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Pursuing NASCAR's triple crown intrigues Bobby Labonte
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Bobby Labonte quietly bowed out of full-time Sprint Cup Series competition at the tail end of the 2013 season. No retirement tour, no gifts. Certainly no ponies. The 2000 premier series champion has selectively dabbled in the sport since, however, with a handful of unremarkable starts at Indianapolis and the restrictor-plate tracks, knowing the pack racing may be his last remaining shot at picking up his first -- and likely final -- Cup victory in more than a decade. Labonte will run in Sunday's GEICO 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Talladega Superspeedway , his second of a scheduled four-race slate in 2016. While not sure if this same type of deal will continue to be available to him in future years, the brother of NASCAR Hall of Famer Terry Labonte hinted at an interestingly hush-hush opportunity that could be coming down the pipeline later on this season. "I do have a couple other possibilities I am excited about that might come to fruition later on in the year that I didn't see coming around the corner but they are opportunities that might lead to something that I have been more excited about than anything I have done in my career," Labonte said Friday at Talladega. "Racing is still a big passion of mine and I know I am not going to go do a lot of things I used to do but there are still some opportunities out there that are still up on my radar that I would like to do." But what does he have left to prove? What racing goals remain? "That is a great question, too. Winning any race. It might be a bicycle race. Racing at the Sprint Cup level has gotten so intense that if you can't do it every weekend … (Talladega) is different as we all know. Last weekend and next weekend is different than here," Labonte said. "It is one of those things that I guess I kind of want to race more in a way but I don't want to race more in some ways. I don't want to do it every weekend but I know there are different series you can do that aren’t quite as strenuous as this. "My brother told me one time after about two years of retirement, 'You know, you will have a lot more friends later that you didn't know you had.' And that is true. I am enjoying that. As far as racing goes I am enjoying it and my opportunity is only four times right now through a little bit of what I want to do and a little bit from other people." One remaining goal is obvious: becoming NASCAR's first Triple Crown winner by notching a championship at each of its three national series levels. Labonte has the two arguably tougher feats down, winning the XFINITY Series (then Busch Grand National) title by 74 points over Kenny Wallace in 1991, then taking his first and only Sprint Cup Series (then Winston Cup) title by a wide, 265-point margin over Dale Earnhardt in 2000. It's a long shot, and Labonte admits that "everything has to line up right," but he's at least considered the prospect of running for a Camping World Truck Series title. He has 10 career starts in the series, with one win (2005 at Martinsville). "It is absolutely something that we have talked about and met with some people about," Labonte said. "I couldn't just make it happen by snapping my fingers and we couldn’t quite get it all lined up. I definitely had it in my mind that it was something I really wanted to do. I would still entertain that but there is also a point where if you can chase the championship that is one thing, and you can do it in a lot of ways. "When I started racing when I was little, the passion was to race and win and that is what you want to do. You want the chance to do that. We did it back then and I think the Truck Series is very appealing to me. I loved it when I did a few of them for a couple of guys and won a race and finished in the top five quite a bit. It is definitely a different level and the garage area is a lot calmer there than it is in the Sprint Cup Series and it kind of, at this point in time, is very appealing."
NASCAR Snapchat: Live story from Talladega
Don't miss NASCAR's latest Live Story in Snapchat this weekend as we take you inside race day at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday. The Live Story features videos and photos submitted by drivers, teams and fans from in and around the track, showcasing behind-the-scenes access with your favorite stars along with the best of what fans experience around the track. Here's your chance to experience a day in the life at one of NASCAR's most exciting races, even if you can’t make it to the track. If you're making the trip to Talladega, be sure share your Snaps into the Talladega Live Story starting at 5 a.m. ET. And even if you aren't there, follow NASCAR on Snapchat for behind-the-scenes content throughout the season by clicking here.
NASCAR explains review of Talladega finish
RELATED: Full race results " Frame-by-frame of finish TALLADEGA, Ala. -- NASCAR XFINITY Series Managing Director Wayne Auton said officials felt "100 percent that we got it exactly right" in flagging Elliott Sadler the winner in Saturday's Sparks Energy 300 at Talladega Superspeedway . The official results were delayed after a hard crash involving Joey Logano and Blake Koch brought out the caution flag as the field raced to the checkered flag following an overtime restart at the fast, 2.66-mile superspeedway. The incident was typical for Talladega and chaotic for officials trying to sort out the running order while also making sure those involved in the incident were attended to as quickly, and a safely, as possible. RELATED: See the wreck that came at the end of the race "At the end of the race we knew that everybody was going to be jockeying for position trying to get that win to get into the XFINITY (Series) Chase," Auton said. "We use every resource we can. Our main goal is to make sure that we got it right. It took us a little time up in the tower. We feel 100 percent that we got it exactly right. We used film … eyes … we took our time in the tower." Video replays from cameras located inside the track, outside the track and from high above were studied not only to determine who was leading the race at the time the yellow flag appeared, but also to determine the running order of others throughout the field. RELATED: Ride with the Nos. 22 and 48 on the final lap Auton said there was never any question about whether the caution was necessary. "Our No. 1 job in this sport is safety of these drivers, safety of crewmembers and of fans," he said. "When you see a car turn hard right … it's pretty scary. With all the safety features we’ve applied, the safer walls that are all the way around all of our race tracks now … and the safety features that we have inside the car, our No. 1 concern was when the 22 car hit (was) to make sure that Joey was OK. "Automatically we went ahead and put out the caution. We felt like it was the right time. As you saw, another car came in and made contact with the 22 when he came off the wall. We need to start getting the guys to roll out of the throttle for the safety of the other drivers." Logano ( Team Penske ) was the leader when the field roared off the fourth turn for a final time. But contact with Sadler -- Logano later said it was likely he that moved down on the JR Motorsports driver -- sent his car into the outside wall. Although Sadler's No. 1 Chevrolet dropped below the yellow line, it was the result of the contact. More importantly, Auton said, Sadler did not advance his position, which the rule does not allow. "He was also forced down there when … he and the 22 car made contact," he said. "In our eyes, he did not gain any positions, he was already there. It was legal by the rules."
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 coming to Chicagoland
RELATED: Buy tickets for Chicagoland Photo credit: Stewart-Haas Racing 's Twitter account, @StewartHaasRcng NEW YORK – April 26, 2016 – Nickelodeon today announced that it is the entitlement sponsor of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday, Sept. 18, dubbed the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway . Danica Patrick has signed on to drive a special car for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 , which will be broadcast on NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. ET, and will feature a weekend of action, activities and fun for the entire family with the iconic Heroes in a Half Shell. NASCAR star Danica Patrick , a Roscoe, Illinois native, helped kick off the partnership in true Turtles style. She unveiled her No. 10 April O’Neil/Nature's Bakery Chevrolet SS at an event at Wrigley Square in Millennium Park with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, then took her car for a spin down Michigan Ave. She will join a number of other drivers with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles paint schemes for the Sept. 18 race. Photo courtesy of Chicagoland Speedway 's Twitter account, @ChicagoIndSpdwy This Sept. 15-18 marks the sixth consecutive year that Chicagoland Speedway will kick off the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . The Nickelodeon partnership will include sponsorship of the 2017 kickoff race, as well. "We are excited to partner with Chicagoland Speedway to continue sponsoring and participating in marquee racing events that resonate with motorsports fans across the country," said Anthony DiCosmo, Senior Vice President, Sports Marketing and Development, Nickelodeon. "Just as we did with last season's SpongeBob SquarePants 400 at Kansas Speedway , the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 will continue to expand our relationship with NASCAR , while working with another best-in-class ISC track to give fans a unique and engaging race experience that the whole family can enjoy." "We are thrilled to partner with a world class brand like Nickelodeon for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 on Sept. 18," said Scott Paddock, Chicagoland Speedway President. "This is an exciting opportunity for us to partner with one of the preeminent youth focused brands on the planet to deliver an unprecedented level of family entertainment while engaging Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans of all ages." "It's great to be back in my home state of Illinois to be a part of this exciting announcement for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 ," said Patrick. "The Nickelodeon-sponsored races are really cool because they truly are fun for the entire family. Nature's Bakery and Nickelodeon have put together an awesome paint scheme and I can't wait to have the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and April O'Neil riding along with me in September." Patrick's unique car was designed by Chicago artist Hebru Brantley, who will also design the race trophy, additional Turtles-branded paint schemes and other visual elements. Brantley breaks down the walls of cultural boundaries through his art and inspired by his 1980s Chicago upbringing, Brantley's work touches on tough subjects in a way that may be easily digestible to the viewer, by telling his stories through youthful characters and their adventures. Brantley’s work can be described as pop infused contemporary art inspired by Japanese anime and the bold aesthetics of street art pioneers Jean Michel Basquiat, KAWS and Keith Haring. During the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 race weekend, attendees will be able to enjoy fun family activities in the Nickelodeon Kids Zone, located in Champion’s Park. The area will feature appearances from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costumed characters, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles photo station and more. Nickelodeon has a long-standing relationship with NASCAR , teaming up with the motorsports giant on several programming and racing events. On the track, the network has sponsored the SpongeBob SquarePants 400 at Kansas Speedway in 2015; brought the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to the Atlanta Motor Speedway for the NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in 2014; participated in the Bank of America 500 week in 2012; and the SpongeBob SquarePants Movie 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, NC in 2004. NASCAR has also contributed talent and content to Nickelodeon programming such as the Kids’ Choice Awards ( Danica Patrick , 2012 and 2013), Kids' Choice Sports Awards ( Danica Patrick , 2014, Ben Kennedy , 2015), Team Umizoomi ( Jeff Gordon , 2012), Hammer Down (2014), which aired on Nicktoon’s NickSports block, and an upcoming Bubble Guppies episode ( Jimmie Johnson , 2015). Currently in its fourth season, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is seen in over 170 countries and territories and translated in 50+ languages. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles follows four mutant turtles—Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo—trained in the art of ninjutsu by their mutant rat sensei, Master Splinter, who teaches the turtles to battle evil from the New York City sewers. Executive produced by Ciro Nieli and Brandon Auman, the series is created at Nickelodeon Animation Studios in Burbank, Calif. Additionally, this summer the Turtles will once again defend the streets of New York City in Paramount Pictures' highly anticipated theatrical movie, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, which arrives in theaters June 3."
Rules update: NASCAR reinforces five lug nuts
NASCAR teams hoping to shave time off pit stops by replacing only four lug nuts on wheels will now face penalties from the sanctioning body, according to a memo sent to organizations Monday. The memo states that all tires, wheels and all five lug nuts "must be installed in a safe and secure manner at all times during the event." Failure to comply can result in penalties ranging from a written warning for pre-race violations (wheels not having five lug nuts glued in place) to a minimum $20,000 fine, one-race suspension and probation for the responsible crew chief if a post-race inspection turns up a car that does not have five lug nuts in place on each wheel. If found during pre-race, the infraction is considered an unapproved adjustment, and the violator will be required to correct the issue and drop to the rear of the field before the start of the event. Multiple offenses for infractions will result in escalating penalties. NASCAR stopped policing how many lug nuts teams were installing during pit stops after the 2014 season. In 2015, the sanctioning body debuted its Pit Road Officiating (PRO) system that utilizes cameras to regulate pit road. According to Monday's memo, updated methods for officiating the new rules will be introduced at a later date. "That process will continue to evolve over time and we will provide further updates as that model progresses." By tightening, or in some cases installing, only four lug nuts on each wheel, teams have often gained an advantage during pit stops. But the practice has led to a rise in the number of loose wheels this season, often sending a driver back to pit road to correct the problem. While at least one NASCAR crew chief has noted that there have been occasions when a car would end the race with fewer than five lug nuts in place, NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France said Monday that the inspection process would be no different than it has been for other areas of the vehicles that are examined each week. "When things are altered we have to deal with that," France said during an appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. "There's no difference in that. ... Really what you're hearing is just how close and tight competition is across the board. And that's why the crew chiefs, and rightfully so, are worried about every millisecond; they don't want to get one of these ... penalties and understandably so. They're trying to get it right and we're trying to get it right. "And by the way, we will. We have for 60 years and we will always sort it out, especially when it comes to safety. We will get to the right place as fast as we can. That's Job 1 for us." Last week, three-time premier series champion Tony Stewart expressed concerns that the safety of competitors was being overlooked by not mandating all five lug nuts be properly installed on wheels. A day later, when Stewart announced he would return to competition after missing the season's first eight races, NASCAR announced it had fined the co-owner/driver $35,000. "It wasn't (a case of) saying they're not doing their job," Stewart told FOX Sports during Sunday's pre-race show. "I just felt like this is one thing they dropped the ball on. So, they're doing a good job. They're looking at it. They're going to address it and make it right, and down the road we won't have to worry about this again, hopefully." France said Stewart is "very aware of how we approach criticism ... of the sport and the product of the racing itself, and safety is paramount of that. Tony is very aware of how we look at that. We allow them to criticize and give their point of view way more than any other sport. ... We're thick-skinned; we get it. "It's when you go into the area of denigrating the racing product. That's all we have in NASCAR , the highest quality of competition. When you start working against that in any way, we're going to have to deal with that. And everybody understands that."
NASCAR mandates 5 lug nuts
NASCAR sent a memo to teams across all three national series mandating the use of 5 lug nuts on wheels, and the potential penalties that can be incurred if the new policy is not followed.
NASCAR Streak to the Finish: Who dominates at 'Dega?
NASCAR .com's Jonathan Merryman and Chris Rice break down two picks from the NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series that look to finish in the top ten at Talladega Superspeedway for NASCAR's Streak to the Finish fantasy game.
NASCAR TV schedule: April 25-May 1
RELATED: Find FS1 in your area All times ET Monday, April 25 8:30 a.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Toyota Owners 400 (re-air), FS1 Noon, NASCAR Victory Lane, FS11 5 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FS1 6 p.m., NASCAR America, NBCSN Tuesday, April 26 8:30 a.m., NASCAR XFINITY Series ToyotaCare 250 (re-air), FS1 5 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FS1 5 p.m., NASCAR America, NBCSN 6 p.m., 100,000 Cameras: Daytona (re-air), FS1 Wednesday, April 27 5 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FS1 5:30 p.m., NASCAR America, NBCSN Thursday, April 28 5 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FS1 5 p.m., NASCAR America, NBCSN Friday, April 29 11 a.m., The 10: Talladega Moments (re-air), FS1 11:30 a.m., NASCAR XFINITY Series practice, FS1 1:30 p.m., NASCAR XFINITY Series final practice, FS1 2:30 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, FS1 3:30 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub: Weekend Edition, FS1 4:30 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice, FS1 5:30 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub: Weekend Edition, FS1 Saturday, April 30 8:30 a.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice (re-air), FS1 9:30 a.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice (re-air), FS1 10:30 a.m., NASCAR XFINITY Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, FS1 12:30 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, FOX 2:30 p.m., NASCAR XFINITY Series FOX Pre-Race Show, FOX 3 p.m., NASCAR XFINITY Series: Sparks Energy 300 , FOX Midnight, NASCAR XFINITY Series: Sparks Energy 300 (re-air), FS1 Sunday, May 1 10:30 a.m., NASCAR RaceDay, FS1 12:30 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FOX Pre-Race Show, FOX 1 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: GEICO 500 , FOX 2 p.m., WeatherTech SportsCar Championship: Laguna Seca, FS1 6:30 p.m., WeatherTech SportsCar Championship: Laguna Seca, FS2 &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;nbsp;
NASCAR XFINITY Series Owner Standings
After Race 9 of the 2016 season at Talladega Superspeedway
Best in-car audio from the Toyota Owners 400
Take a listen to the best audio from the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway that included a very giddy Tony Stewart, a not-so-happy Kurt Busch, and an epic battle for the win.