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There’s Just Something About Monday Races At Pocono

The only disappointment for race fans this week should be that the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 was rescheduled for Monday due to rain, resulting in many NASCAR loyalists to miss the live broadcast of the event. That's because -- wouldn’t you know it -- there was finally a good stock car race at Pocono Raceway and not everyone was able to witness it! Based on the rain, we should have known this race at Pocono would be a good one...

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: 2009 Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Edition

I’m back from the glorious paradise that is Puerto Rico and arrived just in time to catch the rain that ruined any chance of getting a decent race in on Sunday. My return may be to your dismay, as Tom and Mike did a heck of a job sizing up the Sprint Cup Series drivers last week. Monday’s race wasn’t half bad, considering it was held at Pocono _and_ it was a Monday hold over (or rain check, if you want to call it that). Much like the Richmond and Darlington races of this spring, Monday’s race had a little bit of everything. There were wrecks, not too many and not too few cautions, lots of position-changing, a couple of come-from-behind efforts, an on-track rivalry, a breakthrough win, and an emotional Victory Lane celebration. That is a lot more drama than recent past Pocono races have provided. All that being said, here are this week’s *HOT*, *WARM*, and *COLD* drivers of the week.

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Don’t Let Pocono Rain On Your Parade: Some Sunday Highlights From The Track

While Pocono’s 500-miler was pushed back a day, the rain couldn’t do the same to my deadline. So while I’d love to write on the race itself, instead I started this Sunday night staring at a blank page after “start your engines” became “stop those weepers!” That left us with hours upon hours of driver interviews and waiting for a track that, in the end, would never dry with an eerie water problem that’ll leave me dreaming of nightmares from California’s rain-plagued race in February, 2008. But sometimes, in the midst of waiting out the rain you can patiently learn quite a few things about the drivers in the interim.

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What’s Vexing Vito: Unsolicited Opinions on Things You Haven’t Thought About Until Now

In this space each week, I usually wax poetic – or manic – depending on your view, on some topic that has been, by this point in the week, completely beaten to death and rehashed to the point that you probably can’t fire off a letter to me quick enough, …

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Driver Report Cards, Part II: Grading Dale Jr. And The Rest

Continuing on from yesterday’s review, it’s time for Professors Danny and Tom to grade those drivers sitting at the back of the class. Whether it’s some bad racing luck, poor chemistry with a crew chief, or just plain awful driving, most of these guys from 21st on back have endured a season they’d like to forget. As the upcoming summer stretch heats up, those unlucky enough to be a part of this list won’t be fighting to make the Chase; instead, they’ll be working to save their jobs, explaining to unhappy sponsors and owners how things didn’t go as planned. But in the midst of this group are a handful of diamonds in the rough, wheelmen overachieving with single-car teams overmatched from the start against the multi-car powerhouses. Just which of these underdogs stood out above the rest? Read below to find out as our two-part midseason report card series comes to a close.

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