As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series prepares to go to Kentucky this upcoming weekend, Bobby Labonte won’t be joining the competition this Saturday under the lights.
On Tuesday, Labonte confirmed during a chat session with fans on JTG Daugherty’s website that he will not be competing at Kentucky Speedway. Labonte had a 704 consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts and will be replaced by A.J. Allmendinger in the No. 47 for Saturday’s race.
With his race streak ending, Labonte will be the driver with the third-longest streak of starts in the Cup Series, behind Ricky Rudd with 788 and Jeff Gordon with 705, according to the Motor Racing Network.
While answering fan questions within the chat, Labonte mentioned how he felt about the streak ending and his decision on whether he would race or not at Kentucky.
“The Streak: it is disappointing the way it is happening,” said Labonte during the chat. “I have had a couple [of] 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.”
Within the last few weeks, Labonte’s season has hit a couple of speed bumps. During the race weekend at Michigan, JTG Daugherty had Allmendinger drive the No. 47 car instead of Labonte in order to see what could be done in order for the team to find results on the track. When he was replaced by Allmendinger, Labonte went behind the wheel of the No. 51 car of Phoenix Racing for the race.
Once he made his way back to the No. 47 car at Sonoma, he had issues with his car even before the green flag went in the air for the start of the race. After making just one lap on the track, his day at Sonoma ended quickly.
With Labonte sitting out at Kentucky, it adds to the latest troubles he is facing in the 2013 season. Not only does it end his streak, but it also leaves questions about his future. Prior to Allmendinger replacing him at Michigan, the original plan was to have Labonte sit out at least five races in order for the team to test out what they would like to see on the track. Only time will tell what will happen with Labonte.
Besides the streak ending, the race at Kentucky will also feature a first — the first race without a Labonte since the 1978 Cup season finale.