Five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races are in the books and approaching Martinsville Speedway Bobby Labonte will have a fifth different primary sponsor on his No. 47 Toyota Camry hood with BUSH’S® Beans.
“We have some of the best sponsors in the business and the look of our car changes weekly,” Labonte said. “The reason we have multiple sponsors is because Tad Geschickter (JTG Daugherty Racing co-owner) can make things happen and he creates great business to business opportunities. Sponsors want to be around him and he treats people the way he wants to be treated. I think people realize what he does and what he stands for in this business. Tad, Jodi (Geschickter), Brad (Daugherty) and everyone at JTG Daugherty Racing does a great job with helping promote the brands.”
Kroger kicked off the season opener at Daytona International Speedway, Kingsford Charcoal followed suit at Phoenix International Raceway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. At Bristol Motor Speedway, Clorox was front and center and Charter graced Labonte’s machine for the first time at Auto Club Speedway. Now, it’s BUSH’S Beans turn for the next two events before Reese Towpower takes the helm at Kansas Speedway while SCOTT Brand and BUBBA burger are in line.
The Corpus Christi, Texas-native’s Martinsville history includes one win, six top-five, 13 top-10 finishes and one pole award. This race is always about survival and Labonte is prepared to outlast the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 in his 39th visit to the historical track that has hosted NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races every year since the division’s inception in 1949.
“I love Martinsville,” said Labonte, who finished 27th and 32nd respectively at Martinsville last year. “All the tracks we go to are great, but it’s one of the better tracks we go to for so many reasons. It’s a race that puts a lot of wear and tear on your equipment, such as, brakes, axel, etc. and you have to keep your fenders on it on top of that. Brakes are really key and any failures in the drive train will kill your day.”
Winning a seven-foot tall handcrafted Grandfather Clock in 2002 was a special day for Labonte.
“To me, a win at Martinsville was huge,” Labonte said. “I’ve been competitive there a lot and I have a NASCAR Nationwide and Truck Series win at Martinsville in addition to a Cup win. It’s 500 laps and it’s hard to survive out there. It was a fun race back then and it’s just as fun today. When you have everything going your way and luck on your side, you can win. It’s awesome to win anywhere, but Martinsville is just a cool place to say you have won there.”
The 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion’s goal Sunday is to improve his 20th spot currently held in the driver’s points standings. He is 87 markers out of first place and 47 out of tenth entering the .526-mile oval. His best finish this season is 14th in the first race of the year and he’s ready to change that.
“We have been good so far, but our finishes have not shown how well we have run,” Labonte said. “Daytona was our first race out of the box and we finished in the top-15. It was the first time for us with EFI and a new restrictor plate that we didn’t test. Overall, it was a good finish considering. Then we had a respectable finish at Phoenix, but we had a bump stop failure and probably could have finished higher if it was not for that. At Vegas, we didn’t have the fuel mileage we needed and the same at Bristol. At Fontana (Auto Club Speedway) we were running good, but had a pit road penalty that hurt us before NASCAR called the race due to weather. We’ve been around the 15th place number and we will get better. We have good people and my crew chief Todd Berrier is amazing. He took us from not having a car in October/November to where we are today. We know we have to be cautious for a while, but we will have more cars in our shop soon. We’ll get better every week.”
Following Martinsville, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has an off weekend. Labonte has a little work to do before some rest and relaxation.
“We have a test at Nashville Superspeedway during our week off,” Labonte said. After that, I’m going with Tyler (his son) to go search for colleges. Once that’s done, it’s time for some rest and relaxation in Charleston, S.C. for a little vacation.”