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Labonte has poor Bristol history


© St. Petersburg Times, published August 24, 2000

Points leader Bobby Labonte does not say much about it, but fellow competitors are marveling at his performance in Winston Cup this season.

"Bobby's been having incredible consistency, abnormal consistency," Rusty Wallace said. "The consistency you're not supposed to have."

Labonte's third-place finish in the Pepsi 400 on Sunday marked his fourth straight top-10 finish and 16th of the season.

Labonte's 111-point advantage over Dale Jarrett going into the 500 on Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway is the largest this season.

Good timing.

Labonte has never finished in the top five in 15 career races at the .533-mile track.

Jarrett has nine top-10 finishes in his past 11 races at Bristol, including winning the 1997 race.

"It's a very demanding track, and you hope you are lucky enough to stay out of trouble and don't create any trouble for yourself," Jarrett said. "The times that we've done that we've been able to have good runs."

FALLING DOWN AND MAYBE OUT: An accident at his home on Tuesday may keep 1988 Winston Cup champion Bill Elliott out of Saturday's race.

Elliott fractured his left kneecap when he tripped over some hoses in the garage of his Blairsville, Ga., home.

He flew to Birmingham, Ala., Tuesday night where orthopedic specialist James Andrews performed surgery at HealthSouth Medical Center. Three steel pins and a steel wire were inserted.

A decision on the 44-year-old's status for this weekend is expected soon.

Busch Grand National regular David Green will practice and qualify the No. 94 Ford on Friday.

Should Elliott be unable to drive, Green will substitute. Elliott last missed a race for his father's funeral in September 1998.

OPEN-WHEEL DEBUT: With two races remaining, Buddy Lazier leads Indy Racing standings by 23 points over Eddie Cheever Jr. going into the inaugural Belterra Resort Indy 300 Sunday at Kentucky Speedway. The top eight drivers are separated by 55 points.

"The track is an awesome facility," Lazier said of the 1.5-mile track. "It's really challenging in a lot of ways. There were a lot of things that came out when we tested as far as handling and mechanical grip. We found things that would have been a disaster if we hadn't tested, things that could have taken us out of the race. When you're in the championship battle, you can't afford to drop out of an event."

Rookie Sarah Fisher was the fastest (218.517 mph) during testing last month at the speedway.

TRUCK STOP: Among the 32 career NASCAR races Fireball Roberts won, his victory in 1956 at Soldier Field was the last time a top NASCAR series visited Chicago. Sunday the Craftsman Truck series comes to the 1-mile Chicago Motor Speedway in suburban Cicero, Ill., for the Chicago 175.

PIT STOPS: Busch Grand National driver Casey Atwood, who will drive a Dodge for Ray Evernham in Winston Cup next season, will attempt to qualify for the series' races at Richmond International Raceway, Martinsville Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway. ... In addition to Myrtle Beach Speedway, south Boston will not be on the 2001 Busch Grand National schedule. ... The first Winston Cup night race at Bristol Motor Speedway was the Volunteer 500 in 1978. Three-time series champion Cale Yarborough won the event. ... Fox will televise the Coca-Cola 600 next season from Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.

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

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