Terry Labonte used his past win in the Sprint Unlimited to get into the NASCAR Exhibition race that fans look forward to signaling the start of Speed Weeks. He ran one lap and parked. The reason given is he had a vibration.
It was reported that Terry Labonte and the No. 32 Go Fas Racing Team is using the same car for the Sprint Unlimited and the Daytona 500. It is fully understandable that they would want to protect the car for the Daytona 500. It is also fully understandable that this underfunded team would do whatever they could to get funding in order to make it in NASCAR. They earned $30,580.00 for their effort.
This is exactly what the No. 32 team could not afford. Labonte would have certainly been in the middle and they would have lost the car.
But the Sprint Unlimited is an exhibition race; A race that is put on strictly for the fans. It is supposed to be an all-out racing show. Many fans wait all off season to watch this spectacle. One wonders how many old-time Terry Labonte fans tuned in to watch him. This is not what we want to see in any race—especially an exhibition race where excitement and expectation is at an all-time high. That is why the race is called the Sprint Unlimited.
There is hope that the No. 32 team will race in the Daytona 500 and not park. Labonte ran six laps in the first and eight in the second Unlimited practice, about the same number of laps the contending cars ran. They also ran eight laps in the first and second Daytona 500 practices much like the contending cars.
They were 42nd in the first Daytona 500 practice and 39th in the second. Labonte was 42nd in qualifying speed. That speed is probably not enough to rely on alone to get into the race.
Looking at the Owner Points for the No. 32 car they are not guaranteed to make the Daytona 500 but the odds are in their favor. But if there happens to be big wreck in the first race taking out four drivers higher in Owner Points he will have to race in. Since they are in the second race they can make their decision during their qualifying race.
If starting and parking enables them to save the car and make the Daytona 500 then we can forgive them. Especially since restrictor plate racing seems to be an equalizer where those lesser funded teams actually have a chance to compete with the big teams. If they get to the big show and park again, fans will be left disappointed. We don’t want to see this.