CORNELIUS, N.C.(September 28, 2010) – – Two months ago JTG Daugherty Racing named 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte as the No. 47 Toyota Camry driver for the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 36-race schedule.
Today, the 21-time division winner tests with crew chief Frank Kerr and his new team for the first time at the half-mile oval of Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, Ga.
“The biggest part for me during this test is communication – – understanding what the team wants from me,” Labonte said. “Building a relationship with my crew chief, engineers and team starts today. I know you have to have chemistry and everybody on the same page working in the same direction for success. You can’t buy confidence. You’ have to build it with your teammates and team members.”
Cohesion separates a good team from a championship contending team. Crew chief Frank Kerr and his JTG Daugherty Racing team are taking advantage of this fundamental test to get to know Labonte.
“You have to have chemistry,” Kerr said. “That’s what separates the good from the great. Bobby is a proven winner and a champion in both the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series. He will bring a lot of knowledge and confidence along with his leadership ability.
“During this test we want to make sure Bobby is comfortable with the interior of the car and find out what he expects from us,” Kerr continued. “Some of it is about fundamentals. We want to make sure we have his seat in the right location and the pedals are where they need to be. We want to have everything perfect for him as we prepare for 2011.”
Kerr and Labonte may have only spent a small amount of time together, but they both have similar goals for the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
“After JTG Daugherty Racing finished 18th in the points their first year in Cup, I would like to think we can be in a Chase position,” Labonte said. “This year was tough for the team as far as the points go, but it’s nobody’s fault and you can’t point a finger – – it’s just part of it. The resources are there and if we can concentrate and focus hard on it, I definitely think it’s attainable. We just have to do everything right and hold ourselves to that goal.”
“Bobby’s right,” Kerr said. “We are capable and we do have the resources in place. We just had too many DNFs (eight) this year and that really hurt us in the points. A lot of that was out of our control being in the wrong place at the wrong time. We’re starting fresh in 2011 and we will continue to be dedicated and work hard toward a common goal and that’s to be in contention for the Chase.”
Labonte is ready for a fresh start with Kerr and JTG Daugherty Racing as the team enters its third full-time season.
“They have all of the necessary resources along with the Toyota program and Michael Waltrip Racing technical alliance,” Labonte said. “You can see the progress growing with David Reutimann and Martin Truex Jr. week in and week out. I hope my experience will add to the program as I learn from those guys too. I haven’t had that opportunity the past couple of years with teammates. All the tools are there, it’s just how you apply them. The stars are lining up and you’ve just got to make sure you do it right.”
JTG Daugherty Racing, owned by Brad Daugherty, Jodi and Tad Geshickter, are looking forward to what the future holds.
‘We feel like our team has a lot to prove on track and we believe Bobby’s in a place in his career where he has something to prove too,” Daugherty said. “This first test begins a new chapter for JTG Daugherty Racing with Bobby Labonte. I’ve known him for a long time dating back to the 80’s racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and I’m a big fan of his. This test finally gets him in our car so that we can start working toward getting him in victory lane in 2011.”
“As energized and focused as we are to finish the season strong with Marcos, we are equally excited about the beginning of our testing program with Bobby Labonte,” said Geschickter. “The chemistry between driver, crew, and technology is tricky and it’s important for Bobby to get a feel for what we have and how it fits his driving style. We are fortunate to have a head start on the process so we can be at full speed when next season starts.”
For more information about Bobby Labonte, join his Facebook and Twitter pages.