Labonte leads flag to flag for SRX victory in Nashville

Bobby Labonte. (Photo by Stafford Race Circuit)

Bobby Labonte led the 75 laps on Saturday night to win the Superstar Racing Experience event at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.

The 2000 NASCAR Cup Series champion held on in a 10-lap sprint around the short track to win his first SRX race.

Labonte beat Marco Andretti and first SRX entrant Matt Kenseth to take the win.

“I didn’t run well in practice and I said to Tony (Stewart) ‘I think I’m just running the wrong line,'” Labonte told CBS. “I usually try to throw and go fast when I feel like I have a lot of confidence. I didn’t. I will say I just followed Josef (Newgarden) there early and a few- some of these other guys, they’re tough.

“These guys in this SRX group, these men and women, you won’t believe how hard they work to get these cars to the race track week in and week out… I can’t believe I won one. “

Labonte is the current series points leader after four races. Saturday night’s race was his first on short track since racing and winning a NASCAR Busch Series race at the facility in 1996. It was Labonte’s only start there.

“I see Matt Kenseth coming and I’ve seen this story before,” Labonte said. “I’m like, ‘oh my god, there he is.’ So, it’s so hard. It’s not easy. I may have made it look a little easy tonight, but it wasn’t easy.

For Andretti, it was his second consecutive runner-up finish, after finishing second to Ryan Newman at Stafford Motor Speedway.

“(Labonte) fired a cannon from the start of the feature, so I knew he was a force to be reckoned with there,” Andretti said. “I think the fastest car won for sure. … If I could get the power down a bit better, I think I would have come closer at the end. These guys in the Cup know how far they have to go. move away at the end so as not to reach their bumper.

After running between sixth and eighth most of the night, Kenseth took third over the final 10 laps.

“I felt like I really failed in the heat races,” Kenseth said. “My car really came off, I burned the rear tyres. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. In the feature, the car was better once I got put tires on and fixed the lag and everything, but I just hesitated for about 50 laps. I was trying to figure out how long I needed to get to the front. I quickly passed two or three. …J felt like I had the best tires at the end, I just ran out of time.

Paul Tracy finished fourth and Helio Castroneves topped the top five.

Labonte started the main event second and quickly took the lead from pole sitter Andretti.

Tracy, who finished third at Stafford Motor Speedway last weekend, gave Andretti a bit of a rough ride when he passed him for second around lap 14.

Tracy brought Labonte back over the next 10 laps to close within a car length. However, Labonte was able to slowly pull away after 10 laps.

The competition’s first warning came on Lap 40 of 75. On the ensuing Lap 44 restart, Labonte took the lead into Turn 2 and Tracy bounced off the outside wall. Next time, Andretti got under Tracy for second place.

On Lap 49, IndyCar champion and Tennessee native Josef Newgarden broke away in Turn 1 and backed into the outside wall, bringing out the caution.

The race restarted with 17 laps to go as Labonte and Andretti briefly battled for the lead, making contact at Turn 3 and Labonte taking the lead.

The second warning for an incident came with 10 laps to go after Tony Kanaan and Newgarden, battling for second place, made contact and wrecked. The back of Kanaan’s car was destroyed.

Despite his crashes, Newgarden was able to finish seventh on his first SRX start.

Newgarden led every lap of the first qualifying race and local rider Cole Williams, who finished 12th in the main event, did the same in the second.

Andretti moved up 11 places in both heats and thus started the main event.

With nearly a minute remaining in the second inning, Castroneves completely lost his right front wing when he ran into Hunter-Reay’s rear.

Attempts were made to repair the car, but Castroneves returned for the main event with his fender still missing.

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