Labonte Adds Addington

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – Steve Addington has been named Bobby Labonte's crew chief on the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet for the 2005 season, Joe Gibbs Racing officials announced today.

Addington comes to the No. 18 Interstate Batteries car after one year as crew chief for the No. 20 Rockwell Automation Busch Series car for JGR, which was driven by Mike Bliss in the 2004 season and finished fifth in the final Busch point standings.

"Steve brings a great deal of racing knowledge and leadership to the Interstate Batteries team," said J.D. Gibbs, president of JGR. "He did a great job with the No. 20 Rockwell Automation car in the Busch Series last year, and we look forward to a lot of success with him in 2005."

During the 2004 season, Addington helped Bliss to his first career Busch Series victory Oct. 15 at Charlotte and 14 top-10 finishes. Prior to working with JGR, Addington was crew chief for Jason Keller in the Busch Series, first at KEL Racing from 1990-96 and then at PPC Racing from 1999-2003.

"I'm looking forward to working with Bobby and the No. 18 Interstate Batteries team," Addington said. "Bobby is a tremendous driver, and Joe Gibbs Racing is a great team to be associated with. We're going to work hard and try to put ourselves in a position to be in the Chase for the Nextel Cup in 2005."

Addington, 40, from Spartanburg, S.C., becomes only the fourth crew chief in the illustrious 13-year history of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries team. Jimmy Makar served as crew chief for Dale Jarrett (1993-94) and then Labonte (1995-2002) until being promoted to senior vice president of racing operations for JGR. Michael "Fatback" McSwain served as crew chief for the 2003 season and 18 races of the 2004 season when Brandon Thomas took over as interim crew chief for the final 18 races of the season. Thomas will continue with JGR in the engineering department.

"Brandon worked very hard in his role as interim crew chief," Gibbs said. "We're happy to have him continue his role in the engineering department. He brings a lot of knowledge to the organization."

Labonte, the 2000 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Champion, has 21 career victories and finished 12th in points in 2004. The 2005 season will be his 11th season with JGR and his 13th full-season of Nextel Cup competition.

"Steve brings a lot of experience to the No. 18 Interstate Batteries team," Labonte said. "He had a good year with the No. 20 Rockwell Automation Busch team last year, and I think he'll be able to helps us get back to Victory Lane and into the championship hunt."

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