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Newz Forum: AUTO: NASCAR: Labonte wants to regain winning form

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posted on Jul, 8 2004 @ 03:18 PM
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Bobby Labonte had it all working in 2000. He won four races, recorded a dozen top-three finishes and was among the top five drivers 19 times.

It all added up to Labonte's first NASCAR Winston Cup championship. Labonte helped himself that year by winning the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He hounded Rusty Wallace, made the winning pass with 14 laps remaining and held on. He hasn't been close here lately, finishing out of the top 10 in each of the last three years.

Labonte tried to regain his winning touch at the Brickyard on Tuesday and Wednesday, working with the crew of the Joe Gibbs-owned Chevrolet. He was working a two-day test with Petty Enterprises teammates Kyle Petty and Jeff Green before heading to Chicago. More drivers will test here next week for the Brickyard 400 coming up on Aug. 8.

"We had a really good stretch of runs for two or three years," Labonte said. "I think we're regaining that form."

Going into Sunday's race in Chicago, Labonte ranks sixth in the Nextel Cup standings with 2,164 points, 381 behind leader Jimmie Johnson. He has yet to win a race this season but has finished in the top six in five of the last eight races.

"The rule changes; new tires and new bodies make us feel we want to come back and get some runs," Labonte said. "We had a baseline of what we needed to run here, so now we're trying some engineering changes."

Labonte said Speedway challenges are not found at other tracks.

"Each year, we go a little faster here, which makes it harder to pass," he said. "I've been here when Turn 1 was trickier. Then you come back, and Turn 3 is trickier."

Labonte said it was good that the weather was hot and muggy Tuesday, then cool and breezy Wednesday.

"When we come back for the race, it could be cloudy, it could be cool," he said. "Or it could be hot. ... So we will have already run under both conditions."

While Labonte was glad to have the test session, he said what counts is the race-day setup.

"In 2000, we didn't practice well, but we won," he said. "So this is not always a good barometer. But we can always use the laps."

Petty had only one day's worth of laps, blowing two engines Tuesday. He parked his car for the rest of the test and sent for new motors for the Chicago race.

"When engines break, it puts you behind," Petty said. "We don't have time to mess with it right now, so we'll figure it out when we get home. We've got to fix this and move forward."

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