Commentary

Sixth-place run at Dega gives 43 team much-needed momentum boost

A little Talladega luck went a long way for Bobby Labonte and the No. 43 team, crew chief Jeff Meendering writes in his diary.

Updated: October 9, 2008, 11:25 AM ET
By Jeff Meendering | Special to ESPN.com

It turned out real well for us at Talladega. Bobby Labonte finished sixth and did a heck of a job missing all those wrecks. Even in practice we seemed like we were in the middle of all of them, but we managed to avoid them. During the race, the 83 blew the right front on the front stretch of the track. Bobby almost hit a couple of cars, but he somehow got out of there. We definitely had a lot of luck.

I think we gained some momentum from that race. Our pit crew did a phenomenal job -- this was by far the best weekend we had pit-stop-wise. We gauge that strictly by timing. We time our pit stops every week, and we have a camera installed right on the pit stall. Every week, a pit crew coach sits there and critiques every pit stop, breaks it down. Like the tire changers, they have a time goal for running around the car, taking the tire off, getting the tire on. The pit crew coach breaks down every pit stop, and that obviously can be pretty time-consuming for him.

Our car was a lot better than it has been at the restrictor-plate tracks this year. We were able to run up front most of the race. Since we're not in the Chase, we're taking big chances on setup and pit strategy. We're getting risky with that. We did several pit stops at Talladega during which we didn't take any tires or only two tires to keep us up front. I know there were issues in the race with tires, but the tires were never a concern of mine. Every tire we took off our car looked great. I don't know if the problems were camber-related or overinflation, but we probably could have run a whole race on them our left-side tires. They looked phenomenal.

Now we go to Charlotte. We had a good test there, so we're feeling good about that. We're still going for wins, so we're trying a lot of new stuff. We don't care about going out there and being consistent. We're just going to go for it and try different things.

Jeff Meendering is the first-year crew chief for the famed Petty Enterprises No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge Charger driven by Bobby Labonte. Meendering takes ESPN.com readers inside his life on and off the track each week with the help of writer Angelique S. Chengelis.

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