Today rain has delayed the two-day NASCAR Sprint Cup Series test session at the newly reconfigured Kansas Speedway in preparation for the Hollywood Casino 400 on Sunday.
Labonte, who is racing with the Kingsford Charcoal brand on his No. 47 Toyota Camry, is turning his first laps on the repaved surface now during the shortened test session. Tomorrow cars will return to the track for the second session scheduled 8:30 to 12:30 p.m. Central.
“This is my first time on the new surface and from the people I have talked to and what I had read, the track is pretty smooth with progressive banking,” Labonte said. “It’s good that we will have a couple days of testing. The time is so valuable to us because we do not have many opportunities like this.”
Labonte believes the track will have a different feel for the 267-lap race that was won by Denny Hamlin in April.
“After practice and qualifying the track will probably change some,” Labonte said. “I feel like it will be like Michigan. David Green came here not long ago with the driving school and helped put some rubber down for the race. He could tell a difference in the track. It could be multiple lanes, which is something that you might not usually see on a newly paved track. I’m pretty excited about it and looking forward to this weekend.”
Team owner Tad Geschickter banks on his team having better luck this time around at the 1.5-mile tri-oval. In the spring, Labonte had his hands full with car vibrations and a mechanical problem that resulted in a 35th-place finish after completing 132 of 267 laps. He’s also looking for his team to rebound from a tough weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway where Labonte was running 11th when he had a right rear flat tire that derailed their efforts.
“We’ve been on a roll since Bobby Hutchens came over and started reeningering some of our equipment,” Geschickter said. “We’ve had some consistent top performances. In the most recent race at Charlotte, we got up to 11th and had a flat right rear tire and then we were flat from there. Everybody made a few mistakes and we made it worse than we needed it to be. When you are building a team the strength of the team is how we bounce back. We are heading in the right direction and the Charlotte race was a bump in the road.”
Geschickter sees continual improvement in his team.
“I really see for the first time in about a year or so really good communication that is helping us improve in so many areas,” Geschickter said. “People are starting to really understand Bobby Labonte’s feedback, which is obviously excellent. We are using our resources at Toyota to find some base problems in our chassis and our aero development. The proof is in the pudding. When you make a change and you go out there the next week and it runs better, you know you are heading in the right direction. You get to take the test every week.”
“The way we have been running has been encouraging to me,” Geschickter continued. “We have made adjustments in how we are building our chassis and changing the bodies around. Each week we just need to keep getting better. As long as you are learning and improving you have the hope of getting where you need to go.”
All of this could not be possible without the support of great sponsors. This week Kingsford is at the helm.
“The Clorox Company with all of their great brands have been longstanding partners of JTG Daugherty Racing,” Labonte said. “We couldn’t do it with the support of our sponsors.”