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Archive for Sunday, August 5, 2001

IROC: Labonte wins title

August 5, 2001

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— Bobby Labonte couldn't help it.

The wiggle that sent Tony Stewart crashing into the wall in he fourth turn late in the IROC race Saturday wasn't intentional. It was racing between two NASCAR teammates.

The accident knocked Stewart out of contention in the last of four True Value International Race of Champions events this season and handed Labonte a six-car length victory and the IROC title.

"This car was really loose most of the day," said Labonte, who went into the race with three other drivers, including Stewart, within five points of his lead. "I tried all I could do to stay off of him."

When Labonte couldn't, he wound up beating runner-up Stewart by 10 points, 68-58, for the $250,000 series prize. Labonte raced with a little No. 3 on his car, a tribute to last year's IROC champion, Dale Earnhardt, who started the season as one of the 12 drivers in the all-star series and was not replaced after his death in the Daytona 500.

It was the one-on-one duel between Labonte and Stewart, friends who both drive for Joe Gibbs Racing on the Winston Cup circuit, who drew most of the attention Saturday.

During the second half of the race, the two battled alone for the victory and the points title, with CART star Kenny Brack and Eddie Cheever of the Indy Racing League, the other contenders, trailing.

Brack finished one point behind Stewart in third, followed by Cheever another 10 points back.

Stewart got caught in the wake of Labonte's Pontiac Trans-Am and slammed into the concrete wall on the 35th of 40 laps on the 21*2-mile oval.

Stewart bounced off the wall and kept racing but wasn't able to challenge again.

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