Originally created 04/02/00

Texas track is special to Bobby Labonte too



FORT WORTH, Texas -- Terry Labonte isn't the only driver from Texas in today's DirecTV 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway. In fact, he isn't the only driver named Labonte.

Younger brother Bobby Labonte hopes to enjoy the same home-track advantage that took Terry to Victory Lane last year and to the pole position for this year's race.

"I don't know what he felt, but I have a feeling he felt pretty good about (winning in Texas)," the current series points leader said. "The fans were definitely cheering that day just like (Friday) when he won the pole. If I have the same thing happen, it would be great.

"It's definitely an event. It's neat. It's great for us because we're from Texas. That makes it special for us. It really does make it more of an event because we only come here once a year. If we came here twice, I don't think it would fall off as far as the crowd go, but it would definitely be different."

The homecoming allowed Terry to reflect on his younger years growing up in Corpus Christi. He went home last Tuesday to visit his grandmother and to see familiar sites.

"I looked over at this oil supply company," he said. "It was the first job I ever applied for, and I didn't get it. Good."

During a race at a local speedway, oilman Billy Hagan saw Labonte. Days later, he formed a business relationship that eventually took both to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series -- and the 1984 championship.

During Labonte's first year, he didn't get a salary from Hagan. Instead, he drove for a 5 percent cut of the winnings. His rookie season proved to be worth $26,000.

Twenty-one years later, Labonte has 21 career wins, two championships and more than $21 million in earnings.

ODD MEN OUT:

Rain Saturday at the Texas Motor Speedway washed out second round qualifying and forced NASCAR to set today's starting lineup from the results of Friday's time trials. The top 36 speeds earned an automatic spot in the race, while the last seven were awarded to teams that qualified for a provisional exemption.

Five drivers -- Robby Gordon, Dave Marcis, Wally Dallenbach, Todd Bodine and Kyle Petty -- didn't qualify under either format and were sent home a day early.

Provisional exemptions are given out to the drivers ranked highest in the point standings who don't qualify by speed. The seven drivers who fell back on a provisional exemption to make the field were: Jeff Burton, Tony Stewart, Robert Pressley, Jimmy Spencer, John Andretti, Bobby Hamilton and Sterling Marlin.

MY ACHING FOOT:

Ward Burton suffered bumps and bruises in a practice crash early Friday, and the wreck forced him to find a new driver for Saturday's Albertson's 300 NASCAR Busch Series race.

"Wrecking the No. 22 Pontiac (Friday) left me a little bruised and sore," he said. "The big picture is we're going to sacrifice (Saturday's) race instead of risking being hurt for several races down the road."

Kenny Wallace filled in for Burton and failed to finish in the top 25.

PIT STOPS:

Mike Skinner's sponsors, Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse, announced it would donate $31 for every lap Skinner drives in April and $1,031 for every lap he leads to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund following last Tuesday's tornadoes that ravaged parts of Fort Worth, Arlington and Grand Prairie ... Despite road improvements that cost several million dollars, traffic around the Texas Motor Speedway remains one of the worst on the circuit. It took more than two hours to get from the front gate of the raceway into the infield before Saturday's Busch Series race.