Driver’s never forget their first NASCAR victory in the top three touring divisions. For Bobby Labonte, his took place at Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS) during the NASCAR Nationwide Series (formerly Busch Grand National Series) race on April 13, 1991. The taste of sweet victory allowed him to snatch the division’s championship that same year.
In the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the 2000 champion has also had some shining moments at BMS and he is ready for the action-packed IRWIN Tools Night Race on Saturday. Even though the track did not make his 21-win list, he has a few strong finishes in the books. His best finish is third place (3/23/03) and he has three top-five and 10 top-10s. Labonte is focused on increasing those numbers behind the wheel of the No. 47 BUSH’s Beans Toyota Camry fielded by JTG Daugherty Racing.
“Bristol is a fan favorite and a driver’s favorite track for a lot of us,” Labonte said. “I got my first NASCAR win there and you always remember your first win. That was a pretty cool day for me.
“I’m looking forward to being there this weekend with BUSH’S Beans on the car,” Labonte continued. “It will be interesting to see how race plays out differently from last time with the changes Bruton Smith had done to the track. I hope it’s good for fans and for us. With the track being single groove, I feel like it will be a recipe for a lot of excitement. We could really use a good run Saturday night.”
It’s been a challenging year for the single-car team Labonte will admit, but he is optimistic about this weekend along with the future of the racing organization.
“We’ve had some bad luck and tough finishes, but we are working hard to improve our results,” Labonte said. “Brian Burns (interim crew chief) is doing a really good job. He’s shy on tools and people, but everything behind the scenes is coming around. We’re in reset mode.”
While hitting the reset button, JTG Daugherty Racing has the good fortune of having someone like Bobby Hutchens (general manager) steer the ship.
“Bobby Hutchens has definitely brought concrete structure we need,” Labonte said. “He is laying a simple basic foundation for us to stand on where we can then figure out what is most important to improve on. It will pay dividends and it’s something we have needed for a long time. We have minimal tools to work with, but we have a great group of guys. They go above and beyond to get everything done in the timely frame we need. We are a single-car team that started from scratch this season. We will get better.”