UPDATE: Bobby Labonte’s NASCAR start streak will end


UPDATE, 6:00 p.m. ET: This weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race will be the first without a Labonte since 1978. Bobby Labonte confirmed on the JTG Daugherty Racing website that he won’t race in Kentucky this Saturday night.

The younger Labonte to Corpus Christi’s “Texas Terry,” the two-time Cup champion, began racing in Cup full-time in 1993. JTG Daugherty has sought Allmendinger’s input and opinion on its car and is providing him another start in that car.

1:00 p.m. ET: One streak came to an end in a good way on Sunday when Martin Truex Jr. snapped a 200-plus race winless streak. One other streak appears set to end this Saturday night in Kentucky: Bobby Labonte’s consecutive starts streak.

The 2000 NASCAR Cup champion isn’t listed in either of the cars he’s driven this year. AJ Allmendinger makes his second start in Labonte’s normal No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Toyota, with Austin Dillon taking the reins of the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet.

Labonte’s streak of 704 consecutive starts began with the 1993 Daytona 500. He sits only 30th in the points standings this year, without a top-10 finish.

Ricky Rudd holds the all-time consecutive start streak record at 788. Jeff Gordon has one more consecutive start than does Labonte, with 705 entering this weekend’s Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts.

NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
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John Force is rubbing off on others – but probably not the way they or he would like.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion has had spectacular motor explosions in each of the first three races of the new NHRA season, including during Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

During Sunday’s quarterfinals of eliminations, Force’s teammate (and son-in-law and president of John Force Racing) Robert Hight squared off with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.

As the duo closed in on the finish line, both cars experienced spectacular motor explosions of their own – virtually side-by-side and nearly at the same time.

Hight’s car was the first to explode, tossing its body high in the air. A split-second later, Hagan’s car exploded, also sending the body flying.

Check out the NHRA video:

Hight wound up losing the race.

Hagan, meanwhile, and his crack pit crew rolled their backup car off the hauler, put in a new motor and went on to race through the semifinals and into the finals, losing to race winner “Fast Jack” Beckman.

“We had a pretty great race day, to be honest,” Hagan said. “I’ve never been to the finals in Gainesville.

“We obviously had a huge blow up in the second round, then to watch these guys pull the other car back out and put it together in the amount of time they had, then turn a win light on against Capps (Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals), then to be able to go to a final, it was huge and it speaks for itself.”

As for Hight, here’s his take on what happened with the motor explosion:

“I couldn’t see (Hagan) over there and it wasn’t like it was hazing the tires or anything else. As it turns out it wasn’t spinning at all. It kicked two rods out when it blacked the bearings in the crank then it hit the valves and blew up.

“The thing gave me no indication at all before that. What really scared me was once I got it under control and I look over and see his body is off his car. I am thinking ‘Oh man, he got gathered up in me.’ Then I stood up and looked and his injector was sideways so I realized he had an explosion as well. We are just lucky we didn’t get into each other.”

As for the guy who has had so much trouble in the motor department, John Force, he lost in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations to daughter Courtney Force.

John Force planned on shutting the motor off on his car at around the 700-foot mark of the 1,000-foot dragstrip, not wanting to risk another motor explosion – even though it meant a likely loss to his daughter.

Now John Force and his entire four-car team, including Courtney Force, Robert Hight and daughter and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, will be off for extensive testing to try and determine what’s been causing the motor explosions.

“We have to evaluate it and go test,” Force said. “We’ll figure it out.”

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