It has been since forever since Bobby Labonte had made this list. In fact, to include him, we would have to talk about the Hot 30, which would truly be a misnomer if I ever heard one. After blowing up on the opening lap at Sonoma, he even slipped a spot to sit one position and 21 points behind Danica Patrick over the past ten events. Labonte has been able to pick up just 15.2 points per race over the term. In short, his season sucks.
So, why am I a tad upset the 2000 champion gets parked this Saturday night? I mean, Bobby has not even finished ranked in the top ten since 2006. Since the 1996 Daytona 500 Labonte has answered the call, 704 consecutive races. That is just one short of Jeff Gordon, and third best all-time behind Ricky Rudd’s 788 consecutive string. That ends Saturday, and even that is not the reason I am upset.
The 49 year old, who won his 21st and final race back in 2003, he is being removed from the car in favor of A.J. Allmendinger. They want Allmendinger’s feedback on what they might be missing, how they might become more competitive. The winner of exactly zero Cup races is going to come up with a solution? A car that can not complete a single lap due to a blown engine needs another driver’s perspective on what the problems might be? Bobby Labonte has driven substandard cars since he left Joe Gibbs Racing in 2005, cars that seem to have gotten worse over time.
I strongly suspect the problems with the cars put forth by JTG-Daugherty Racing are the same experienced by James Finch, Mark Smith, Bob Keselowski, Joe Nemechek, Brandon Davis, Bob Jenkins, and Tommy Baldwin. They can not compete because, at present, they do not have the funding to do so. Labonte, Allmendinger, Kurt Busch, or the good Lord himself could not change that from the driver’s seat. Labonte’s streak comes to an end, and maybe mercifully so, because an owner can not accept where the problems truly reside. That is just this one man’s opinion.
The official standings show Dale Earnhardt Jr, Kyle Busch, and Brad Keselowski sitting in a Chase place, but that has nothing to do with how they have done lately. Junior remains 34 points to the good, while Kyle has a couple wins as a cushion, but neither are even warm right now. The defending champ is another story. He is ice cold at present, averaging less than 23 points per race over the past ten, is winless, and just nine points out of 11th.
Kurt Busch still sits 28 points out of the Chase, but after clawing back to finish fourth on Sunday he has climbed from 21st to 9th among our hot hands. He is gaining about five points per race on Keselowski, and with ten to go you never know.
|Martin Truex, Jr.||327||5||9||(10)||1||4||6|
|Juan Pablo Montoya||270||15||12||(23)||0||2||3|
|Dale Earnhardt, Jr.||260||17||20||(6)||0||1||4|
|Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.||248||19||18||(19)||0||0||0|