Running at the back of the pack isn’t what 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte is about. During the 2012 season, one of Labonte’s worst in his NASCAR career, he finished a depressing 23rd in points.
JTG Daugherty Racing is fairly young. However, they have not performed up to anyone’s expectations, including Labonte’s. Since he left Joe Gibbs Racing at the end of the 2006 season, Labonte’s career downsized faster than the Hostess factory days before it closed. It has just been that bad for the former champion.
As of now, the team is preparing for the 2013 season. Labonte resigned with the team in mid-November which wasn’t a shocker considering no team has openings, let alone for a driver that has racked up just four top-10′s in two years. Throughout the 2012 season, JTG Daugherty Racing finished inside of the top-15 just six times. That is on the borderline of pathetic considering that the team has multiple sponsors.
The team just welcomed a new sponsor. Herr’s House-Autry Mills will sponsor the No. 47 Toyota for two races during the 2013 season. This is a welcoming sign to a team that needs more funding if they want to succeed.
Their best finish was second with Marcos Ambrose behind the wheel in 2009 at Watkins Glen. However, while Labonte has driven the car, his best finish with the team was a fourth place finish during the 2011 Daytona 500. In 2013, the team hopes to become more consistent and lock up a spot inside of the top-20 in points for the first time since Ambrose’s rookie season in 2009 where they finished 18th in points.
Toyota Racing Development will continue to be the engine provider for JTG Daugherty Racing as they hope for a better season this time around. Part of their struggles could have been due to the fact that they started to develop their own chasis’ for the first time after receiving them from Michael Waltrip Racing in the past. However, that is no longer the case as they seemed to become more consistent at year’s end when Labonte piloted the car to a top-10 finish at Martinsville, by far the team’s strongest run during the 2012 season.
If the team has minimal success at the beginning of the 2013 season, expect them to field a second car for David Reutimann if he hasn’t found a ride by then. Reutimann was rumored to be taking over the No. 47 car in 2013, but the team quickly shut those rumors down when they announced Labonte would return. Brian Burns will return as the crew chief after filling in as the interim. Expect the team to do better next year with Bobby Hutchens as the team’s General Manager which should give them some veteran leadership, something the young team desperately needs.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.