Terry Labonte

Report: Terry Labonte interested in buying Phoenix Racing — could brother Bobby be far behind?


Terry Labonte Racing? How about Labonte Brothers Racing?

Both have a pretty nice ring to them, don’t they?

And one of those names or something similar could soon become reality amid a report by The Associated Press on Thursday that two-time Sprint Cup champion Terry Labonte may be interested in purchasing Phoenix Racing from current owner James Finch.

Finch is looking to sell his team before he’s forced to shut it down permanently due to lack of funding and sponsorship.

And one of the potential suitors to purchase the team is the elder Labonte brother.

“James been trying to sell that thing for a long time and Terry told me about it,” younger brother Bobby Labonte said Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, where he was preparing for Saturday’s Coke Zero 400. “I hope Terry can do it.”

While it’s unlikely at this point that Bobby would join Terry as a co-owner, there’s no question that the elder brother is giving the purchase a great deal of thought.

“I think Terry would like to do it, but you’ve got to get money to feed the cow,” Bobby Labonte said.

There reportedly are at least two other individuals interested in buying the team, according to the AP report: Harry Scott, co-owner of Nationwide Series team Turner Scott Motorsports, and an unidentified potential buyer.

Terry Labonte was apparently not available for comment.

While Finch has had difficulty getting enough funding to keep the team operational and competitive, he has some of the best cars and equipment available, purchased or leased from Hendrick Motorsports.

That in itself would be a significant lure to anyone seeking to purchase the team’s assets and equipment.

Terry Labonte, 56, stopped racing full-time after the 2004 season, but has continued to run a limited part-time Sprint Cup schedule, including three of the 17 races held thus far in 2013.

But having a team to call his own may be a lure the Corpus Christi, Texas native can’t resist.

“I think he has a good feeling about things, about people,” Bobby Labonte said. “He enjoys it. He enjoys racing.

“You may not look at him and think that, but he likes being a part of successful things and helping people out, whether it’s having 20 employees or having a successful business. That’s just how he is.”

Terry Labonte won the then-Winston Cup championship in 1984 and 1996. He has 22 career wins in the Cup series and has earned nearly $45 million in 36 years and 884 race starts on the Cup circuit. Bobby Labonte won the Winston Cup crown in 2000 and has 21 wins in 706 starts over 22 years on the Cup circuit.

Could younger brother Bobby potentially drive for his older brother? That certainly seems like an intriguing possibility, especially since Bobby Labonte will miss up to five races this season for JTG Daugherty Racing as A.J. Allmendinger fills in to give the team a different driver perspective and input. Labonte did not race in last week’s event at Kentucky Speedway, breaking a streak of 704 consecutive starts, second-longest among active drivers behind Jeff Gordon’s 706 consecutive starts.

With Bobby Labonte in the last season of his current contract with JTG Daugherty, working for his brother may not be a bad idea. But the younger Labonte hedged about the possibility.

“That might be a little tough because we are different in a lot of ways,” Bobby Labonte said of racing for his brother. “He would do anything he could to help me, just like I’d do anything to help him. But there’s more to it than that.”

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Luca Filippi

Josef Newgarden, Luca Filippi
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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver, in 2015. Luca Filippi ended 21st in the No. 20 car, running the road and street course races for CFH Racing.

Luca Filippi, No. 20 CFH Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 28th Place, 4 starts
  • 2015: 21st Place (10 starts), Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 6th, 1 Podium, 1 Top-5, 4 Top-10, 2 Laps Led, 12.4 Avg. Start, 13.9 Avg. Finish

After part-time runs with Bryan Herta Autosport and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in 2013 and 2014, likable Italian Luca Filippi finally got his first full part-time season as the road and street course replacement at CFH Racing, replacing Mike Conway. Having won twice last year, Conway left some decently big shoes to fill and Filippi did a fair job throughout the year more often than not.

Filippi had a slightly better grid position average than did Conway, 12.4 to 13, and was slightly better overall in the races. In 10 races (including one with double points), Filippi scored 182 points and four top-10 finishes (including one top-five). A year ago, Conway scored 252 points from 12 starts, but only two top-10 finishes (both were wins). Broken down, Conway averaged 21 points per race (about a 10th place result) and Filippi 18.2 (about 12th).

Thing was last year, Conway didn’t have a measuring stick as ECR was a single-car team. In the combined two-car CFH Racing organization, Filippi had Josef Newgarden as a teammate, and that provided a more accurate measuring stick. In their 10 races together, Newgarden finished ahead 7-3, and also qualified ahead 7-3.

Filippi felt more comfortable as the year progressed – keep in mind this was the first time he’d seen most of the tracks – and at places like Toronto and Mid-Ohio where had had past track experience, he shone brightest. It was no coincidence his lone Firestone Fast Six appearance and first career podium came at Toronto, and at Mid-Ohio he was also very quick but caught out by strategy in the race.

During the year, Filippi also had two other key moments of note, one personal and one professional. He became a dad prior to Mid-Ohio, and was embracing his newborn shortly after the race not long after. Professionally speaking, he made his oval test debut at Iowa, which was important to note in case CFH wants to continue on with him next year, as seems possible. It was a good year that planted the seed for further success in the future, provided he continues in North America.

Marcos Ambrose will retire from racing full time

Marcos Ambrose

Former NASCAR winner Marcos Ambrose’s full-time racing career appears to have reached the finish line.

DJR Team Penske announced Monday an expansion to two cars in the V8 Supercars Championship next season with Fabian Coulthard and Scott Pye running Ford Falcons on the Australian-based circuit, leaving Ambrose on the sidelines.

Ambrose, a two-time V8 Supercars champion, left NASCAR to return to his home country this season and help lead Team Penske’s international foray. But the Tasmanian stepped out of the car after the season opener and said he would focus solely on endurance racing the rest of the year.

“I fully support the team with the exciting announcements here today,” Ambrose said in a team release announcing Coulthard and Pye. “My number one priority since stepping out of the car full time was helping the team with that transition and in Fabian and Scotty, the team has a great future ahead for 2016 and beyond.”

In an interview with the Melbourne Herald Sun, Ambrose said he was mulling co-driving in endurance races next year.

“I do not intend to drive full time anymore,” Ambrose, 39, said. “I elected not to be a part of it. It’s absolutely my choice. There is no sadness. I’ve had a great run, a great career. I have my own personal reasons. I’ve got other priorities now.”

After 28 wins in V8 Supercars from 2002-05 and consecutive titles in 2003-04, Ambrose moved to the United States in 2006 and began a nine-season run in NASCAR. He started in the Camping World Truck and Xfinity series before moving full time into Sprint Cup in 2009.

All seven of his wins (five in Xfinity, two in Cup) were on road or street  courses – six at Watkins Glen International, one at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal).

In an interview earlier this season, Ambrose said he struggled to re-acclimate to the cars while dealing with the news media scrutiny of his comeback.

“I want to enjoy my racing and I certainly don’t want to be in the tabloids week in and week out,” he told V8Supercars.com. “That’s not what I come back for. It’s just a very difficult thing to come back to because just the opportunity to learn without being on the front page of every national newspaper is just impossible. So I didn’t want to be that guy everyone is looking at because he is running 25th and they don’t understand that you have no practice time in the car, you don’t have any tires to practice on even when you get there.

“I didn’t want to let the team down that way. So when I came down and saw the landscape and what I was facing, for me it became untenable to keep going the way I was.”