There will be something missing when the green flag drops on Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway. Something that has been in every race since 1978 at Ontario Motor Speedway. Something that might not be noticed by every NASCAR fan that watches on Saturday night. Something that the sport was built on.
That something is a Labonte.
Bobby Labonte, whose 704 race streak will come to an end on Saturday night, is not on the entry list for the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. Instead, AJ Allmendinger, who competed for JTG Daugherty Racing two weeks ago at Michigan, is in the No. 47.
Labonte confirmed the decision during a Tuesday afternoon chat session on the JTG Daugherty Racing website.
“I feel like AJ is a hell of a driver, I also know that what I feel in a race car is right,” Labonte wrote. “We had a great test in Kentucky and I am disappointed that I am not going. But as you move forward, you need to support our race team. Even though I might not agree, it is still going to benefit us to keep moving forward in a positive way.”
The streak is the second-longest active start streak in NASCAR behind Jeff Gordon’s 705 starts.
“I will not be racing this week,” he wrote. “It is disappointing the way it is happening. I have had a couple of offers this morning, but I have declined them because I don’t want anybody else that has an opportunity to do what I do, what they love, to have to sit on the sideline for my sake.”
But what the future may hold for Labonte and the No. 47 remains unclear.
“We have not discussed 2014,” Daugherty wrote. “I am hoping we get this thing turned around and Bobby drives this car for a long time.”