Team Preview: Yates/Hall Of Fame

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Yates Racing is set for the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season but with a completely new look.

After making it through 2008 with drivers Travis Kvapil and David Gilliland both finishing in the Top 35 of the point standings, Yates will tackle this season with a new pair of lead drivers.

Paul Menard comes over from the former DEI and will pilot a No. 98 Ford carrying sponsorship from his family's home improvement store chain.

And a new alignment with Hall of Fame Racing brings Bobby Labonte into the fold with the former series champion driving a No. 96 entry sponsored by ask.com.

However, the new additions will affect last year's duo of Gilliland and Kvapil. While the team will field a car for Kvapil in the Daytona 500 and at least the first five races, Gilliland's ride does not have a sponsor and will sit idle until one is found.

"David is still under contract with Yates Racing,” team owner Doug Yates said. “We’re looking for opportunities for David, but just with the way things came together at the end of the year with the Bobby Labonte program [at Hall of Fame Racing] and keeping Travis in the (No.) 28 car, David doesn’t have a ride right now.

“David Gilliland is a great race-car driver. He did an excellent job for Yates Racing last year, and he had our best finish as a team when he was second at Infineon [Raceway]. Hopefully, there’s something out there that we can put together for him or puts him back in the position he wants to be.”

Kvapil and Gilliland's points from 2008 will shift over to Menard and Labonte to start the year, giving both a guaranteed starting spot in the Daytona 500 and season's first five races.

The new tandem will have their first chance to work together in Saturday's Budweiser Shootout.

"That's going to be huge for us,” Menard said. “We've had a test under our belt and may try and do one more before it's all said and done and we load for Daytona, but to have a race like this where [crew chief] Larry (Carter) and I and the crew can work together will be a big advantage for us."

"It'll also be a chance to work with Bobby a little bit out there and see if we can draft together with the other Ford teams. Our Shootout car is about identical to the [Daytona] 500 car, so if we're good Saturday night, I like to think we'll be good the next Sunday.

"And if we aren't, it gives us a chance to make the 500 car better that next week. Either way it's a good race for us to be in, and we plan to make the best of it."

Veteran Labonte, who left Pettty Enterprises after three seasons, will work with veteran crew chief Todd Parrott on his new team.

“Bobby is a great race car driver,” said Parrott, who worked with Kvapil in 2008. “We want to win some races. With the success we had with Travis finishing 23rd in points, we could have very easily been in the top 20 had it not been for a couple of mistakes we made as a first-year team.

“The top 12, I don’t think you can say it’s out of reach.”

It will be a reunion for the two who worked together previously at Petty Enterprises.

"We’ve talked every weekend,” Parrott said about his relationship with Labonte since leaving Petty. “When I left Pettys, I left on a good note. … It was a hard decision for me to make. It was all about my family and my kids, spending more time with them and being closer to home.

“We’ve communicated and talked and sent text messages ever since then.”

Labonte is excited about being back together with Parrott as well as his chances for the coming year with the team.

"I'm not sure I want to set a goal today,” Labonte said. “I'm learning a lot of things as I go with those guys, as far as a different team. … It's this opportunity that I don't know about yet, but goals, I know they are to win. I just don't know what yet. If it's to win poles, win races, top-12s and make the Chase and all that stuff. I think all of it is desirable and all of it is attainable, but we just have to go out there and prove it.

"It's there; we've just got to make it all happen.”

Bobby Labonte
Car No: 96
Manufacturer: Ford
Sponsors: Ask.com, Academy Sports + Outdoors
Crew Chief: Todd Parrott

2008 Stats
Races
Wins
Top 5s
Top 10s
Avg. Start
Avg. Fin.
36
0
0
2
24.6
22.6


Paul Menard
Car No: 98
Manufacturer: Ford
Sponsors: Menard's
Crew Chief: Larry Carter

2008 Stats
Races
Wins
Top 5s
Top 10s
Avg. Start
Avg. Fin.
36
0
1
1
24.4
25.4


Travis Kvapil
Car No: 28
Manufacturer: Ford
Sponsors: Golden Corral
Crew Chief: Ben Leslie

2008 Stats
Races
Wins
Top 5s
Top 10s
Avg. Start
Avg. Fin.
36
0
0
4
26.1
25.9


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