Bobby Labonte has run well in each of the SMART Modified Tour powered by Pace-O-Matic events held at South Boston Speedway held over the course of the two previous seasons.
Last season Labonte qualified second and finished fourth in the 99-lap race at South Boston Speedway. He was having a good run in the 2021 event when he got caught up in a multi-car crash.
Having been fast and having run well at South Boston Speedway in the past two events gives the 2000 NASCAR Cup Series champion and NASCAR Hall of Famer a good feeling as he looks ahead to the The Flying VA Classic, a 99-lap race for the SMART Modified Tour that will headline the URW Credit Union Fools Rush 262 racing program on Saturday afternoon, April 1 at South Boston Speedway. Race time is 3 p.m.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Labonte remarked.
“Last year we qualified second and finished fourth. We ran pretty well. The year before, we ran well and got caught up in a wreck. This is one of my favorite places of the year to go to.”
South Boston Speedway is a track that suits Labonte’s driving style.
“It fits my driving style somewhat with the speed,” Labonte explained.
“It’s a fast racetrack. I like that part about it. Things happen in a hurry. You’ve got to be on your toes. Last year as the race went on you were able to move around (on the track) a little bit. I think that’s cool.”
Labonte said fans will see a great a race in Saturday’s 99-lap race at South Boston Speedway.
“That racetrack puts on a great race,” he noted.
“I think the fans will see that. I always enjoy being part of that. I love going up there. That’s one of those tracks that if you had to go somewhere more than once a season, you ask why don’t we go there more than once a year. It’s one of the greatest facilities that we go to on the east coast.”
The former Cup Series champion points to a good handling car, tire management, and the timing of a pit stop for fresh tires as keys to having a successful outcome in Saturday’s race. Track position can also be a prime element to success.
“You need to manage your tires a little bit and your pit stop needs to be at the right time,” Labonte pointed out.
“When it comes down to it, handling is very critical. South Boston Speedway is a place where if you’re a little tight it will slow you down. If you’re a little loose, it will slow you down a lot more. Your balance has to be really really good. You can move around on the track a little bit to change that but it’s hard. If your (tire) stagger is off a little bit or if you pit at the wrong time, it’s hard to recover. It’s hard to pass, so track position might be the key.”
Labonte is driving for a new team this season, piloting cars fielded by Sadler-Stanley Racing powered by Pace-O-Matic. The team is co-owned by former NASCAR competitor Hermie Sadler of Emporia, Virginia and Virginia State Senator Bill Stanley. Former Cup Series competitor Ryan Newman drives the team’s second entry and competes in selected races. Jonathan Cash is driving the car in events that Newman does not compete in.
Last season was the team’s first season, and it finished sixth in the final 2022 SMART Modified Tour point standings with driver Jonathan Brown. Brown finished second in last year’s race at South Boston Speedway.
Labonte debuted with the team in a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race at Martinsville Speedway last October.
“The transition is going well,” Labonte said during an interview last Friday.
“We did that race at Martinsville kind of in a hurry. We probably rushed that a little too quickly and weren’t quite as prepared. We had a good run going at Florence (South Carolina) Motor Speedway (in the 2023 SMART Modified Tour season-opener) and got a little loose at the end of the race. Then we had two rainouts.
“All of the stars are aligned,” he added.
“I feel we have everything we need to go win races or be competitive week-in and week-out and win races as good as anybody. There are a lot of good things there. We should show up with the feeling of we should be in Victory Lane.”
In addition to The Flying VA Classic 99-lap SMART Modified Tour race the Saturday, April 1 URW Credit Union Fools Rush 262 racing program will include twin 71-lap races for the Sentara Healthcare Late Model Stock Car Division and a 21-lap race for the competitors in the Virginia State Police HEAT Hornets Division.
An autograph session with the SMART Stars, the drivers that will be competing in The Flying VA Classic SMART Modified Tour race, will be held behind the main grandstand area immediately following qualifying.