TALLADEGA, Ala. (April 12, 2011) – – If there is any time a driver needs a teammate, the time is now as Talladega Superspeedway looms.
For the No. 47 Bush’s Beans Toyota driver Bobby Labonte, he has the good fortune of working with David Reutimann, Martin Truex Jr. and two-time Daytona 500 champion Michael Waltrip in the Aaron’s 499 on Sunday afternoon. Labonte hopes they can help him add to his 1998 victory won from the pole position, six top-five and 13 top-10 finishes at the 2.66-mile tri-oval.
Labonte, who came close to winning the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, learned in the season opener two things – – that two-car tandems were the rage and spotting from the seat of his machine with his teammates proved to be advantageous in gaining ground.
“When you have your own teammate to talk to on the radio it is beneficial because you cannot see through the cars as you are pushing him,” said Labonte, who finished fourth at Daytona. “At Daytona, when I had Martin or David behind me – vice versa – that person would help drive our car basically to let us know if we were going to pile into something or when we needed to back off. What we experienced in February was different from what we are accustomed to at a superspeedway. I’m expecting Talladega to be the same way. The asphalt is not worn enough to put handling into play.”
“We learned quickly at Daytona that you need a partner because we lost a lap during the Shootout without one,” Labonte continued. “And, you need to find your partner quickly or someone your spotter can work with.”
With a partner, Labonte finds he is more comfortable being pushed through the 43-car field.
“I enjoy getting pushed more because I like to see what’s out in front of me and because of reaction time,” Labonte said. “When you are behind somebody it’s hard to know for sure how much to let off or hit the brakes. “
On Sunday, Labonte will rely heavily on his spotter David Green the duration of the 188-lap event.
“It’s important to communicate with the driver you are working with, but it is more important to communicate with your spotter,” Labonte said. “Both of them have their level of importance. I know when David spotted for me at Daytona he was mentally drained after the race was over – – like I was because it was such a big deal all day. He had to keep his eye open and find the guy I was running with throughout the race. I’ll be leaning on him for information all day.”
Labonte knows in the end, it all comes down to being in the right place at the right time.
“You’ve got to find your partner at Talladega and stick with them all day,” Labonte said. “In the end it pays off. So many things happen in the closing laps and you have to put yourself in the right place at the right time. A lot of guys you can push or get pushed that you are comfortable with. Some guys might have a faster race car to get through the corners a little quicker and they can turn you a little too much. That’s where you have to really work on what you need to do inside the racecar to adjust for that. At Daytona, we saw some good guys get spun out from being hit the wrong way.
“As far as spotting goes between two drivers, it’s more of an art to it than I anticipated because you don’t want to lose time switching positions,” Labonte continued. “You have to talk to each other. We finally perfected it throughout the week in Daytona. We’ll see how everything goes at Talladega.”
When the Corpus Christi, Texas-native finally straps in for the race, his car will have a special decal to commemorate Matthew Ira Lowe, 33, of Plantation, Florida, and Lt. Nathan Hollingsworth Williams, 28, of Oswego, New York, that were killed when their F/A-18F Super Hornet crashed during a training flight in central California in a farm field.
Lowe, the pilot, earned the Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the National Defense Service Medal during his career.
Williams, a naval flight officer who managed the plane’s weapons systems, earned the Air Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment ribbon and Pistol Marksmanship Medal.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families during this difficult time,” Labonte said. “We wanted to do something as a team to commemorate both of them for serving our country. We are running a special decal on the C-post at Talladega.”
Live coverage of the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, April 17th begins at 1 p.m. ET on FOX. MRN Radio and Sirius XM will also carry the event.