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Labonte Looking for Strong Finish to ‘03

  • Nov 02, 2003

AVONDALE, Ariz. (Nov. 2, 2003) – With his sights set on a return to NASCAR’s Top 10 and a visit to the stage during the year-end banquet in New York City, Terry Labonte is putting the wraps on his best season since 1998.

The two-time Winston Cup champion has set a number of personal single-season records during the year and isn’t done yet, with three races left on the schedule.

To date, Labonte has completed more than 98 percent of all laps run this year, an increase over his current best of 97.88 percent set in 1996. He could miss 50 laps of competition over the final three races and still break his record.

Other personal single-season marks Labonte has broken or matched during the 2003 season include:

Total races completed—Labonte has run to the finish of all 33 races this year, one of only two drivers to do so (the other being Kevin Harvick). Labonte’s previous best was 30 races completed, set just last year.

Consecutive races completed—Labonte’s old mark was 16, set in 2000. He’s currently at 33 and counting.

Consecutive races finishing on lead lap—His personal best of eight straight was set during the championship season of 1996 and has been matched this year with an eight-race stretch that began at New Hampshire International Speedway in July and, ironically, was halted at the same track in September.

But the one statistic Labonte points to with the most amount of pride is his standing in the series points race.

Entering this weekend’s event in Phoenix, Labonte is 10th—his highest placement this late in the season since he was ninth after 33 races in 1998. He trails ninth-place Bill Elliott by a mere six points and is 26 ahead of 11th-place Kurt Busch.

Labonte’s average starting position this year is 20th, an improvement of seven spots over 2002. His average finish is 16th, also an improvement of seven positions over last year. And Labonte’s total of 117 laps led is his highest since 1999, when he led 375 circuits.

With two of the remaining three races this year to be run at Phoenix and North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, N.C.—tracks where he has won before—prospects for Labonte to continue his resurgence are quite good.

His 1994 win at Phoenix is Hendrick Motorsports’ lone triumph on the one-mile desert oval and remains the last time Chevrolet visited the winner’s circle there. Labonte is a two-time winner at “The Rock,” has won four pole positions and had a successful test session on the 1.017-mile oval earlier this month.

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