Bobby Labonte's consecutive start streak to end at 704 races
There will be a noticeable name missing at this weekend's NASCAR race at Kentucky Speedway: Bobby Labonte.
The 2000 Sprint Cup Series champion has run in every race since the beginning of the 1993 season -- a streak of 704 consecutive starts. He confirmed the news during a chat on the website of his JTG Daugherty Racing team.
"I will not be racing this week," Labonte wrote. "It is disappointing the way it is happening. I have had a couple of offers this morning, but I have declined them because I don't want anybody else that has an opportunity to do what I do, what they love, to have to sit on the sideline for my sake."
JTG Daugherty announced three weeks ago that AJ Allmendinger would replace Labonte as the driver of the No. 47 for five races as the team tried to pinpoint areas where it needed to improve. Allmendinger's first race for the team was two weeks ago at Michigan, where he finished 19th. Labonte drove that weekend for Phoenix Racing, crashing on Lap 5 and placing 43rd.
Austin Dillon is slated to drive for Phoenix at Kentucky.
Labonte will return to the No. 47 team at Daytona next week, and he'll drive for JTG Daugherty throughout July. Allmendinger will be back with the team at Watkins Glen on Aug. 11.
The single-car team has struggled this season, ranking 30th in owner points. Labonte, 49, has a best finish of 15th and hasn't won a race since 2003.
"I feel like AJ is a hell of a driver, I also know that what I feel in a race car is right," Labonte wrote. "We had a great test in Kentucky and I am disappointed that I am not going. But as you move forward, you need to support our race team. Even though I might not agree, it is still going to benefit us to keep moving forward in a positive way."
Labonte's contract is up at the end of the year. When asked about Labonte's future with the team, JTG Daugherty co-owner Brad Daugherty was noncommittal.
"Bobby is our guy for this season and we are focusing on making the car better for this season," team co-owner Brad Daugherty wrote in the chat. "That is our focus. We don't look to next year until the end of this year, so right now we are doing everything we can to help Bobby Labonte do as best as he can this season."
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