2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte has decided to take another week to recover and will not race the No. 47 Kingsford Charcoal Toyota at Chicagoland Speedway as originally planned. Labonte suffered three broken ribs in a cycling accident near his Trinity, N.C. home on the morning of Wednesday, August 28.
“I feel better every day,” Labonte said. “My ribs still hurt and that’s something that takes time. I figure with the way things are, another week is not that big of a deal. It gives me another week to heal up. Obviously, the plan now is to get back in the car at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which is a good track and I look forward to going back there. With my goal being Loudon (N.H.), it gives me another 10 days to prepare for that. It’s better to wait another 10 days.”
"I talk and text Bobby all the time," JTG Daugherty Racing co-owner Tad Geschickter said. "He's family and he's part of the team. Everyone misses him. We all look forward to him feeling well enough to drive again. That's what he wants to do."
AJ Allmendinger, who will drive the No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing entry full-time in 2014, will fill for Labonte during the Geico 400.
"Bobby means a lot to the JTG Daugherty Racing team and to our sport," Allmendinger said. "For me, it's a tough situation. I do not want to get more races with the team because someone is injured. Bobby is a guy that I believe is a Hall of Famer and he is a champion. It's tough to have that type of injury. Hopefully, he gets better as soon as possible to get back into the No. 47 Kingsford Charcoal Toyota."
ALLMENDINGER AT CHICAGOLAND SPEEDWAY:
In four starts at Chicagoland Speedway, Allmendinger's best finish is 13th twice (7/11/2009 and 7/12/2008). The 31-year-old's average start is 22.500 and his average finish is 16.750.
CHICAGOLAND SPEEDWAY QUOTES:
Chicagoland character: “Chicagoland Speedway has got a lot of character,” Allmendinger said. “The track has gotten older and has multiple grooves. It's bumpy and depending on the weather conditions it could be slick. It has a curved back straight-away. Turns 1 and 2 are bumpy in the corner and the corner is longer than Turns 3 and 4. When you come off of Turn 2 and the wall comes back at you, you get tight off that corner. Then getting into Turn 3, it’s tighter. You feel like you can arc the car. It is a tricky entrance. Getting secure in the corner is important. Turns 3 and 4 are tricky to figure out. I look at it like Texas Motor Speedway where 3 and 4 are tighter.”
Hot and cold: "I think it is hot and cold for me at Chicagoland and it is not my best track for sure,” Allmendinger said. "It’s been two years since I have been there. I am going to go and get a good feel. I need to feel it out since it is definitely not one of my better tracks, but at the same time every year is different. We will build off of what we have already learned.”
The past two races: “The last two weeks have been really good,” Allmendinger said. “Atlanta (Motor Speedway) should have been a better finish than 14th, but we got messed up there at the end. At Richmond (International Raceway) more recently, it was a hard fight the whole weekend. It was not our best of what we were capable of doing, but to be able to come away with a top-15 finish was good."
Starting out on the right foot: “Going into Chicagoland Speedway, it is more of the same thing and that is just to continue to improve,” Allmendinger said. “We’re hoping we will have a decent starting package. Our performance on Fridays is the biggest thing we have to work on right now. We are going to take some stuff we learned at Atlanta (Motor Speedway) and apply it to our Kingsford Toyota Camry at Chicagoland. Top-15 finishes are not where we want to be, but it’s a start and something we can build off of for the future. Our guys at the shop and at the track are doing a great job. We’ll start with top-15s and pick up some top-10s along the way as we work on positioning ourselves in contention for wins.”
Kingsford Charcoal: “I think the Kingsford brand is fun to be a part of with JTG Daugherty Racing,” Allmendinger said. “It is used a lot at tailgating in the infield and outfield at tracks. I went to a professional football game on Sunday and Kingsford was everywhere people were tailgating. All of the of the brands JTG Daugherty Racing is affiliated with are great. It is nice to be able to get to know them so we can feel good about each other moving into next year. It’s been good, this is my sixth race and we will have had four different brands on the hood so far. That’s fun to work with.”
Back-to-back top-15 finishes points team in right direction: "We are certainly excited by the way AJ is running in our car even on a night where we really missed the setup like we did at Richmond (International Raceway) Saturday night," JTG Daugherty Racing co-owner Tad Geschickter said. "He was able to stay on the lead lap and finish in the top-15. He drives really hard.
"We continue to find areas we need to work on as a team," Geschickter continued. "It has all been positive and it gives us a head start on learning each other for next year. I look forward to Bobby coming and running some races as well. As much as we miss Bobby, it is a blessing that we are able to work with AJ to get a head start on next year."