Bobby Labonte gets first SRX win in Round 4 at Nashville in nerve-wracking finish

Labonte SRX Nashville
Dylan Buell / Getty Images

Bobby Labonte survived two late-race restarts at Nashville Fairgrounds and a battle with his nerves to beat Marco Andretti and win his first Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) race in his ninth start. With the victory, he continues the streak of unique winners in 2022.

It wasn’t the first time Labonte was nervous in Nashville. More than 25 years ago, he won the 1996 Opryland 320 by a tenth of a second over David Green for his only Busch Series win of that season.

Reading just the box score, one might believe he had an easy go of the race, but that was not the case for Labonte.

“I just thought I wasn’t going to win,” Labonte told CBS Sports’ Matt Yocum. “This is so intimidating with these drivers. I’m telling you I get nervous. I thought I was going to puke with 10 to go.

“I see Matt Kenseth coming and I think I’ve seen this story before. I’m like, oh my god, here he comes. So, it’s just so hard. It’s not easy. Maybe I made it look a little easy tonight, but it wasn’t easy.”

Choosing the bottom line with restarts at 17 and 10 laps to go, Labonte’s experience in stock cars insured he would not be run up the track, but that did not make him immune to contact. On the penultimate restart, he was doored by Andretti as the two battled for position on the front stretch. He learned his lesson and refused to allow the field to get close on the final restart – shooting to the lead the moment the green flag was displayed.

As hard as he raced for the lead, Andretti was content with a good points day and his fifth top-five in the last six SRX events.

“[Labonte] shot out of a cannon right at the start of the feature, so I knew he was a force to be reckoned with there,” Andretti said. “I think the fastest car won, for sure. I was one step of rear grip away getting in and coming off. If I could have gotten the power off a little bit better, I think I would have gotten closer at the end.

“Those Cup guys know just how far to pull away at the end so you can’t get to their back bumper.”

In his SRX Series debut, Kenseth rounded out the podium in third.

“I felt like I really flopped around in my heat races,” Kenseth said, with his wife and children standing behind him on pit road. “My car got real loose. I burned the rear tires up. I felt like I didn’t have any clue what I was doing. In the feature, the car was better when I put tires on and fixed the stagger and everything, but I just puttered around for 50 laps.

“I was trying to figure out how much time I needed to get to the front. I quick-passed two or three of them and then I thought I was good and we got a couple of cautions with outside restarts and we kind of got mixed up, so I ran out of time.”

Paul Tracy swept the top five with a fourth in Heat 1, fifth in Heat 2 and his fourth-place finish in the Main.

Helio Castroneves rounded out the top five.

It was a bad night for both of the heat winners.

Also making his debut, Newgarden, a Henderson, Tenn. native, led flag-to-flag in Heat 1 and pulled away from the field. He was running fifth in the Main on Lap 49 of 75 when he looped his car and crashed.

Hometown hero Cole Williams won Heat 2 after finishing last in the first race, but he couldn’t quite find the speed needed in the feature and finished 12th in the 13-car field.

Feature: 1. Bobby Labonte, 2. Marco Andretti, 3. Matt Kenseth, 4. Paul Tracy, 5. Helio Castroneves, 6. Ryan Newman, 7. Michael Waltrip, 8. Josef Newgarden, 9. Greg Biffle, 10. Ryan Hunter-Reay, 11. Tony Stewart, 12. Cole Williams, 13. Tony Kanaan

Heat 1: 1 Josef Newgarden, 2. Helio Castroneves, 3. Bobby Labonte, 4. Paul Tracy, 5. Marco Andretti, 6. Tony Stewart, 7. Ryan Newman, 8. Matt Kenseth, 9. Michael Waltrip, 10. Greg Biffle, 11. Ryan Hunter-Reay, 12. Tony Kanaan, 13. Cole Williams

Heat 2: 1. Cole Williams, 2. Marco Andretti, 3. Greg Biffle, 4. Bobby Labonte, 5. Paul Tracy, 6. Ryan Newman, 7. Ryan Hunter-Reay, 8. Tony Kanaan, 9. Helio Castroneves, 10. Josef Newgarden, 11. Matt Kenseth, 12. Michael Waltrip, 13. Tony Stewart

Round 1: Helio Castroneves wins at Five Flags, hopes for NASCAR start
Round 2: Tony Stewart earns third SRX victory and first on a paved track
Round 3: Ryan Newman wins at Stafford as his daughters look on

Seattle Supercross by the numbers: Three riders separated by 17 points


Three riders remain locked in a tight battle with 17 points separating the leader Cooper Webb from third-place Chase Sexton and these are only a few Supercross numbers to consider entering Seattle.

Seattle Supercross numbers
Chase Sexton made a statement in Detroit with his second win of 2023. – Feld Motor Sports

For the fifth time in 10 rounds. Sexton, Webb, and Eli Tomac shared the podium in Detroit. Between them, the trio has taken 23 podiums, leaving only seven for the remainder of the field. Jason Anderson, Ken Roczen and Justin Barcia have two each with Aaron Plessinger scoring the other.

Webb and Tomac won the last four championships with two apiece in alternating years, but they were not one another’s primary rival for most of those seasons. On the average, however, the past four years show an incredible similarity with average points earned of 21.0 for Webb and 21.3 for Tomac. With five wins so far this season, Tomac (23 wins) leads Webb (19) in victories but Webb (43) edges Tomac (41) in podium finishes during this span.

Tomac has won two of the last three Seattle races and those two wins in this stadium are topped only by James Stewart. Fittingly, if Tomac gets a third win this week, he will tie Stewart for second on the all-time wins’ list. Tomac tied Ricky Carmichael for third with 48 wins at Oakland and took sole possession of that spot with his Daytona win.

Sexton still has a lot to say and after winning last week in Detroit, he is speaking up. The Supercross numbers are against him entering Seattle, however, because a points’ deficit this large after Round 10 has been erased only once. In 1983 David Bailey was 47 points behind Bob Hannah, and like Sexton he was also in third place. Bailey took the points’ lead with one race remaining.

The seven points Sexton was penalized last week for jumping in a red cross flag section in Detroit could prove extremely costly.

In fact, it has been a series of mistakes that has cost Sexton the most. In the last two weeks, he lost 10 points with a 10th-place finish to go with his penalty. Erase those, and all three riders hold their fate in their hands.

Plessinger’s heartbreak in Detroit is still fresh, but the upside of his run is that was his best of the season and could turn his fortunes around. Prior to that race, he led only seven laps in three mains. He was up front for 20 laps in Detroit with five of those being the fastest on the track.

Last week’s win by Hunter Lawrence tied him with his brother Jett Lawrence for 17th on the all-time wins’ list. With the focus shifting to 250 West for the next two rounds, Jett has a great opportunity to pull back ahead. The real test will be at the first East / West Showdown in East Rutherford, New Jersey on April 22.

Last Five Seattle Winners

2022: Eli Tomac
2019: Marvin Musquin
2018: Eli Tomac
2017: Marvin Musquin
2014: Ryan Villopoto

2022: Hunter Lawrence
2019: Dylan Ferrandis
2018: Aaron Plessinger
2017: Aaron Plessinger
2014: Cole Seely

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

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Chase Sexton wins in Detroit, penalized seven points