After missing races while recuperating from injuries sustained in a cycling accident, former Sprint Cup champion Bobby Labonte will be back in the No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Toyota this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
“Having a few weeks off was not what I planned on doing, but I have healed up well,” Labonte said in a team release. “I am still sore in some places, but it could be a lot worse. I sat in the seat to feel comfortable. It seemed like everything went good.”
Labonte broke three ribs late last month in the accident near his home in North Carolina, but has been both working diligently and getting plenty of rest in advance of his return to competition.
“These weeks off, I have been really concentrating on rehab as far as my rib injury goes,” he said. “I have been working with machines to heal the bone and muscle faster.
“Dry needling has helped with getting the bruising down. I have been trying to work on those things more than anything else along with relaxing to get better.”
Labonte, who has raced most of 2013 for JTG Daugherty, was scheduled to drive for Phoenix Racing at Atlanta before his accident; his injuries forced Phoenix to tab Mike Bliss to drive the No. 51 for that particular race.
A.J. Allmendinger had already been slated to drive at Atlanta for JTG Daugherty, but was ultimately called in as a replacement in the No. 47 for Labonte at both Richmond and last weekend at Chicagoland.
Allmendinger will take over the No. 47 full-time beginning next season.
In the same team release, JTG Daugherty co-owner Brad Daugherty said the team was “concerned” about not wanting Labonte to get injured again, but is ready to give him their full support.
“If he says he’s ready to go, he’s ready,” he said.
MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. The 2017 season behind the wheel was better for Ed Carpenter than either of the last two years, but still wasn’t ideal results-wise in his six oval starts.
Ed Carpenter, No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
- 2016: 25th Place (5 Starts), Best Finish 18th, Best Start 5th, 0 Top-5, 0 Top-10, 1 Lap Led, 11.2 Avg. Start, 21.8 Avg. Finish
- 2017: 22nd Place (6 Starts), Best Finish 7th, Best Start 2nd, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 11.3 Avg. Start, 12.3 Avg. Finish
Ed Carpenter’s 2017 season was largely one of frustration, both behind the wheel and as a team owner.
While a respectable turnaround in results occurred – Carpenter finished between seventh and 12th in five of his six oval races after a nightmare season of ending 18th or worse in each of his 2016 starts – this is still not what he sets out to strive for in the races he does. Lost opportunities loomed larger than any official result he or the Ed Carpenter Racing team achieved.
Carpenter and new teammate JR Hildebrand, in for the departed Josef Newgarden, dominated preseason testing in Phoenix but Hildebrand could only muster third in the race, Carpenter a season-best seventh. Then at Indianapolis, Carpenter (second) and Hildebrand (sixth) flew the flag for Chevrolet in qualifying and practice pace, but they fell to 11th and 16th on race day owing to a front-wing change and late-race penalty for passing before a restart.
Both drivers got collected in incidents at Texas. Hildebrand qualified and finished a season-best second in Iowa but that result came only after the ECR crew rebuilt his car from a crash in practice. Then Carpenter had a practice crash in Pocono and despite a rapid rebuild, they missed the clock to qualify by mere minutes and were unable to do so. Carpenter’s spin on a slick Gateway track at the start of the race sent him over Will Power’s nose assembly in one of the scarier looking incidents of the year, although fortunately he was OK.
In a similar refrain as we often write, it’s not that Carpenter’s lost his ability to drive and he remains one of the series’ savviest and smartest people in the paddock. There have been a lot of extenuating circumstances of late, and it almost felt as though this team had “empty nest” components. Since September, Carpenter has had to secure his team’s future with a move away from its Speedway, Ind. shop, line up Spencer Pigot for a full-time drive replacing Hildebrand in the No. 21 car, find a new road/street course driver in the No. 20 car, and manage both driving and owning himself.