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For Labonte, Fourth Place Is Good Enough for Title

November 13, 2000|From Associated Press

Fourth place Sunday assured Bobby Labonte of first place in 2000.

Labonte clinched his first NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship to overshadow a dominating performance by teammate Tony Stewart, who won the Pennzoil 400 at Homestead, Fla., for the second consecutive year.

"We had a great year, a great run," Labonte said. "It's pretty great to beat the guys we beat. It's just awesome."

Because Labonte led two laps, he needed only a sixth-place finish in the next-to-last race of the year to clinch the title, worth $3 million.

"I was hoping it was going to happen, but you never know until it's over," said Labonte, who earned his 18th top-five finish of the year.

He started third and spent most of the day running fourth to eighth, often more than half a lap behind Stewart.

"It's a great day for Joe Gibbs Racing," said Stewart, who led for 166 of the 267 laps. "For Bobby to win the championship, I couldn't be prouder of him."

For the second year in a row, Stewart won the race but shared the applause. Dale Jarrett finished fifth at Homestead last year to clinch the title.

Labonte, who finished second in last year's points standings, and Terry Labonte became the first brothers to win Winston Cup titles. Terry was the champion in 1984 and 1996.

"Just watching him sure helped a lot," Bobby Labonte said. With a laugh he added, "I'm still one behind."

Labonte's closest pursuer in the points standings, Dale Earnhardt, started 37th in the 43-car field and finished 20th.

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