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Labonte at home in Texas

By KEVIN KELLY

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 29, 2001


Terry Labonte figures it is pure coincidence that one of the tracks at which he's been best in recent seasons happens to be a few hours from his boyhood home.

Terry Labonte figures it is pure coincidence that one of the tracks at which he's been best in recent seasons happens to be a few hours from his boyhood home.

The Corpus Christi, Texas, native and two-time Winston Cup champion has one win, three top-eight finishes and one pole in four races at Texas Motor Speedway, the site of the Harrah's 500 on Sunday.

"It was just one of those places that we went to and we had a real good combination and we just seemed to run pretty good," Labonte said Tuesday. "I really don't have any other reason other than that. We just have a pretty good combination when we go out there."

He could use a pick-me-up from another strong run at the 1.5-mile speedway.

The past two seasons have produced little excitement for the 45-year-old, who has finished 12th and 17th in the standings.

"When you get back on the right track and things go right, it seems like sometimes you can't do anything wrong," Labonte said. "And other times it seems like you can't do anything right when you're off a little bit. It's just kind of a hard question to answer. There's just not any one thing that turns a team around. It's always a combination of things."

Labonte is 21st in the points standings after six races. He finished fifth at Atlanta and sixth at Bristol but was 22nd or worse in the other four races.

"We have been a little bit up and down," he said. "I really feel like we have a good team. I think we have some good tracks coming up for us that we can continue to have some good runs."

PAST TRIUMPH: Texas may be the one track at which Dale Earnhardt Jr. was better than his father.

Earnhardt Jr.'s first career Winston Cup victory came last season at Texas, in his 12th start. He led 108 laps and beat Jeff Burton to the finish line by more than five seconds.

Earnhardt, 26, who is 26th in the points standings this season, also won a Busch Grand National race at Texas.

"I don't think we can expect to dominate like we did last year, but we certainly look to be in the top 10," he said. "I think many of the teams have figured out a lot since last year. But I know we'll be there in the hunt. The tires are similar this year to what they were last year, so I think that gives us a level of comfort that our setup will be good again."

ANOTHER REMINDER: The Winston Cup race at Texas last season was the last chance Kyle Petty had to race against his son.

Adam Petty started 33rd and finished 40th in his Winston Cup debut, weeks before he died in a crash at New Hampshire. His father failed to qualify at Texas but filled in as a relief driver 14 laps after Adam left the track because of engine problems.

"It probably will be emotional in a lot of ways because that is the only Winston Cup race he ran," Kyle said of his return to Texas Motor Speedway. "That was a place he tested and he ran good. I don't think we gave him the greatest car to run there, but he ran good.

"It will be emotional, but it won't be a struggle."

CHAMPIONSHIP INDICATOR: If defending Formula One champion Michael Schumacher wins the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday, it will be his seventh straight victory and also may be a harbinger of further good fortune.

Since 1993, the winner of the Brazilian Grand Prix has gone on to win the driver's championship. The last driver not to was Brazilian Ayrton Senna, who won the race in 1993 but lost the championship to rival Alain Prost.

INDY UPDATE: Cahill Racing entered two cars in the Indianapolis 500 for driver Jack Miller, a practicing dentist whose best finish in three previous starts was 20th as a rookie in 1997.

ODDS AND ENDS: NASCAR fined Greg Steadman, crew chief for John Andretti, $20,000 for a rules violation at Bristol Motor Speedway. The No. 43 Dodge that Andretti drove to a second-place finish last weekend did not meet the minimum height requirements when it was inspected after the race. ... Ken Schrader, who drives the No. 36 Pontiac, on Sunday will become the 22nd driver to make 500 career Winston Cup starts. ... There have been six winners in Winston Cup this season. Pontiac and Dodge have been shut out. Chevrolets have won four times and Fords twice. ... Mike Skinner will drive the No. 21 Chevrolet in place of injured Mike Dillon in Saturday's Busch Grand National event at Texas.

- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

Winston Cup

WHAT: Harrah's 500.

WHEN/WHERE/TV: Friday, qualifying (Fox Sports Net, 4 p.m.); Sunday, race (Ch. 13, 12:30 p.m.); Fort Worth, Texas.

2000 WINNER: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

FAST FACTS: Dale Earnhardt earned his first victory as a car owner when Dale Jr. won last year. ... Jeff Burton won the 1997 event for his first Winston Cup victory, and Roush Racing teammate Mark Martin won the 1998 race.

POINTS STANDINGS: 1. Dale Jarrett, 871; 2. Jeff Gordon, 826; 3. Sterling Marlin, 823; 4. Johnny Benson, 776; 5. Steve Park, 758; 6. Rusty Wallace, 752; 7. Ricky Rudd, 743; 8. Bobby Hamilton, 716; 9. Elliott Sadler, 709; 10. Bill Elliott, 701.

Busch Grand National

WHAT: Jani-King 300.

WHEN/WHERE/TV: Today, qualifying, 4:30 p.m.; Saturday, race (Ch. 13, 12:30 p.m.); Fort Worth, Texas.

2000 WINNER: Mark Martin.

FAST FACTS: Earnhardt Jr. won the 1998 event for his first Busch victory. ... Martin, who retired from the series at the end of last season, has won three of the four Texas races. ... No driver has won from the pole. ... Defending series champion Jeff Green's streak of 10 consecutive top-10 finishes was snapped last week.

POINTS STANDINGS: 1. Kevin Harvick, 912; 2. Jason Keller, 891; 3. Green, 856; 4. Greg Biffle, 825; 5. Mike McLaughlin, 818; 6. Kenny Wallace, 814; 7. Jimmie Johnson, 770; 8. Todd Bodine, 751; 9. Jeff Purvis, 731; 10. Chad Little, 707.

Formula One

WHAT: Brazilian Grand Prix.

WHEN/WHERE/TV: Saturday, qualifying, 10 a.m.; Sunday, race (Speedvision, 11:30 a.m.); Sao Paulo.

2000 WINNER: Michael Schumacher.

FAST FACTS: From 1994-98 and last year, the winner of the Brazilian Grand Prix went on to win the series title. ... McLaren won the race for the first time in 1974, with Emerson Fittipaldi driving. ... McLaren leads all constructors with nine victories at Interlagos.

POINTS STANDINGS: 1. Michael Schumacher, 20; 2. David Coulthard, 10; (tie) Rubens Barrichello, 10; 4. Heinz-Harald Frentzen, 5; 5. Nick Heidfeld, 3; 6. Ralf Schumacher, 2; 7. Kimi Raikkonen, 1; (tie) Mika Hakkinen, 1.

Craftsman Trucks

UP NEXT: Advance Auto Parts 250, April 7, Martinsville, Va.

POINTS STANDINGS: 1. Scott Riggs, 495; 2. Joe Ruttman, 483; 3. Ted Musgrave, 472; (tie) Ricky Hendrick, 472; Jack Sprague, 472; 6. Randy Tolsma, 444; 7. Terry Cook, 435; 8. Coy Gibbs, 400; 9. Rick Crawford, 397; 10. Travis Kvapil, 393.

Indy Racing League

UP NEXT: Infiniti Grand Prix, April 8, Homestead.

POINTS STANDINGS: 1. Sam Hornish Jr., 52; 2. Eliseo Salazar, 40; 3. Buddy Lazier, 35; 4. Scott Sharp, 32; 5. Billy Boat, 30; 6. Felipe Giaffone, 28; 7. Jeff Ward, 26; 8. Robby McGehee, 24; 9. Buzz Calkins, 22; 10. Airton Dare, 20.

CART

UP NEXT: Toyota Grand Prix, April 8, Long Beach, Calif.

POINTS STANDINGS: 1. Cristiano da Matta, 21; 2. Gil de Ferran, 16; 3. Paul Tracy, 14; 4. Michael Andretti, 12; 5. Kenny Brack, 11; 6. Jimmy Vasser, 8; 7. Tony Kanaan, 6; 8. Helio Castroneves, 5; 9. Dario Franchitti, 4; 10. Tora Takagi, 3.

NHRA

UP NEXT: SummitRacing.com Nationals, April 7, Las Vegas.

POINTS STANDINGS: (Top Fuel) 1. Mike Dunn, 273; 2. Darrell Russell, 257;3. Doug Kalitta, 245;4. Larry Dixon, 230;5. Gary Scelzi, 184;6. Kenny Bernstein, 159; 7. Doug Herbert, 145; 8. Tony Schumacher, 140;9. David Grubnic, 139;10. Bobby Baldwin, 133. (Funny Car) 1. John Force, 246;2. Bruce Sarver, 242;3. Del Worsham, 201;4. Whit Bazemore, 185;5. Ron Capps, 184;6. Gary Densham, 176;7. Tommy Johnson Jr., 163;8. Tony Pedregon, 159;9. Chuck Etchells, 157;10. Frank Pedregon, 142. (Pro Stock) 1. Warren Johnson, 310;2. Kurt Johnson, 244;3. Mark Pawuk, 199;4. Darrell Alderman, 181;5. Bruce Allen, 180;6. Jim Yates, 160;7. Brad Jeter, 158;8. Jeg Coughlin, 157;9. Mike Edwards, 151;10. Richie Stevens, 137. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) 1. Angelle Savoie, 115;2. Matt Hines, 97;3. Antron Brown, 78;4. Craig Treble, 76;5. Geno Scali, 54; 6. Steve Johnson, 53; 7. Reggie Showers, 52; 8. Shawn Gann, 33;9. Mike Berry, 32; (tie) Chris Bostick, 32. (Pro Stock Truck) 1. Randy Daniels, 235; 2. Greg Stanfield, 188; 3. Bob Panella Jr., 155; 4. Jeff Gracia, 150; 5. Scott Perin, 130; 6. Mike Corvo Jr., 105;7. Brian Self, 85; (tie) Todd Patterson, 85;9. Mike Coughlin, 84;10. Don Smith, 67.

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