Bobby Labonte's best finish at Phoenix International Speedway (PIR) is third-place (11/7/99) and his best start is first (10/27/96).
Labonte has 28 starts at PIR, three top-five and nine top-10 finishes. The 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion has led eight races for 68 laps. His average finish is 18.2. The Corpus Christi, Texas-native is currently 14th in the points standings.
JTG Daugherty Racing PIR Quotes:
"We are just as excited about Phoenix as we were about Daytona," crew chief Brian Burns said. "We finished 16th and 15th in the races there last year and we have a better package this time around. So, we are looking to run better. We have high hopes for a top-10 finish. Phoenix is one of those tracks that caters to Bobby's style where he has an edge. It's one of our stronger tracks. A track like Daytona, luck has a lot to do with where you finish. However, having a respectable finish in the first race of the season sets the pace for starting the year off on the right foot. We have some tracks coming up where we feel we will excel. We're looking to improve in the points standings. We have four or five teams in front of us that we feel stronger than, and we are going to try to keep the others behind us."
"We are doing good and working real hard," competition director Bobby Hutchens said. "We are in a building process. Basically, this was a new race team this time last year right out of the box. A lot of people don't realize that. The team started with a blank building during this time last year and built the team over the course of the season. I came in late August. We
have tried real hard during the off season to incorporate a lot of new people from an engineering standpoint and straighten up some things in the shop from a competition side that will make our performance on Sundays much better.
"Getting away from superspeedway racing this week, I think people will see a whole different race team," Hutchens added. "It has been a building process for the most part, but I am hoping we will see the fruits of our labors here in the next couple of weeks when get to race regular tracks. We have tried to be smart about it, set some priorities and do what's within our bounds. We did not come in there and turn the place up, fire a bunch of people and cut all the cars up. It was not the right thing to do. We have tried to systematically work our way through what we think will make a difference in performance on Sunday. We have prioritized the things that we feel will make the biggest difference on the track. Tad's giving us the latitude. I laid out a budget for our engineering group and our competition side when I first got there. I said, 'Hey, if we are going to run with these guys in the front of this group every week, this is what it's going to take.' Tad kind of looked at me like I was crazy. At the end of the day, we set down over a couple weeks and he said, 'Well I've got to go out and sell some more.' That's what he does well. He's on the road and I'm in the shop. He would call me every couple days and say I have got this, I have got that. We would order this and hire that person and that's kind of how we dealt with it. To be honest with you, it has been a lot of fun. It reminds me of when I started at RCR (Richard Childress Racing) in 1988 with a small group. When I started, I was the 18th employee. When I left, there were 500. At JTG Daugherty Racing, this thing's got around 30 people that touches the race car every day. It is nice to get to know them, their wives, their kids and their dogs. When you get in that big thing, it almost rolls over you before you realize what happens."
"We are a one car team and that limits us a little bit when we get to the track," Hutchens continued. "We have to be smart about what we do. Toyota has stepped up to help us out from an engineering perspective. That has meant a lot because I have been used to having a group of people to be able to turn to and rely on and grab information. When I walked in the door, there was not a lot of that going on. We have tried to pollinate that the best we can. At the end of the day that will make a big difference. We hope to make those folks proud that we have taken the knowledge and the engineering expertise that they have and put it into this small team and hopefully we are going to gain off of it.