Originally created 08/20/00

NASCAR notebook: Labonte's ready to roll



BROOKLYN, Mich. -- It took doctors 4' hours to figure out what was wrong with Terry Labonte this week. Then it took five minutes to cure him in time for today's Pepsi 400 at the Michigan Speedway.

After struggling during a test session at the Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway on Tuesday, Labonte checked himself into Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, N.C. A battery of tests revealed a condition called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo -- something that's caused when calcium buildup in the ears is knocked loose.

Five minutes of treatment has Labonte feeling better -- so good he now plans to drive in today's race.

"I felt fine," Labonte said after working his Kellogg's-sponsored Chevrolet during the final hour-long practice session at the 2-mile, D-shaped raceway. "I haven't been able to get dizzy since (the treatments)."

Labonte's NASCAR Winston Cup Series record for consecutive starts ended at the Brickyard 400 earlier this month. After starting 556 races in a row, Labonte was prepared to sit out his third consecutive race today (1 p.m, ESPN).

Todd Bodine, who won Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series race at Michigan, will stand by in Labonte's pits today in case he's needed.

The calcium in Labonte's ear was knocked loose during a crash at the July 1 Pepsi 400 at the Daytona International Speedway. He also suffered a concussion and a broken leg at Daytona.

To make certain of his recovery, Labonte flew to Kings Dominion, an amusement park in Richmond, Va., to ride the roller coaster for two days.

"The roller coaster was the only way I could think of that you could feel some G-forces and then some fast corners," Labonte said. "I didn't get dizzy once."

BODINE BREAKS DROUGHT:

It had been more than two years since Todd Bodine had won on the NASCAR Busch Series circuit, so once he got out front in Saturday's NAPAonline.com 250, he wasn't going to settle for second.

The youngest of three racing brothers held off charges by Michael Waltrip, Ward Burton and Jeff Burton in the final 30 laps to break a 69-race winless streak that dated back to October, 1997.

Bodine steered his Chevrolet Monte Carlo high and low to block every advance from his challengers. On the final lap, Waltrip got between Bodine and the outside wall and seemed in position to make a dash to the checkered flag, but Bodine held his ground and won by 6 feet.

"I know the only shot we had was to take away their lines," Bodine said. "Luckily, my car would handle good on the outside. I saw the best place for Michael was up near the outside wall. I stayed cool and blocked that line."

Waltrip said Bodine's determination, spawned by his long winless streak, made it too hard for him in a charge in the final half mile.

"My car was really good at the end," Waltrip said. "My car was good at the top. I had him, but I backed out to avoid a wreck. I knew I couldn't get Todd on the bottom."

BODINE, WALTRIP GO HOME:

Ninety minutes before younger brothers Todd Bodine and Michael Waltrip finished one-two in the NASCAR Busch Series race, older brothers Geoffrey Bodine and Darrell Waltrip failed to qualify for today's Pepsi 400 at the Michigan Speedway.

Both were part of a group of seven drivers who weren't fast enough or who didn't qualify for a provisional exemption to make the starting lineup. Others included Stacy Compton, Kyle Petty, Carl Long and David Keith.

The seven provisional exemptions were awarded to Dale Earnhardt, Robert Pressley, Jimmy Spencer, Ted Musgrave, Bobby Hamilton, Brett Bodine and Robby Gordon.

Kerry Earnhardt, half-brother to pole-sitter Dale Earnhardt Jr. and son of seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion Dale Earnhardt, ran 188.605 mph in second round qualifying to improve from 38th in Friday's time trials to 27th in today's starting lineup.

VALVOLINE TEAMS WITH BENSON:

In the most unique sponsorship deals in stock car history, Valvoline not only will sponsor Johnny Benson's Pontiac next year, the giant oil company will become part owner.

Benson's current team is owned by Atlanta businessmen Tom Beard and Nelson Bowers. The name of the team will change from MB2 to MBV in 2001.

"Can you believe this?" said Jay Frye, general manager of MB2. "A few weeks ago we were running a white car. Next year, well have the No. 1 brand and sponsor in the history of racing on our car. I can speak for Tom Beard, Nelson Bowers and Read Morton (MB2 owners) in saying that we are absolutely thrilled to welcome Valvoline as an owner-sponsor."

The deal is for three years, and it calls for Benson's teammate, Ken Schrader, to carry an associate sponsorship from Valvoline.

PIT STOPS:

Rusty Wallace was the fastest driver in the final practice session Saturday. His Ford was clocked at 184.214 mph. Tony Stewart was second fastest at 183.519, while Jerry Nadeau was third-quickest. ... The North Carolina Speedway and Darlington (S.C.) Raceway have joined forces to offer a unique ticket plan. Starting today, fans can buy the Six Pack, which includes six tickets for only $240 to both the Southern 500 at Darlington on Sept. 3 and the Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400 at North Carolina on Oct. 22. The offer is good for only one week. Fans can purchase tickets by calling (910) 582-2861.