Labonte Solid Again

After recording four straight finishes outside the top-10 in Dover over the past two years, Bobby Labonte was hoping to be able to reverse the trend and find his way back to the front of the pack in today's MBNA Armed Forces Family 400. In the end, Labonte not only did that, he ended up finishing third after a late-race charge that almost ended up putting him back in victory lane for the second time in 2003.

"We had a great day with our little Interstate Batteries Chevrolet," said Labonte following the event. "We were a little too tight to mount a great challenge for Ryan (Newman) at the end, but our effort today was something we can all be proud of. We started 13th and ran a really smart race and the results show it."

Starting 13th on the grid after what he considered a disappointing qualifying effort, Labonte was very cautious and deliberate in his approach towards the front of the pack. While it took him 125 laps to finally make the top-10, once there Labonte never relinquished his position among the leaders. The steady climb to the front also signified that he would be no push over in the closing laps of the event.

Leading once for 34 laps in the later stages of the event, Labonte was hoping that the team's final green-flag pit stop would be the key to victory. Unfortunately, the stop was one that no one would care to remember as there were problems with the lug nuts on the left front, which possibly cost Labonte a better shot at the victory.

"Yea we had some trouble there on that last stop and that hurt us a little bit," admitted Labonte. "These guys do a great job week in and week out, but for some reason right now we seem to be having some small miscues which are costing us big on the track."

"I wasn't very happy with that last stop," added crew chief Michael McSwain. "We're a better team than that and I expect more than that of our guys. We'll get over it and move forward, but I can promise we are going to be practicing a lot this week. There's too much to gain or lose on pit road and that's why this is a team sport. Bobby did his job on the track today, but we let him down in the pits a little bit. We'll hopefully rebound next week."

When asked about recording his series leading eighth top-five of the season, Labonte responded, "It's another great day for the team and it helped in the overall point standings, but the season is still young. We have a long way to go and I just hope we are able to stay as competitive and consistent as we have been over the last month or so. If we can, then the wins will come and the points will take care of themselves."



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