Bobby Labonte and Brad Daugherty Approach Fans as Labonte's 704 Consecutive Starts Streak Officially Ends

By Joseph Wolkin
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Bobby Labonte and Brad Daugherty spoke to fans on Tuesday afternoon in a chat room on the JTG-Daugherty Racing website. In the chat, Labonte and Daugherty discussed all of the abysmal events occurring within their organization.

The chat started out with fans discussing among themselves Labonte’s future within NASCAR. Some believed he was fired, others believed he retired. However, Daugherty begged to differ. Daugherty stated numerous times (in different ways) that Labonte isn’t being replaced by A.J. Allmendinger, who piloted the No. 47 car at Michigan and will do so this week plus three other NASCAR events this year.

Labonte had an important statement. Though it may have been a brief one, it answered a bunch of questions.

“The Streak: It is disappointing the way it is happening. I have had a couple offers this morning, but I have declined them because I don’t want anybody else that has an opportunity to do what I do, what they love, to have to sit on the sideline for my sake,” said Labonte in the chat.

Basically, Labonte will probably not be racing this weekend. He won’t show up at the track as his 704 consecutive starts streak since the beginning of the 1993 season comes to an immediate close. Many wanted Labonte to pilot the Phoenix Racing Chevrolet this weekend, but that seat is vacated by Austin Dillon. The offers he had were likely from smaller teams, each of which would probably start-and-park the veteran driver. When asked if he would drop down to the NASCAR Nationwide Series or NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Labonte made it clear that he isn’t willing to do so, at least for now.

During the chat, Daugherty, a co-owner in the team with Jodi and Tad Geschickter, stated that he recognizes a key part of the team’s struggles are due to the engines. The team had engine troubles before the race at Sonoma even got started. JTG-Daugherty Racing uses Triad Racing Technology as their engine supplier. They used to have an alliance with Michael Waltrip Racing which enabled them to receive engines from Toyota Racing Development, but they recently ended that partnership.

“RcRacer13, right now, Bobby is our guy for this season and we are focusing on making the car better for this season. That is our focus. We don’t look to next year until the end of this year, so right now we are doing everything we can to help Bobby Labonte do as best as he can this season,” Daugherty said as he restated that the team refuses to let Labonte go at this point.

When asked if they will be looking for a new crew chief, Daugherty said they won’t. But just before that he said they’re evaluating every position which makes one wonder, why not the crew chief? However, Labonte believes the answer is clearly not within the organization. After Daugherty spoke about funding several times, Labonte stated the simple solution would be to create an alliance with another team just to begin a slight turnaround. Daugherty said they’re looking at creating an alliance, but there’s nothing to report as of now.

It appears that the team is going to attempt re-signing Labonte for the 2014 season. This season is basically a rebuilding year now, and they have way too much work to do in order to run competitively. Labonte said he has received some indication that he’ll be returning next year, but of course in this sport, nothing is sure until the paper work is signed.

“First of all, again I want to thank everyone for their support. It obviously means the world to me as I have a passion for racing. We have great sponsors here at JTG Daugherty, and we have a great race team. There are a lot of committed people that work here. Our sponsors are what keep us funded and racing. Our owners juggle all of the balls in the air at all times. We don’t question how our sponsors run their business,” Labonte said on the sponsorship issue.

“But we also learned a lot of things that were described differently from AJ that helped us look a lot deeper into our set-up It was very helpful and we think it will be the same in Kentucky this weekend as well,” Daugherty explained on how Allmendinger is helping out.

Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.

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