July 5, 2013 in Sports

Bobby Labonte not ready to consider future

Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Bobby Labonte found himself out of a ride last weekend breaking a streak of 704 consecutive starts.
(Full-size photo)

Bobby Labonte has spent his weekends at the race track for 22 consecutive years, a stretch so long he doesn’t even know what normal people do with their free time.

He had to figure it out the hard way last weekend, when he found himself out of a ride for the first time since 1989.

Labonte gave no specifics Thursday as to how he spent last weekend while AJ Allmendinger raced the No. 47 Toyota that Labonte has piloted since 2011.

“Ended up staying busy doing something,” Labonte said. “Obviously wasn’t what I thought I’d be doing.”

He didn’t watch the race at Kentucky Speedway where his streak of 704 consecutive Sprint Cup Series starts came to an unwitting end. JTG Daugherty Racing decided to use Allmendinger in the car for a handful of races this year in an attempt for the single-car operation to get more feedback on its car and the overall program.

Labonte was able to keep his streak going when the team used Allmendinger at Michigan last month by jumping into Phoenix Racing’s No. 51 car for the weekend. But he indicated Friday that it was a one-time only deal because of the conflict between JTG’s Toyota relationship and Phoenix’s use of Chevrolets.

“It’s such a tough subject because I am just trying to go out there and do my job,” Allmendinger said. “They asked me to go out there and drive the car and get a feel for it and give my feedback. I’m just trying to give the best feedback I can, and at the end of the weekend, if they’ve learned some things, then I’ve done my job.

Now back in the car for JTG at Daytona International Speedway, Labonte was faced with questions he’s not ready to answer.

It’s a conversation the 49-year-old Labonte is clearly not ready to have. He played coy on most of the questions, revealing very little about his thought process as he nears the end of a remarkable career.

Labonte has 21 Cup victories dating to his 1993 rookie season, and he won the 2000 Cup title driving for Joe Gibbs Racing.

“I’d love to say I can be happy sitting on the beach, but I don’t know if that can make me happy,” he said. “I’m happy sitting in a race car right now, and that’s my focus.

“Until someone tells me different, you try to enjoy what you enjoy.”

NASCAR confiscates roof flaps from 31 teams

Thirty-one cars, including 16 in the Sprint Cup Series, failed inspection before practices at Daytona International Speedway.

NASCAR confiscated the teams’ roof flaps, which are designed to keep cars on the ground during spins and wrecks at high speeds, for further inspection. Penalties could be possible.

The roof-flap spacers had been illegally machined down to reduce weight.

Jimmie Johnson has new take on restarts

Five-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson is reshaping his views about restarts.

After two noticeable mistakes during recent restarts late in Sprint Cup races, Johnson said he plans to “lighten up and loosen up” when it comes to restarts.

Johnson was penalized at Dover early last month for jumping a restart. Since then, he’s been critical of the pace of restarts and the interpretation of rules regarding them.

Daytona revamps gates following wreck

Daytona International Speedway has completed one project and is about to start another.

NASCAR’s most famous track finished installation of revamped cross-over gates Wednesday, a day before drivers and teams took to the high-banked oval to begin preparations for Saturday night’s 400-mile race.

The gates were reinforced following a frightening wreck in February that injured nearly 30 spectators. Daytona and Talladega added cables at the crossover gates, which allow fans to move between the grandstands and the infield before and after races. The tracks also installed tethers between the gate frame and support posts.

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