Labonte to drive '04 Intrepid at California
Newman scheduled to drive Intrepids for five races
By David Newton, NASCAR.COM
February 18, 2006
12:55 PM EST (17:55 GMT)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Bobby Labonte will drive the 2004 Dodge Intrepid instead of the Charger in next week's Nextel Cup race at California.
"Bobby came straight out of the Chevy into the Dodge camp,'' said Labonte's teammate/owner Kyle Petty. "He's not run a downforce Dodge car. So he's going to give us an honest assessment of where the Intrepid is compared to where the Monte Carlo is.
"For us, we feel it's a great opportunity for us to be able to use a driver of his caliber and say this is what it is.''
The Charger has been the topic of controversy since it was re-introduced to NASCAR last season. Dodge owners contend the nose creates an aerodynamic disadvantage on intermediate tracks such as California.
All of the Dodge teams are gathering data on the Charger for a test at Kentucky Speedway next month. The first test earlier this month was canceled due to weather, putting the teams further behind.
If no solution is found, Dodge owners hope NASCAR will grant them some concessions on the spoiler to create more downforce.
The Charger was introduced before NASCAR announced it was going to a smaller spoiler and softer tires. The only Charger to win on an intermediate track last season was Jeremy Mayfield, and his victory came on fuel mileage.
Ryan Newman of Penske Racing South and Kasey Kahne of Evernham Motorsports ran the Intrepid, which no longer is made, at the final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway last season.
Newman will race the Intrepid in the next five races.
Petty said whatever the results from California, he is committed to the Charger, noting he has only one Intrepid in his fleet of more than 30 cars.
"That is for our own personal knowledge as much as anything,'' he said. "We are Dodge and we are Dodge Chargers and that's our position. At the same time, there is a lot of talk among the Dodge teams on, 'What is the Intrepid?'
"It is something we need to readdress.''
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