Labonte and JTG Daugherty Racing Keep Their Eye on the Prize Entering Pocono Raceway
Change is good and JTG Daugherty Racing has learned that adapting quickly is essential to success as they enter the Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway with Bobby Labonte at the wheel of the No. 47 SCOTT Products Toyota Camry.
The next step for JTG Daugherty Racing is finding a long-term crew chief. This weekend Labonte’s interim crew chief David Hyder is fulfilling his normal role at Iowa Speedway with the K&N Pro Series East team that JTG Daugherty Racing prepares for recent winner Cale Conley.
With that being said, team engineer Brian Burns will step up to call the shots for the team this weekend at Pocono.
“We want to make the right long-term decision on our crew chief and we are fortunate to have team engineer Brian Burns in the shop who can step in this week,” said co-owner Tad Geschickter.
“He has been with us for two seasons, so he knows me pretty well,” Labonte added. “He stepped in last season and did a great job of filling in as crew chief at the end of last year. We ran pretty well at Pocono in June and we have a good baseline to start from. I expect good things to happen this weekend."
With multiple team meetings led recently by Burns, Hutchens and Hyder the JTG Daugherty Racing team did not skip a beat at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. On Sunday, they were on their way to a respectable finish before another car struck Labonte’s car. Labonte soldiered on to finish 26th on the lead lap with a battered machine.
“We were moving forward at Indy until we had damage to our car,” Labonte said. “We’ve had a lot of changes lately, which are positive. Last week the racing organization named Bobby Hutchens as our general manager. In any team, communication and planning is key and Hutchens is good at doing both. Everyone strives to get better and we embraced this change. We are a single car team that wants to be the best one out there so we can grow. Helping Jodi and Tad Geschickter along with Brad Daugherty to get to that point is the ultimate goal.
“Everyone knows what they are doing,” Labonte continued. “Skill level and expertise is what we need to grow. We welcomed the change. Todd Berrier (former crew chief) was the perfect person to get us to where we are today. Without him, a lot of things might have gone by without being done correctly.”
The Harrisburg, N.C. operation started from scratch at the end of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and is currently 23rd in the drivers points standings.
“A lot of people don’t get it from the outside looking in that we have had an uphill battle,” Labonte said. “Our entire team has worked countless man hours and also built a lot of things just to get the shop ready for this year.’ You can’t start behind because it’s hard to get caught up during the year. At the same time, we are sitting 23rd in the points standings and we are battling guys that have a lot of structure. Now, we’re taking the next steps to get even better.”
The immediate focus is excelling at Pocono, which is a good track for Labonte. He has an impressive three wins along with five top-five and nine top-10 finishes.
“The track is smooth and fast and we’re looking forward to going back a second time this season,” Labonte said. “We finished 22nd there last time out and hope to have a higher finish this time around.”