Bobby Labonte in 2nd Phoenix Racing entry for Daytona 500

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Phoenix Racing has announced that former Sprint Cup champion Bobby Labonte has landed a ride with the team for the 2014 Daytona 500. Labonte’s addition appears tied to the Daytona entry that former Phoenix owner James Finch mentioned during a recent SiriusXM NASCAR Radio interview.

“James continues to be a valuable part of our team and when he came up with the idea of running Bobby in a second car, I jumped at the opportunity to bring him back into the fold,” said team owner Harry Scott Jr., who ran Labonte at Michigan this past season. “Bobby is a veteran driver that can also provide valuable insight and leadership for Phoenix Racing.”

Labonte, now set for the 22nd Daytona 500 of his career, is also slated to run a number of other select races for Phoenix in 2014. Further details including car number, personnel, and sponsorship will be disclosed at a later date.

“I’m thrilled to be headed back to Daytona with Bobby Labonte,” Finch said. “I thank Harry Scott for this opportunity. He knew I would have to be weaned off racing, I can’t quit cold turkey.”

In 2010, Labonte drove for 14 races in Phoenix’s No. 09 machine back when Finch still controlled the team. This past year, driving Phoenix’s No. 51, he finished 43rd after an early crash at Michigan. Labonte drove the bulk of his 2013 schedule with JTG-Daugherty Racing, earning a top finish of 15th.

F1: Valtteri Bottas urges Lewis Hamilton to clear up Mercedes future and sign

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MONACO (AP) — Valtteri Bottas is urging Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to sign a new contract, even though his own future is uncertain.

Bottas needs to convince Mercedes to give him a new deal for next year. Hamilton, meanwhile, is stalling on signing a new one even though an offer is in place. Hamilton was again asked about his contract situation on Wednesday, and maintains he’s in no hurry.

“There isn’t any sticking point. There just hasn’t been any rush,” Hamilton said. “There’s no discussion with anybody else, there’s no consideration for anybody else, it’s just (me) taking my time.”

But Bottas would like Hamilton’s future cleared up.

“For sure I would. First of all, I would like to stay here. That is my goal for the long term. It would be nice if Lewis wants to stay and finds an agreement,” Bottas said at the Mercedes motorhome. “I enjoy working with him, I enjoy the challenge he gives me. I enjoy the fact he’s four-time world champion and at the moment I’m none. It makes me try harder to be better.

“It wouldn’t change my mind that I want to stay here, but I think we work well together,” he added.

Last season was their first together. Bottas was drafted in from Williams as an emergency replacement after Nico Rosberg retired. He won three races but he stood out more as the ideal support driver as Hamilton reclaimed the F1 title.

Bottas understands Mercedes expects improvement.

“We had a chat before the season and naturally we expect performance gains compared to last year, being closer to Lewis,” Bottas said. “That’s what you need to do in the second season.”

However, Bottas says he has not been set a specific target in terms of points or where he finishes overall.

“There’s no magic number,” he said. “There’s no clause or anything, so it’s how the team feels I’m performing.”

Bottas finished third overall last year behind Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel and Hamilton.

He is in the same overall position – 20 points behind Vettel and 37 adrift of Hamilton – heading into this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.

The Finnish driver would be closer if not for a dramatic finish at the Azerbaijan GP last month. With victory seemingly guaranteed, he sustained a tire puncture and ended up with no points. He bounced back with a fine drive for second place in Spain two weeks ago.

“I feel like I’ve met my performance targets. Pace-wise I’m on the level I need, but result-wise I’m not happy,” Bottas said. “It’s been strange. But I know if I keep improving very good things will come.”

He has faced a considerable amount of criticism with observers questioning whether he can compete at the top level. Yet driving under the constant pressure of having a point to prove has also made him more resilient.

“For sure it makes you tougher and better,” he said. “From each difficult weekend, I feel I’ve been able to turn it (around).”