Former Brickyard 400 winner Bobby Labonte to compete in Sunday’s race for Tommy Baldwin Racing

Leave a comment

Former Brickyard 400 winner Bobby Labonte will be returning to race at the fabled Indianapolis Motor Speedway in this Sunday’s 21st running of the Brickyard.

Labonte, whose win in the 2000 Brickyard helped propel him to that season’s Sprint Cup championship, will drive the No. 37 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet, to be sponsored by Accell Construction, TBR announced Thursday.

“I am thankful for the opportunity given to me by Tommy,” Labonte said in a team media release. “Getting to run my 21st race at the Brickyard means a lot to me.

“Jeff Gordon and I are the only active drivers to run all the races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and I am glad to continue that quest with TBR.”

Sunday’s race will be only the third start of the season for Labonte. He had a strong run in the season-opening Daytona 500, finishing 15th.

He returned to Daytona three weeks ago for the Coke Zero 400, finishing 26th after being involved in a massive multi-car wreck on Lap 98, 14 laps short of the rain being ended early due to rainstorms.

“I am excited to have Bobby Labonte come on board this weekend at Indy,” Baldwin said. “Bobby and I are good friends, and I know that his experience both on and off the track will bring a lot of great information to everyone at Tommy Baldwin Racing. I’m looking forward to seeing the impact Bobby will have, and great Brickyard 400.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

April 5 in Motorsports History: Alex Zanardi’s amazing Long Beach rally

Leave a comment

Alex Zanardi entered the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 5, 1998 as the race’s defending champion and the series’ defending champion.

But the Italian didn’t seem a serious contender for much of the 105-lap event. Zanardi started 11th position and lost a lap early when he was involved in a multicar spin in the hairpin.

Alex Zanardi celebrates after winning the 1998 Grand Prix of Long Beach. Photo: Getty Images

But the race was still young, and despite emerging from the incident in 18th place, Zanardi slowly progressed through the field while battling radio problems that made communication difficult with his team.

With five laps remaining, Zanardi passed Dario Franchitti on the backstretch for second place and then focused in on leader Bryan Herta.

With two laps remaining, Zanardi made his move, making a daring pass on the inside of Herta in the Queen’s Hairpin (which no longer exists as the track layout was changed the following year).

The move was reminiscent of Zanardi’s famous last-lap move on the inside of Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew in 1996, which deprived Herta of his first CART victory.

Franchitti passed Herta as well, and Zanardi went on to clinch his first victory of the season.

“On a day when everything went wrong, we came back and won,” Zanardi said following the race. “I can’t explain it. It wasn’t until I saw Bryan ahead of me that I ever thought I had a shot at winning. It was amazing. I have no words to describe it.”

Following Long Beach, Zanadri won six more times in 1998 en route to his second and final CART championship.

Also on this date:

1992: Bobby Rahal led from start to finish to win the Valvoline 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The win was the first of four victories for Rahal during his championship season.

2009: Ryan Briscoe won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first of three victories for the Aussie in 2009. The race was also the first IndyCar Series on Versus, which was rebranded as NBC Sports Network in 2012.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994