Another Daytona downer
B. Labonte's bad luck continues with early spin, crashPosted: Sunday February 16, 2003 6:49 PM
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Bobby Labonte sat on a workbench, staring at his wrecked race car. It's a familiar position for him at NASCAR's biggest race.
Labonte, the 2001 Winston Cup champion, crashed for the third consecutive year at the Daytona 500 and finished 41st in Sunday's 43-car field.
"It's so frustrating," said Labonte, now 0-for-11 in the Daytona 500. "I don't have any answers."
Labonte wrecked on the 58th lap, seconds after Ryan Newman spun into the wall, slid across the track and flipped through the grass between pit road and the front stretch. Labonte turned onto pit road to avoid the wreck but couldn't elude Ken Schrader as he cut across the grass and hit the pit wall in front of him.
Labonte didn't see Schrader until it was too late. He slammed on the brakes and locked up the tires, hoping to elude Schrader's car, but he didn't stop in time. Labonte's car had damage to its steering, transmission and front end.
All three drivers walked away uninjured.
But Labonte wasn't pleased.
He climbed out of his car, ripped off his helmet and unzipped his fire suit as he watched his No. 18 Chevrolet towed away. With teammates working to fix the damage, Labonte sat silently nearby.
The team didn't get very far. The race was halted because of rain, and crew members aren't allowed to touch the car during red-flag conditions.
The delay also left Labonte with plenty of time to analyze what happened.
"The downtime is bad," he said. "There's about a hundred things I feel like I could have done. I'll replay that in my mind all the time now. You just think of all kinds of things."
Car owner Joe Gibbs and crew chief Michael McSwain tried to console Labonte without much success.
"It seemed like we were snake-bitten from the beginning," said Labonte, who started 22nd, spun on the 43rd lap and lost several positions. "It didn't go like we thought. We spun out and then we got in that deal. It's kind of like we've got this big old cloud or something."
Labonte has won only three races since his championship two years ago, and he had hoped an offseason switch from Pontiac to Chevrolet would change his luck.
Not at Daytona.
Labonte started 10th last year but finished 34th after he was involved in an 18-car pileup. He was 40th in 2001 after a multicar crash that sent Tony Stewart's car flying through the air before it landed atop Labonte's hood.
"All we can do is lick our wounds, try to fix our car and make as many laps as we can make," McSwain said.
And try again next year.