Leffler's points ranking forced Gibbs' hand

Updated: June 15, 2005, 11:43 AM ET
Associated Press

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – Terry Labonte was hired Tuesday to replace Jason Leffler in the road course race at Infineon Raceway later this month.

Labonte will drive the No. 11 Chevrolet in Sonoma, Calif., because Leffler has been struggling and the Joe Gibbs Racing team wants to ensure the car qualifies for the June 26 event. Many teams hire road course specialists for this event, adding to the number of cars attempting to qualify.

Gibbs wanted to ensure that the car makes the field, which wasn't a guarantee because of Leffler's low ranking in the points standings and his lack of experience on road courses.

"Jason understands that our support of him continues," said team president J.D. Gibbs. "With an experienced veteran in Terry, the No. 11 will benefit from his 25 years of Nextel Cup racing and his strong performances at road course venues."

Labonte, a two-time NASCAR champion, is running a partial schedule this season as he winds down his career. He has won twice on road courses before, along with eight poles, 17 top-fives and 26 top-10s while leading a total of 411 laps.

Labonte will have the rare opportunity to compete as a teammate with his brother, Bobby, who has driven for Gibbs since 1995.

The Labontes are the only brothers in NASCAR history to win Cup Series championships -- Terry won in 1984 and 1996, while Bobby won in 2000.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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