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Archive for Sunday, April 29, 2007

Late pass puts Labonte in Busch victory lane

April 29, 2007

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Bobby Labonte celebrates his victory in the Busch Series Aaron's 312. Labonte won Saturday in Talladega, Ala.

Bobby Labonte celebrates his victory in the Busch Series Aaron's 312. Labonte won Saturday in Talladega, Ala.

— Bobby Labonte pushed teammate Tony Stewart to the lead, then won with a dramatic pass in the last 200 yards Saturday in the NASCAR Busch Series race at Talladega Superspeedway.

Labonte, a Nextel Cup driver, came away with his 10th Busch win and first since 1998, beating Stewart, a two-time Cup champion, to the finish line by less than a car-length in the race that came down to a green-white-checker finish because of a late caution.

Casey Mears and Kevin Harvick were out front when debris from the battered car of Kasey Kahne brought out a caution flag on lap 115, just three laps from the scheduled finish of the Aaron's 312.

NASCAR waved the green flag again for the overtime finish at the start of lap 119 and Labonte, who restarted seventh, moved in behind Stewart, who was fifth, and the two Chevrolets, both owned by Harvick, worked in tandem, shooting to the front.

Both zoomed past Mears by the end of the first green-flag lap and Labonte just kept pushing, Stewart, giving the two lead cars a big margin over Mears. Labonte bided his time on the final lap around the 2.66-mile oval until he came off turn four.

At that point, he slipped up the banking and moved alongside Stewart, with the two cars nearly touching. As they neared the finish line, Labonte nosed ahead. His engine, which was overheating badly on the final two laps after he banged into the rear of Harvick's car, blew as he crossed the finish line with steam wafting from under his hood.

The race was marred by several crashes, including an eight-car melee on lap 110 that brought out a 16-minute red flag to allow a track cleanup, and a spectacular crash by Kyle Busch on lap 27. Busch escaped injury when he was tapped from behind by Stewart, bounced off Mears, hit the outside wall, then skidded on his roof into the infield grass and barrel-rolled before stopping on all four wheels. No injuries were reported.

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