Archive for Saturday, August 16, 2003

Labonte loves Michigan track

Driver claims top spot at GFS Marketplace 400

August 16, 2003

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— There's something about Michigan International Speedway that brings out the best in Bobby Labonte.

He picked up his second straight Michigan pole, topping qualifying Friday for the GFS Marketplace 400 and earning his fourth pole at the track in the Irish Hills.

The 2000 Winston Cup champion turned a lap of 190.240 mph, just a bit shy of the 190.365 that earned him the pole on the 2-mile, high-banked Michigan oval in June.

Labonte, who has been mired in a slump during which he has finished no better than 14th in his last five starts and fallen from fourth to seventh in the points, became the first driver to sweep the Michigan poles since Bill Elliott in 1988.

Racing here also could get him back in stride, considering Labonte has won three times and finished in the top-five 14 times in 22 starts.

"I just like coming here," Labonte said. "It just falls into the category of a good track."

Ryan Newman, who leads the series with five poles this season, was second this time. He went out ninth and ran a lap of 189.929.

Robby Gordon was third at 189.499, followed by surprising Kevin Lepage -- making only his third Winston Cup start of the season -- at 189.086.

Terry Labonte, Bobby's older brother, was next at 188.927; Jason Leffler, in only his second Cup race of the season followed at 188.828, with Christian Fittipaldi, in his ninth race of the year at 188.803.

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